Our History



The formal name of BCAY is “Black Church at Yale.” In the tumult of the seventies, God’s anointed spirit planted a seed into the hearts and minds of a key group of individuals who desired to create a church which transcended social constructions of race; uniting believers of Jesus Christ who also had common social and historical experiences. The students wanted to create a spiritual community in which they could feel comfortable; a community which would also reflect the rich traditions of the African-American worship experience. The committee chose the name ‘Black Church at Yale’ to reflect the focus and the tradition that the church would celebrate; however, it was not meant to limit the diversity of the congregation.


In 1972, Rev. Samuel Slie, B.D. ’52, STM ’63, who at the time was a field-training supervisor to Yale Seminaries, joined these students in their vision. Rev. Slie, in turn, selected Allen Smith YDS ’73, to assist the undergraduates with the basic organization of the church.


The four students who served as the first organizers along with Rev. Slie and Allen Smith composed the Black Church Council. The first service of the church was on February 4, 1973. Shortly thereafter, the Yale Gospel Choir was formed. During the first few decades of BCAY’s existence, the church and its members strived to provide a place for Yale’s students to worship and praise the Lord in a familiar setting. Their efforts created a unique ministry whose vitality was and still is characterized by empowering students to guide and direct their own spiritual growth. The structure and legacy of BCAY reflects the vigor and determination that the Yale black community also represented.


BCAY today has a congregation that consists of a variety cultures and ethnicities. From students of Latino heritage to German exchange students, BCAY has proven to be a welcoming place for all who enter our doors.