Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

For 155 years, the legacy of enslaved people lives on at a historic Black church in Buckhead – WABE

By Vaseline Jun10,2024

Part wood, vinyl and stone, New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church is uniquely situated in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, an area filled with multimillion-dollar homes. However, Pastor David F. Richards III says there is a spiritual oasis within the historic house of worship.

This year the church celebrates its 155th anniversary. Richards says visitors feel something when they step into the sanctuary.

“We say it’s the spiritual presence of the ancestors because the kings and queens who were brought out of Africa, forced into labor, cleared the land, planted tobacco and cotton, built this country,” Richards explains.

“This church is 155 years old. It is the original church. It is the original wood, because at that time indentured servants could not buy quality products.”

According to the church’s website, New Hope’s origins date back to 1869. Before the church building was established, emancipated African Americans gathered to worship God at “camp meetings” at the New Hope Campground.

In 1872, Buckhead farmer James H. Smith inherited three acres of land for a church or school for “colored persons.” It is the same land where New Hope’s campus is now located.

In 1927 the church building was destroyed by fire. It is believed that the building was built before the 20th century. Church members also built a tabernacle, which stood there until 1965.

Richards says it is a blessing to serve as pastor of a black church with such a rich history. He says the genuine love and passion people feel when they fellowship in the historic church comes from the church members themselves.

“We are, I would say, in our fifth generation bloodline that built the church, that built the fields – that made this area what it is today,” Richards said while speaking to Closer Look host Rose Scott . sit-down interview in church.

Behind them is a colorful church window with the name of the church’s first pastor. Richards says Rev. Roland Worsham was born a slave but died a free man.

For Part 1 of the interview, Scott talks to Richards about the church’s response to the pandemic and racial unrest following the police killing of George Floyd. He also spoke about the importance of prayer without ceasing and why he believes faith leaders need to come together to continually discuss solutions amid the war between Israel and Hamas.

Faith leaders need to come to the table,” Richards said. “You can’t do it in a few days. This has evolved over thousands of years.”

He further explained that God loves everyone who believes in love and upliftment.

Part 2 of the interview begins in the church cemetery, across the street from the church. Richards talks to Scott about the cemetery’s history, noting that the church’s first pastor and World War II soldiers are buried on the grounds. He also shows Scott the cemetery located directly behind the historic church, where enslaved members of the original house of worship are buried.

As the interview ended, Richards pointed out the church’s stone foundation. He says enslaved people from Africa, who understood the importance of having a place to worship, built it while living in hard times.

“Remember how people could make a difference,” Richards said. “We have to remember.”

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