Nancy De Gennaro, Daily News Journal, July 24, 2015
MURFREESBORO — On Sunday, Allen Chapel AME Church will celebrate 155 years as a congregation, and News Channel 5 meteorologist Lelan Statom will serve as keynote speaker for the event. “We’re celebrating a ‘Legacy of Service’ by serving others. To have a lasting legacy, that’s what it takes in order to serve God, is to serve others and historically (the congregation) has done that,” saidthe Rev. Jimmie Plummer, who is in his third year as pastor of Allen Chapel AME, located at 224 South Maney Ave.
The original building was located at the corner of State and Spring streets. But church historian Lois Carr said the congregation actually began when those who founded the church began meeting in homes.
“We think (it was started) about 1858. This was pre-Civil War, so things were not going well for people of color. So they had to do this in a clandestine way,” said Carr. “In 1870, due to its spiritual development, membership growth and more spacious facility, Allen Chapel AME Church was designated to entertain the connectional church’s Third State of Tennessee Annual Conference.”
Church membership continued to grow, and the first structure was “bursting at the seams,” Carr explained. So the lot at 224 South Maney Ave. was purchased.
“The second and current building was constructed primarily from ‘free labor,’” Carr noted. “Bishop A.W. Wayman dedicated this second structure Oct. 23, 1889, during the 22nd session of the connectional church’s Tennessee Annual Conference. Allen Chapel AME Church served as host for this Conference.”
In 1998, the church body renovated the chancel, nave and sanctuary, followed by another renovation project in 2002.
While the actual structure of the church has changed over the years, Carr said the congregation’s dedication to serving the community contributes to the longevity of the membership.
“Our mission was to serve. We serve, and that’s a mandate from our maker. We serve humankind, and I think we reach out, not only within our membership, but within our community. That’s why we have survived so many years,” Carr said.
Darryl L. Chaney, also director of the Christ Fellowship Chorale community choir, has been at Allen Chapel 15 years, but his experience with the congregation predates that. Long before he became the church’s music minister, the facility was opened numerous times to his chorale as a rehearsal space as well as a location for concerts.
Being situated in the heart of Murfreesboro puts Allen Chapel in a prime location to serve as a beacon of hope in the community, Plummer said.
“We are dealing with a generation that doesn’t see church as its first need, and we’re working to change that,” Plummer said. “We are revamping now … to come up with ways to reach young people.”
During the week leading up to the anniversary celebration, vacation Bible school was held.
Plummer also said other youth-centered programs are being implemented into the curriculum.
And he said he hopes the church will continue to serve as a meeting point for community summits to address tough societal issues.
“We’re working on reaching black youth, who are statistically categorized as possibly going into the judicial system, and we’re working on how we can stop that or slow that down and change that,” Plummer said. “We’re trying to teach real-life issues and working on opening up more to the community.
“We’re working to move Murfreesboro and Rutherford County forward.”
Contact Nancy De Gennaro at 615-278-5148 or [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @DNJMama