Community celebrates Wallace Temple AME Zion Church's centennial

·3 min read

Sep. 25—ANDERSON — For the dozens of people whose ancestry is inextricably linked with the founding of Wallace Temple AME Zion Church, a two-day celebration of the church's centennial over the weekend was an occasion for both reflection and renewal.

On Saturday, church members and descendants of Henry H. Horton, who started Wallace Temple in his home on Park Avenue in July 1921, gathered to accept congratulations from local dignitaries and to express their appreciation for the church's place in the community.

"My foundation for everything that I believe in today and value today is anchored in this church," said Shirley Weatherly, whose grandfather, Rev. Jesse Weatherly, served as the church's first associate pastor. "My values of service to my community are in this church."

Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick, Jr. proclaimed that a section of Forkner Street near 16th Street would be renamed Henry Horton Way in honor of the church's founding pastor. He helped unveil a commemorative plaque at the intersection to mark the occasion.

Broderick noted that Horton, who migrated to Anderson from his home near Montgomery, Alabama, in 1915, brought with him a sense of service and commitment to bettering the people and the communities around him.

"He not only brought a lot of family and friends, but he also built a large congregation of individuals," Broderick said. "This church, like so many churches in our community, is really a center point of the community as a whole."

The church's current pastor, Antwaun Johnson, said the spiritual heritage that's been passed across multiple generations is something that he places great value on. Those longtime members who vividly remember outreaches, community service projects and other events in the church's history have taught him many lessons in his own spiritual journey, he said.

"There is a great wealth of knowledge and heritage that they have in this community and this church," Johnson said. "It's paramount for me to glean from those things so that we can continue to minister to this community and to these people. Having that wealth of history and knowledge behind me has been a gift to me as the pastor here."

The church is "steeped in culture and spirituality," family genealogist Celena Bostic Perry told the crowd gathered for the ceremony. She added that those values flow directly from Horton's vision, faith and servant leadership.

Current church members, Johnson said, will continue to rely on those values, which their forebears lived out, as guides for the work of sharing the gospel he said God has placed with them.

"They went out and they compelled people to come back into this place," Johnson said of Horton and the church's early members. "We will continue to do the work that God has called us to, and I think that those individuals have helped us get to this point 100 years down the road."

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.

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