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The First Church of Seventh-day Adventists was formed on February 6, 1889, by a small Bible-study group led by Willard Saxby, a church missionary. After gathering in a series of spaces, the church moved to a building on Eighth Street, NE, between F and G streets. In 1956 the church moved again to this building, a former synagogue. Rosetta Douglass Sprague (1839-1906), Frederick Douglass's daughter, was an active member of the church.

The congregation was integrated upon inception, following the practice of the original Adventist church organized in Michigan. The Seventh-day Adventist denomination grew out of the Millerite movement of the 1830s and 1840s, which predicted the second coming of Christ in 1844. When this did not occur, scattered congregants of "adventists" survived and formally organized as Seventh-day Adventists in 1863.


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