The members of Good Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church are preparing to celebrate the history and enduring legacy of their beloved church by locating the family members of its founding fathers and mothers.
A special program to include as many family members that the church can find will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at the church located at 1849 Carver School Road in Cope.
The church, which is celebrating its 157th anniversary this year, has the following individuals listed on its cornerstone: Burl Huggins; Scipio Huggins; Rita Huggins; James Summers; Jim Cleckley; Frank Code; Ellen Busby; A.J. (Amos) Ballard; Andrew Ross and Camden Wade.
"We decided to concentrate on the founding fathers and mothers of the church, the names that were on the original cornerstone. The theme of the program is 'Come Home to Good Hope,'" church member Gwendolyn LC Snider said.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the church to sort of amend its theme because the service will have to be held virtually through Zoom.
"In this given situation we're in, we're going to do it through Zoom, but we're still searching for as many of those families as we can find," Snider said.
Family members of Ballard and Ross are still being sought.
"That has put a little rock in our plans, but we're still searching. We're excited about it. We're finding out information that we didn't know, like who certain people are and how they're related and stuff. It is a family church but sometimes as things change, you get sidetracked. But we've found some different little things," Snider said.
During the Sept. 19 program, Snider said the family of each founding father or mother of the church is going to present the church with a monetary donation. She said individuals who were members of Good Hope and got called into the ministry will also be recognized during the special service.
"We are inviting the public to come and be a part of it. The present presiding elder of the Central South Carolina Annual Conference, the Rev. Dr. Charles Young, will be the guest speaker," Snider said.
Like many other African-American churches, Good Hope AME began as a bush harbor in 1863.
"The first members of the church just emerging from slavery constructed a tent and met in a thick grove of trees called a bush harbor. The first pastor of the church was Rev. Goings. The first presiding elder was Rev. Pruitt, and Daniel Alexander Payne was the first bishop. Daniel Alexander Payne helped construct several black colleges like Allen University," Snider said.
She added, "The first structure was built March 12, 1897. The church was located at 1849 Good Hope Road.”
Snider said the church grounds were also the site of a Masonic Temple.
"Instructors from Claflin College and (then) South Carolina State College visited the church and chose the church as a site to establish a Masonic organization. The Masonic Temple was located on the church grounds," Snider said.
The present church, located at 1849 Carver School Road, was dedicated in 1992 and is led by the Rev. Dr. Georgeann Pringle. The church has 350 members.
A child development and learning center and the addition of a new sound system are among the church’s accomplishments. It has also participated in a summer feeding program, along with prison and nursing home ministries.
Since 2011, single’s, couple’s and senior’s ministries have been established, a 15-passenger van has been purchased and a food bank ministry and Clothes Closet have started.
The Good Hope Medical Clinic was also added to assist individuals with their medical needs. The church hosts a medical clinic every third Friday of each month.
Snider said the church is special because it is a family-oriented church, with both her maternal and paternal great-great-grandfathers having their names on the church's cornerstone.
"I find it to be exciting that Jim Cleckley, who was my great-great-grandfather, was a founding father. That was on my father's side of the family. On my mother's side of the family, my great-great-grandfather, Burl Huggins, was one of the founding fathers. I just find that exciting in and of itself because those two families actually have direct descendants in the church," she said.
Part of the church's mission is to be a place where all people regardless of race, color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation can connect with God and engage in service ministries that strengthen their bonds with all members of the human family.
The church can be reached by phone at 803-531-9528 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The also has a website at https://www.goodhopeame.com/ and can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GoodHopeinCope/.
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