ATHENS–Allen Chapel AME Church in Athens, celebrated 150 years Sunday, Sept. 8 with a huge church event.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) under Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1787.
In April 1816, Richard Allen was consecrated as the first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at the Connectional General Conference. After the Civil War ended and slaves received news of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, two years later in Texas, Allen Chapel AME Church was formed by former slaves.
In 1869, the original church started in an area on the South side of town better known as Delsie Creek near Robbins Road in the City of Athens. A plot of land was later purchased between the two railroad tracks near the current location. The present building on 512 Underwood Street was started by the late Rev. A. W. Jackson.
The theme for the celebration was “Rooted in Faith – Honoring Our Legacy” coming from Hebrews 11:1-13.
Co-hosting the services were a brother and sister team who were brought up to love the LORD at Allen Chapel, Bro. Ronald Johnson and Sis. Emma Johnson Lindsey.
The Allen Chapel choir (known as the Heavenly Voices) moved the congregation with spirit-filled songs. The organizing of the Heavenly Voices Choir was under the leadership of the late Alberta Monroe McDonald. McDonald was a faithful member from her teen years until her death. She was a talent who had caught the eye of a producer from Hollywood expressing an interest in offering her an acting career.
She declined the offer and chose to continue her commitment and devotion to family and church. McDonald presented a Sunday Morning Broadcast over KBUD radio station for thirty years in Athens. She served as District Director of the East Texas Conference Choir, played organ and taught piano lessons. Through her musical talent, her contributions extended to such cities as Los Angeles, Calif., Waco, Dallas, Alberta, Canada and the list goes on. McDonald was just one of the people who left legacies at Allen Chapel AME Church.
Others who left their fingerprint on the church were the first generation Ferguson family, Anderson and Cofer Family, Oleta Barker Johnson-Davis, Theresha Luster Jones, Jackie Mae Allen, Marian Graham Westbrook, Professor Willie McDonald and many more.
However, the descendants of all the families past and present are carrying on the legacy to keep Allen Chapel AME Church a church of honor, commitment and justice, serving the community and more of all a church who is faithful and loves the LORD.
The service continued to move forward with the City Of Athens Mayor Monte Montgomery presenting Rev. Judge Bill Burton with a Proclamation. Mayor Montgomery said “The City of Athens wants to express its appreciation to the present and former church members that have dedicated their lives to mission in the city and worldwide. The congregation and community unites in recognizing the involvement and contributions of this church.”
The preaching of the word was done by Rev. Dr. Kyle Lance Henderson, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Athens.
Rev. Dr. Henderson has been the Pastor of First Baptist Church since 1997 and his educational background includes Bachelor of Arts, Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Philosophy, Other works include Chaplain, author of 13 Christmas plays, Public Speaker, actor, Founder of TEAM (Texas Ethiopian Aid Mission) where he leads pastors in linking churches to the needs in Ethiopia. Rev. Dr. Henderson is the founder and organizer of the Athens Area helping network and ACT (Athens Churches Together), a movement seeking racial justice in Athens.
Rev. Dr. Henderson thanked Rev. Burton and the Allen Chapel AME Church family for letting him be in his pulpit and that Rev. Burton was a man of honor and integrity.
In the book of Nehemiah, Rev. Dr. Henderson referenced how Nehemiah had done wrong and he (Nehemiah) took responsibility for what he had done.
“I apologized to the congregation for what white people have done. We were wrong (speaking of the injustice), but using the bible the people back then thought that they were right. I’m sorry,” said Rev. Dr. Henderson.
Rev. Dr. Henderson went on to explain the meaning of a nail used to build the railroad. He noted that the Continental Railroad was completed approximately 150 yrs., ago and a golden nail was used and that in the City of Athens a nail (railroad) divides the communities into two areas.
Rev. Dr. Henderson referenced Richard Allen, his struggle being a slave, then a free man, but most of all a man who preached the word of God who knew that the word of God was more powerful than the word of man.
“Richard Allen founded the AME church because white ministers would not let him lead, but Allen found away. Ecclesiastes tells us that people are to keep His commandments and that people are studying God’s word, not doing God’s word,” said Henderson.
“It is time for us to do what Jesus died on the cross for, to love one another as we love ourselves. We must put aside our hatred for others. We must put to death the evil that is in us. We must sacrifice, root out things that do not belong, be humble, kind and stand up for what is right. We must focus on seeing Jesus.
The world can be better if we are committed to it. Fear God! Keep the commandments! Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, keep up with God’s word. These are the duties of all mankind. What will it take to unify the City Of Athens?” said Henderson.