The Pleasant Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church will celebrate the founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in America at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Pleasant Grove is at 1450 W. Oglethorpe Hwy., Hinesville.
The AME Church was established in 1787 in Philadelphia. Richard Allen, born Feb. 14, 1860, and America’s first black bishop established Bethel AME church in a blacksmith shop he had bought. Other churches soon joined the new denomination.
Bishop Henry McNeil Turner led an ambitious movement to establish AME churches all over Georgia immediately after slavery. Pleasant Grove, established 1869 in Taylors Creek (now Fort Stewart) was a part of that movement.
The church, led by community leader Rev. Piner Martin, was built by the newly freed slaves from handmade shingles. Oxen hauled timber from the newly purchased property. By 1941 when the United States government purchased the land to establish Camp Stewart the church campus included a school, parsonage and Masonic hall, and served as the leading African American Methodist Church. It hosted the area’s Annual Camp Meeting.
After the purchase of its 16.6 acres for $1,600 on Oct. 3, 1941, the church moved to state Highway 38 in the Allenhurst community (now U.S. Highway 84 in Hinesville).
To memorialize its contributions to Liberty County a kiosk has been erected at the church’s original site indicating its inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
The keynote speaker Sunday will be Dr. Cheryl D. Dozier, the 13th and first woman president of Savannah State University. Since taking office in 2011, Dozier has championed the university’s mission of developing productive members of society through instruction, scholarship, research, service and community involvement. She has said her priority is moving students from “matriculation to graduation” and ensuring that they have opportunities to succeed in their pursuits.
Dozier is a member of the Rotary Club of Savannah, and serves on several boards: Savannah Economic Development Authority Advisory Council, Telfair Museum Board of Trustees and the World Trade Center Savannah Board of Directors. She belongs to the Gamma Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and St. Philip Monumental AME Church in Savannah.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, master’s in social work from Atlanta University (now Clark-Atlanta University) and doctorate in social work from Hunter College at the Graduate Center of City University of New York. She recently received an honorary doctorate from the University of Liberia.
Pleasant Grove’s celebration is a part of the Sixth Episcopal District (Georgia) Founder’s Day activities in Savannah Feb. 8-10. The theme for Pleasant Grove is “Don’t Forget the Bridge.”
“This year’s celebration is especially meaningful since the church has begun construction of a new sanctuary with planned dedication during the church’s 149th anniversary in June,” said Donald Lovette, co-chairman of the celebration.
For more information, call the church at 912-368-3266. The public is invited.