DEDHAM — Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church of Dorchester celebrated its 80th anniversary Friday night with a festive banquet here featuring Representative Ayanna Pressley as a special guest.
Pressley, a Boston Democrat serving her first term in Congress, has occasionally attended services at the red-brick church on Humboldt Avenue.
During brief remarks, she thanked the church for its decades of service, recounting its history of social justice.
“Throughout the last 80 years, when Jim Crow came, when busing came, when gentrification came, when the bullets came, you were a refuge,” Pressley said to nearly 100 people gathered in a ballroom at the Holiday Inn Dedham.
She compared that history to the current political climate in Washington, D.C.
“It feels like every day this administration in Washington is coming for our civil rights, our civil liberties . . . turning back the clock on the progress we have made,” Pressley said.
Her remarks were interrupted when an elderly woman in attendance was suddenly stricken. As paramedics were called, people rose to their feet. They raised their hands toward the woman, and sang in prayer.
After about five minutes, she regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital. Pressley returned to the dais briefly, and lead the gathering in song.
“And, ironically,” Pressley said, “the last words of my speech were simply this, ‘We get so much poured into us, about the armour we need to put on, to navigate the world, that it hardens us. But, that is not the ‘rock’ I choose to embrace. I choose to anchor myself in joy.”
Pressley’s remarks capped a night of prayer, song and reflection. A violin, organ and drums entertained throughout the night. Guests dined on either salmon or baked chicken, and enjoyed homemade desserts. Families posed for pictures in front of banner reading “80 wonderful years.”
Pleasant Hill was founded in 1939 by the Rev. Samuel H. Bullock Sr., whose grandson now leads the church.
“I have immeasurable excitement because I remember the struggles my grandfather faced when building this church,” said the Rev. Miniard Culpepper, the senior pastor. “To be able to carry on his legacy, such a rich legacy at that, is a blessing.”
His sister, Lucille Culpepper Jones, said the congregation has about 200 members.
Jones said her grandfather used to give his sermons in a tent in Dorchester before they were in their current building at 155 Humboldt Ave.
“The church is part of my family, my heritage, and my community,” Jones said.