PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - A new branch of a Parkersburg church is opening and the owners are learning more about its historic roots.
The Homeland Community Church is re-opening the Wesleyan Church at 14th and Latrobe Street.
The campus pastor, Melody Smith, says, “We're going to have a Sunday afternoon service at 3:00 and then through the week we'll be open sometimes for the kids to come and just play, we have a ping pong table corn hole sets.”
Brady Stephens is the Pastor at Homeland. He says, “The community that this church is located in has a lot of people living in the area that does not even own a vehicle. So if they're going to go to church it's probably going to be a church that they're going to walk to. So our interest here is to serve this community those that are in walking distance.”
They're excited to see what this campus can do for people in the future, but they're quickly learning about the past of the former African American church and its historical significance.
“We found when we were in here cleaning, we found a pamphlet from their 124th anniversary and it says that according to them, the Wesleyan Pastor in Parkersburg at that time, at the end of the Civil War went to Washington DC and asked Abraham Lincoln to donate one of the civil war barracks so the black people would have a place to worship.”
The documents say that Lincoln responded saying quote "Go home and tell your people they shall have one of the barracks to worship in."
Smith explains “They claim in this book that this was the first black church in West Virginia. And so the original campus was down on 8th Street downtown and it was an old civil war barracks and then they moved the congregation into this building (at 14th and Latrobe Street) in 1970.”
Now, Homeland is hoping to use that history as a lesson for the kids that stop in.
“I hope to make a wall in the fellowship hall side with some of the historical documents and pictures that we've found to just kind of honor that history and where the church came from.” Smith says.
The building was given to homeland after the former church closed its doors in February. And they say it’s been a perfect fit.
“A lot of my students that I've had over the years live right here in this neighborhood with the kids and then also with their parents and their families so it’s just a great place for me to be because I'm pretty well connected to the people here.” Explains Smith.
Stephens says, “Melody has a real compassion, a real burden for this community and she will throw her heart and life into this ministry.”
Their first worship service will be July 22nd.
“It will be a game changer for people. There will be people that will be impacted by what takes place here in the next year or years to come.” Stephens says.