Back Bay Mission has been a force for good on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since 1922. Through the Civil Rights movement, battles with local governments, and multiple hurricanes, Back Bay Mission has serving the poor and marginalized of the Gulf Coast and the people of the United Church of Christ.

Our Timeline

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1920s

1922

Rev. George M.L. Hoffman and Mrs. Louise A. McDonnell of the First Evangelical Church in Biloxi (a congregation of the Evangelical Synod of North America, a predecessor denomination to the United Church of Christ) begin outreach to the ‘fisher folk’ of the Back Bay. At the time, ‘missions’ was a term primarily used to describe the founding of new congregations. The new mission quickly broadened that understanding.

Mrs. McDonnell with a Patient

Mrs. Mac 
1930s

The Original Bus

The Bus 
1940s

1948

By this time, the Mission includes a congregation, two Sunday School classes every Sunday morning, two church services every Sunday evening, various weekday activities for adults and children, a clinic under the direction of Mrs. McDonnell, and a clothing center and food pantry.

1950s

1956

Biloxi Evangelical Church is severely damaged in a fire and the congregation moves to a new building on E. Howard Ave.

1957

The United Church of Christ is formed when the Evangelical and Reformed Church merges with the Congregational Christian Churches. A bell tower is erected at Chartres Street to commemorate Mrs. MacDonnell’s years of service. She retires in 1958.

1959

The first issue of The Changing Tides is published on June 18.

1960s

The Mission and Civil Rights

In 1962, the Mission began hosting integrated activities. In 1963, Mission staff and volunteers were arrested at the final wade-in on Biloxi’s beaches. Many members of the church resign their memberships in response. Also in 1963, the Mission hosts the Annual Ministerial Banquet of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and is subjected to attacks for several months afterwards, including a cross burned at the Mission. The Mission serves as the mailing address for the Council of Federated Organizations.

Dr. Gilbert Mason, Organizer of the Wade Ins

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1970s

1974

The United Church of Christ in Biloxi dissolves. Back Bay Mission is the only remaining presence of the United Church of Christ on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

1980s
1990s

1990

The title for the Mission’s property moves from the South Central Conference (who inherited it from previous denominational bodies) to the Mission.

The Mission Moves

In the early 1990s, casinos opened on barges along the Gulf Coast. In 1994, a developer approached the Mission asking to purchase or lease the Mission’s property. When the Mission asked more than they were willing to offer, the developer went to the City for help. The City chose to sue the Mission for land to widen Bayview and Caillavet Streets to create better access to the casinos on the Back Bay. After a lengthy court battle, the Mission agreed to sell its property to the Port Authority of Biloxi for $2.2 million. The new campus came to include the office building (1996), a thrift store (1997, on the corner of Division and Caillavet), a cottage on Division (1997), and a house on Iroqois (1997).

An Event on the Old Division Street Campus

Event on Old Campus 
2000s

Hurricane Katrina

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including the Mission. Six out of seven buildings were damaged beyond repair and the Mission was forced to operate out of Executive Director Shari Prestemon’s home for a time. The Mission quickly obtains modular trailers and begins serving. The Mission reopens the administrative building in 2007 and dedicates the Micah Center and Mission House in 2009.

Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years After the Storm

2010s

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