Oldest Black church in Utah celebrates founders
By Tom Harvey
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 24 2013 08:19PM
With prayers, choirs and a fiery sermon on the importance of maintaining a memory of the past, Utah’s oldest black church celebrated its Founders Day on Sunday with a multi-congregational service.
The Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church of Salt Lake City, 239 E. 600 South, and Embry Chapel AME Church of Ogden held a special joint service in the Methodist church to mark its founding in the late 18th century in Philadelphia when most African-Americans were enslaved.
But the pastor of Embry Chapel, the Rev. Charles Timothy Wright, used the pulpit to trace the church even further back to the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther, who sparked the Protestant movement in the 16th century.
"Our past and our inheritance reminds us we are not orphans, that we are heirs of a great inheritance," said Wright.
The Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church in Utah can trace its beginnings to an organizational meeting held in November 1890 in Salt Lake City, according to the state Utah History to Go website.
Although blacks were among early Mormon settlers, a black community did not evolve until the 1890s. In November 1890, a group led by the Rev. James Saunders organized an association to build an African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The church met in various locations after its founding until the present church building was built on Martin Luther King Boulevard (600 South) in 1907.
A children’s group on Sunday reminded the congregation of African-American history and that of the Utah church. Wright also pointed to ancestors who were slaves and how African-Americans were denied opportunities to worship with other fellow believers.
"It was and still is very personal," he said.
Wright said the celebration of Founders Day was a time to "reflect on our beginnings, review our past and prepare for our future. I pray we will not let others and ourselves forget what God has done."
Several choirs from other churches sang, and other pastors were in attendance, including the Rev. France Davis of Calvary Baptist Church and the Rev. Elder R. Andrew Clark of the Ebenezer Church of God in Christ.
"It’s been a good time," said the Rev. Nurjhan Govan, pastor of Trinity AME Church. "We’ve had our brother churches and our sister churches come together with us."