The oldest purpose built house of African American Christian worship in the United States is the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston. Built by African American craftsmen in the early 19th century, the three story building opened for worship in 1806. During the struggle against slavery, it was a place where abolitionists and visionary proponents of racial equality could speak their minds. From NPR comes the welcome news that this historic building, now part of a museum on African American history, has reopened after extensive repairs.The Black church has historically been one of this country’s greatest blessings. From the earliest days of the republic, both free and enslaved African Americans turned to the Christian faith in large numbers. In most places, churches were the first independent, Black-controlled institutions in the United States, and for decades they remained the only public spaces where African Americans could shape the agenda and where new generations of leaders could be nurtured.But it is not just Blacks who owe the church a great debt. The Christian faith with its emphasis on reconciliation and forgiveness has been one of the forces that kept race relations in this country from degenerating into blind mass hatred. The Black church helped generations of African Americans understand their primary demand as one of inclusion: they wanted in on the American Dream.During the Civil Rights era, the common Christian faith of many whites and Blacks helped ensure that the most sweeping social revolution in the post Civil War history of the United States was as peaceful as it was.Blacks often built their own churches after being treated as second class members by white Christians who should have known better. But out of that evil and pain God brought something great: a vibrant and strong Black religious community that not only helped Blacks survive and grow during terrible times, but that became a force for reconciliation and healing in the country as a whole.Americans of all races and faiths can give thanks during this holiday season for a religious movement that has immeasurably enriched our common culture and life.