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Members of the organizing committee, from left, Carolyn Walker-Kimbero, Nan Harshaw and Denise Lennon met last week at the chapel on High Street to finalize the festivities.

Celebrate 145 years with Central Chapel A.M.E.

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In 1886, as the area’s educational opportunities continued to attract African Americans 23 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 13 families from Yellow Springs and Miami Township formed a local chapter of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in a schoolhouse on what is now Ohio 370 near John Bryan State Park, according to church history. By the turn of the 20th century the congregation had built a one-room church on South High Street referred to as Central Chapel, had had local landowner and freed slave Wheeling Gaunt as a member, and was serving the spiritual needs of a growing local African-American community.

Now a longstanding Yellow Springs institution, the Central Chapel A.M.E. church is celebrating its 145th anniversary next weekend with liturgical dancing, an old-fashioned picnic, dinner-theater, music and, of course, worship. Because its church members are active in the community and the community is active in the church, the entire village is invited.

The three-day anniversary celebration begins with a banquet on Friday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn. A $25 ticket pays for dinner and entertainment, including interpretative dance to Christian music performed by the women and girls of the Central Chapel liturgical dance group and the staging of an original play written and directed by Walker-Kimbero. The play, called “Carry On,” is about differences of opinion on ways to worship.

The party continues at an old-fashioned church picnic on Saturday, Sept. 17, from noon to 4 p.m. at the picnic shelter on Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road near its intersection with Ohio 235 in Fairborn. The church will provide meat to grill in addition to throwback games — potato sack races, egg toss, corn hole. Attendees should bring a dish to share and can, if they wish, wear their fancy picnic dresses, bonnets and hats of the style popular in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The festivities conclude on Sunday with two worship services. At the 11 a.m. regular service, the former pastor of 15 years, the Rev. John Freeman — the longest-serving pastor in the church’s history — will speak. Freeman was well known locally for leading the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. day march. The 4 p.m. service will be mostly music with performances by the church’s choir and inspirational singers, a liturgical dance group from Columbus called “Leap of Faith” and United A.M.E. Church of Xenia’s choir.

See the Sept. 8 issue of the YS News for the full story.


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