By Lorry Myers
I was a young girl riding my bike home one hot summer night, when I rode by a small community church. The windows reminded me of church steeples and that night, they were open wide without screens. From the road I could hear singing, like I had never heard before and inside I could see arms raised and bodies moving in unison.
That’s not what we did in our church.
The congregation was small but their voices blended like a choir. Their song was full of praise and they moved together in a way that spoke of happiness and history and heritage.
I rode home humming that song.
The St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in my hometown was started 123 years ago when three believers borrowed $140 to buy three lots along the south side of the railroad tracks. Together these men and their followers built a church, a simple structure with arched windows and wide open doors that welcomed everyone.
Inside the wooden walls of St John AME Church, families came together and worshiped together and shared communion together. Generations sang the same songs and sat on the same wooden pews. New babies were brought through the doors and the old were carried out one last time. That wooden building served its congregation well but time was not its friend.
The last decade was hard on the St. John AME congregation, the old ones passed away and the young ones moved away. The tithing dwindled and finally, the electricity was turned off, the door was locked and the last member of the church walked away. Without a congregation to care for it it, the building sat uncared for.
Then one day, the building caught the eye of two dreamers who saw the past and the future in that old church. Brad and his wife, Callie, met with officials in the Fifth Episcopal District, they tracked down past ministers and met with the last, lone, local member of St John AME, who shared stories about growing up within those church walls
For the complete column, please see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.