Formed in 1794 in Philadelphia, the African Methodist Episcopal Church grew out of the desire of African Americans to be treated equally at worship.
Social justice and fairness remain a vital part of the AME mission today, both at the denominational level and at Turner Chapel AME Church, the first predominantly African-American church in Fort Wayne.
Turner Chapel, founded in 1849, will celebrate its 160th anniversary with a week of activities beginning Sunday.
Locally, the 280-member congregation has a history of helping others, Pastor Archie L. Criglar and lay members said.
For many years, the congregation allowed the Martin Luther King Montessori program for preschool children to operate a class in a large room in its lower level, said Willa Starks, a member of the church's lay organization.
Several years ago, the congregation offered a reading help program for elementary students. Many of those youngsters have gone on to do well in school, Starks said.
For more than 25 years, the church's food pantry ministry, called The House of Sharing, has distributed about 2,000 pounds of food monthly to people in need, she said.
Turner Chapel also was one of the first African-American churches locally to become a host site for the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Starks said. The program initially relied on local churches to take turns providing a week of overnight housing and meals for homeless families and individuals.
The congregation also focuses on building up mind and body along with spirit, members said.
Turner Chapel AME Church will celebrate its 160th anniversary with a week of events beginning Sunday. Pictured here are, front, longtime member Betty Wallace, and, from left, Pastor Archie L. Criglar, missions coordinator Linda Durril, church secretary Yvonne Smith, lay organization member Willa Starks and lay organization president Chris Moore.
A stay-at-home tea encouraged members to take time out at home to meditate and reconnect with Scripture based on the person's needs and focus, said Chris Moore, congregation lay organization president. A districtwide tea with other AME churches raises money for college scholarships for graduating high school seniors.
As part of an AME denomination initiative, Turner Chapel has begun efforts to be more environmentally friendly, missions coordinator Linda Durril said. This summer, the congregation became the first in its conference -- a geographic area including several Midwest states and Ontario and Nova Scotia in Canada -- to grow organic produce and then sell it and fresh-cut flowers at a public market. They had a booth downtown at the Barr Street Market.
Looking to the future, the congregation wants to expand its food pantry ministry, outreach to seniors, youth ministry and evangelism, Criglar said.
Source: Kevin Kilbane, The News-Sentinel