Charlie Green found the Lord at Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cope, but he also found love. It is the same love which has helped sustain the church for the past 150 years.
The 87-year-old recalled going to the old wooden church as a boy, drawn in by the support and caring that he found among its members. He said the church’s celebration of its 150th anniversary this year is special to him.
"I'm proud to be here to talk about it. I've been around here over half of that," Green said.
"I grew up in Macedonia. I used to walk along there going to the school ever since I was 6 years old. I joined the church before I was a teenager. That was a long time ago. I've been a member here over 70-something years,” Green said.
The senior member added, “Ain't nothing but love been around here. If it wasn't for the people, I guess I wouldn't have been here. I've never thought about joining no other church. Macedonia was my home. My father was here, and most of his family was here.
"I was coming before I was thinking about joining. I was between 10 and 12 years old when I joined and ever since I joined, I was in church.”
Located at 118 2nd St. in Cope, the church once stood as a large wooden structure where its present parking lot is located. On its other side was a wooden house which was used as the church parsonage.
Member Jacob Argrow was among the church’s other stewards and trustees who decided to tear the old church down because of its deteriorating condition. Services were held in members’ homes following the demolition of the old church.
Construction of the new church began around 1965, a time when several dedicated members were responsible for building the new sanctuary.
Member Eddie Rivers said, “It was a weekend thing because the members of the church had different jobs. Some of them worked at the cement plant, and they would bring blocks and cement or whatever they needed and start doing construction of the church.”
"Then you had some families that worked at the saw mill. They would bring the lumber in the trunk of their car. This thing was not like just going to the bank and borrowing money and coming out to get a contractor to build anything. This was just the people coming together with different know-how. If I knew how to lay blocks, then that's what I did. If I knew how to do the roofing, that's what I did. If I knew how to do the plumbing, that's what I did,” Rivers said.
He added that the church was full of many talented individuals who came together for a common purpose.
"You had talent all around, and this talent came together. It takes a lot, and it takes a lot of togetherness, communication. A lot of times people lose faith in what they're doing because they don't see anybody else doing anything.... That's the kind of communication and working together that those folks had during that time until this church got up where it was substantial enough during that period to have service," Rivers said.
Macedonia and Good Hope AME churches were sister churches until the growing community saw the need to keep the doors of both churches open every Sunday instead of two Sundays a month. This development necessitated a pastor for each church. As of 1994, Macedonia AME has operated under their own charter.
The new church was equipped with amenities that the old wooden church did not have, including heating and air and indoor restrooms.
“All of that has been installed since. We have worked with the community, too. The community helps out a lot when you got people that will donate things to you. They see you doing things. It's just been a blessing but, you know, coming through the years you have to improve,” Rivers said.
A fellowship hall was built in 1999, along with a reconstruction of the church sanctuary and the addition of vinyl siding to the outside of the church. The son of longtime church member Eartha Smith donated a van to the church in 2004.
Smith, 68, said, "I've been here all my life. I am very proud. I've worked in this church all my life -- since I've been knowing myself. I'm the type of person that if you're a member of a church and if you're on an organization, let the work you do speak for you.”
Smith said the church has been a good support system for her, particularly since she knows “what the Lord has brought me through.”
“Back in March is when I had surgery on my hand. It wasn't nothing but the grace of God that I still have some of my fingers. I just prayed and trusted God. I said, 'You brought me to it, and I know you're going to bring me through it,' and he did. I just thank God. No matter what, I'm going to work in this church until God takes me home,” Smith said.
She added, “We have a lot of love in this church. Things don't go your way all the time, but you've got to have a forgiving heart and leave it in God's hands. He will work it out."
Green said, “We’re a small church with a big heart.”
“All that comes from our forefathers,” Rivers said.
“They are the ones that paved the way and instilled these things in us. You’re got to help one another. Once you get that in your mind and see what Jesus has done, you’ll be a better person. That means we’ll have a better community, a world of better people,” he said.
It was in 2005 when Fletcher and Jo Helen Riley donated two acres of land for a new church cemetery. Among other developments was Skip and Roxanne Cummings’ donation of equipment for a public address system, along with the installation of stained glass windows and the purchase of doors with deadbolt locks in 2008.
Other improvements have included the painting of the fellowship hall, along with the addition of new tables and chairs, in 2011, as well as the purchase of utility shed with a garage in 2013. A metal roof was added to the church in 2016.
There are several devoted members that served in various capacities both inside and outside the church, including as stewards, trustees and class leaders. A list of several of these members can be found on the church cornerstone.
Rivers is proud of how far the church has progressed and plans to stay as long as the Lord allows.
"This is my church. I've been in the church all my life from Sunday School on up to now. I couldn’t see it at first, but it's been a blessing. As you get older and things begin to happen, you understand. After you find out what Jesus can do for you, you'll continue that.”
He added, "This church has been good. A lot of people have sought God and found God here. There's been a lot of prayers made, there's been a lot of healing and there's been a lot of miracles in this church. I know I'm a miracle because I went through something… All I can say is I'm blessed and this church has been blessed.”
Rivers said community outreach is also a big component of the church.
“We've got ties with the Samaritan House that we give donations and time and food. Not only that, the missionaries go out and find people who are needing help and don't have the supplies that they need…. That's what really makes Macedonia stand out. Anytime you see anybody that's helping people in this world, you want to be part of it. You'll feel so good,” he said.
The church is active and has its gospel choir, E.R. Jennings Youth Choir and male chorus among its organizations. It also has a strong missionary group, a jailhouse ministry and a Sons of Allen Men’s Fellowship, which fosters closer relationships between men of the church, equips men of the church for meaningful service, reaches unchurched men and presents positive role models for our youth.
Rivers said, “We have young people that come in this church that have made a good living. They have gone out, finished high school and, not only that, they got good jobs.
“We've got some lawyers, doctors, bankers and other different professionals, including sanitation workers. I wouldn't dare forget the school teachers, the ones that are out there teaching our kids and trying to bring them up in a better way in society."
Several pastors have passed through the church teaching God’s word, with the Rev. Henry Gabe III serving as current pastor.
Gabe said he is proud to be serving during the church’s sesquicentennial celebration.
“It shows the faithfulness and dedication of the people that we serve there. I’m delighted to be in the community and in the area and am looking forward to greater things. Everything is lovely, and we enjoy the fellowship,” Gabe said.
He regrets that the coronavirus pandemic has not allowed the church to meet face-to-face as much, but he said virtual services have been going well.