Jul. 12—ANDERSON — The Allen Chapel AME Church is celebrating its 130th year with activities and events.
What started in 1892 as a small church on the corner of 16th and Sheridan Street is now a staple of the Anderson community. After a challenging two years of no in-person services on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen Chapel is on its way back to full capacity.
Pastor Dalrey Trotter initially came up with the idea by looking at the previous celebration for 100 years before proposing this year's 130th celebration. He considered this milestone unique.
"I know that generally it's 100, 125 and 150," said Trotter, "but the congregants agreed that a 130 year celebration would be wonderful."
Planning for the 130th began with a potluck where members of the church decided one day of celebration was not the goal— it should be an all-year event. Trotter said this was to allow as many people as possible to participate in the festivities. After brainstorming many ideas and narrowing them down, individual committees began forming for things like commemorative items, artifacts and events. The task was to fill the schedule from March 2022 to March 2023, the month the church was founded.
Ruth Hampton is a member of the church and a committee member involved in the planning of the 130th year activities. Being from the area, Hampton remembers the church as a foundational part of her life. She said the goal of the church is not only to celebrate itself, but the community around it.
"[The neighborhood has] been here for those 130 years too," said Hampton. "They knew about Allen Chapel, they participated in things that were going on whether they were members or not, and so we want to thank them for being so supportive of the church."
After doing some research into the neighborhood, the church was able to construct a 12-page history of families that lived in the surrounding area. This ended up being part of the inspiration for one of the church's current goals, according to Hampton: organizing a day of food, fun and fellowship for the community. Other events have included a friends and family day as well as an ongoing 130 days of prayer. Still on the way is a comedy show, a talent show and a continuation of services that existed long before the 130th year celebration such as the Clothes Closet.
Frances Weatherly is the director of the Clothes Closet, which is open for free to the community every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. She has also been a member of the church for the longest amount of time, starting when she was 20 years old. She is now 85.
"Our church is about education," she said. "Sometimes you need to let people know about your history."
Trotter said that despite the challenges such as division and negative talk that surround religion, hope remains at Allen Chapel. He used those who established the church as an example.
"They were conquerors," he said. "They overcame a lot of odds and so this congregation might not have the same heyday that we had in the 60s and 70s, but we still have the fire and we're still pushing forward to make a change in the city of Anderson."