Black churches are thriving in Winnipeg, demonstrating strength in their communities.

The Black church community is and always has been a tight-knit worship community. Pastor Calvert Layne is sharing a brief history of how the community began close to one hundred years ago as people began moving to Manitoba from the East coast after their families found refuge using the underground railroad from slavery.

"I think we have to go back almost 100 years," Layne says. "They came because of the railway, because they were working here on the railway, and many of them settled here in Winnipeg."

Layne says people tried to fit in with the established churches but struggled due to differences in worship styles. He says southern preacher, Reverend Dr. Joseph T. Hill, created the oldest Black church in Winnipeg, the Pilgram Worship Church, now called the Pilgrim Baptist Church.

"We tend to be a bit more vibrant in our worship. We tend to be more expressive, and they found that in the churches that were already established, here, that they were not free to have that form of expression because it was not what the folks were used to."

Created out of a need for community and freedom to worship, these churches continue to thrive in Winnipeg. Layne says the difference in churches is not a bad thing, noting that divergence in worship styles and culture is important.

"Black churches in Winnipeg have sprung up and are flourishing."

The pastor says the Black worship community continues to be strong despite the distance apart.

"As restrictions loosen, I could see people wanting to come back because, in this community, we value communal things," the pastor says. "We value being able to come together to share moments in person, to be able to worship together and sing together and laugh together and pray together, and find ways just to integrate with each other."

He says he has seen church communities do a good job of finding ways to connect throughout the past year.