African American News and Genealogy

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Black, white churches worship together again after 135 years

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. One and one-third centuries after former slaves left a Shelbyville church to start their own, descendants in both congregations have worshipped together.Shofner's Lutheran Chapel was once a thriving church where white farmers and black servants both attended, meeting in two buildings. Church documents show after the Civil War, freed slaves continued to worship at Shofner's for about six years while they built their own church about a mile away. They left in about 1870. The black congregation is now Mount Zion Haley Missionary Baptist Church, with about 75 members. Meanwhile, Shofner's has dwindled to chapel status -- meaning it's used mostly for weddings, funerals and an annual homecoming a Decoration Day, which members observe on the first Sunday in June. At yesterday's combined service, about 150 people filled the pews in the old Shofner's sanctuary. Eighty-nine-year-old Ed Johnson is one of the oldest members of Mount Zion. He says he's known people from Shofner's all of his life and it meant a lot to him for the churches to worship together. The congregations are now talking about a Christmas service to share. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Source:


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