Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to deliver keynote
Atlanta’s venerable First Congregational Church is celebrating 155 years of mission and ministry, notably its legacy of racial conciliation. The anniversary worship service is set for Sunday, September 25 at 11 a.m., at the church’s historic downtown location.
“This is a special time to celebrate both the strength of our ministry and its sustained commitment to seeing ourselves and the world as we ought to be,” said the Rev. Dr. Dwight D. Andrews, First Church’s senior pastor.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of Georgia and the daughter of two Methodist ministers, will address the Anniversary theme, “For Such A Time As This.”
The church’s reputation for racial reconciliation dates back to its founding in 1867, when whites from the American Missionary Association came South to help educate formerly enslaved Black people. The church’s initial leadership came from Yale Divinity School.
Rev. Andrews, a graduate of Yale Divinity, continues that tradition to this day.
First Church’s first black pastor also was a Yale Divinity School graduate, the Rev. Henry Hugh Proctor. He led the church from 1894 to 1920, including the erection of the current church building at the corner of Courtland Street and John Wesley Dobbs Avenue at 105 Courtland Street, NE Atlanta, GA 30303 ·
In recent years, the church has undertaken a $10 million campus expansion, including the renovation and restoration of the historic edifice, creation of a downtown memorial garden, and development of the Commons – a community center for arts education and outreach.
First Church solidified its reputation for racial reconciliation with Proctor’s creation of the “Atlanta Colored Musical Festival” in 1909, in the wake of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riots – a violent attack on blacks by white citizens and police. The festival drew interracial audiences, as the revived Music Festival does now.
Today, the church also offers a variety of musical ministries, Including its “First Fridays Jazz,” summer music camps for youth and “Jazz Vespers,” created some 20 years ago by Rev. Andrews — himself a musician and music professor at Emory University.
First Church’s diverse music offerings will be featured during the 155th Anniversary service, led by music director Trey Clegg as well as Rev. Andrews.
In keeping with its interest in being the “world we ought to be,” First Church also has a national reputation for filling its pulpit with prominent guest speakers and preachers who come to address tough and timely issues in the larger community. Among those has been Vernon Jordan, a son of Atlanta and former National Urban League president, who spoke just after the 9/11 attacks on the nation. –
Also, Kamala Harris was the speaker for First Church’s 150th anniversary, before she became Vice President of the United States.
“Stacey Abrams continues our legacy of presenting prominent leaders on critical issues” said Rev. Andrews. “She’s a product of Spelman College and has, as her personal mission, to be a public servant.”
Abrams was the first black and first woman to be the Leader of the Democratic Party Caucus in the Georgia Legislature.
“When the congregation began planning for this landmark 155th anniversary, our lay leaders felt it important to address the reality of these difficult times,” Rev. Andrews said.
“Our legacy of racial reconciliation has been a part of what makes Atlanta the city that it is today,” Rev. Andrews continued. “This is also why the Honorable Andrew Young is our minister for global affairs. We see ourselves as part of the world community.”
Young, an ordained UCC minister, preaches every third Sunday. He is always topical with historical context based on his experiences as a lieutenant in the Civil Rights Movement, working alongside Martin Luther King Jr. The “Third Sunday Jazz Band,” led by the Rev. Dr. Andrews, also provides special music for this worship service.
Unexpectedly, the pandemic has expanded the church’s reputation, as viewers from all over the world now follow the worship services and other programs through FaceBook and YouTube. The 155th anniversary worship service also will be streamed online.
For more information about the church and how you can get involved, visit the website at www.firstchurchatl.org or call 404-659-6255.