Church unification all in 'His' plan, pastor says

Members of the Trinity A.M.E. Church enter their new sanctuary on East Morrow Street in West Point.
Staff Writer

Even when he talks about a month's worth of rains that have made landscaping impossible in the mud, the Rev. Edward Brown sees God's hand in it.

"God has his own plan for when that grass is supposed to be green," Brown says of the dirt that surrounds the month-old sanctuary at Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church on East Morrow Street in West Point.

Brown has had enough signs in the last four years to know he and his wife, Rev. Debbie Brown, were destined to end up in West Point.

Bishop Julius McAllister came to see him at his church in Louisiana and asked him to come to West Point. Pastor Brown didn't know where that was. The bishop put the New Orleans address and the West Point address in his "Maps" app on his phone and it showed a five-hour drive.

On top of that, the bishop wanted him to come preach on May 11, 2014 -- Mother's Day.

"I told him I'd have to preach real hard, all the Big Hat Ladies would be there," Brown said of his conversation with the bishop.

After his sermon that day and before he could even check in with the bishop, parishioners were singing his praises.

The couple have been in West Point ever since.

And their work and that of the congregation, which is actually a combination of three churches, is just beginning.

"In the first year, we evaluated everything. In the second year, we worked on putting everything in place spiritually. In the third year, it was time to build. Now, we will start to reach out," Brown said of the process.

At the bishop's urging, the couple have taken three small churches and turned them into one. Two rural churches, London Chapel and Hunter Chapel, were located in rural eastern Clay County. St. John was located on East Morrow Street just a few blocks between downtown and several industrial complexes.

"It's difficult to keep small churches going. We were way out in the country. This is more centralized, easier for everyone to reach, right in the middle of town," said one member as they entered the new sanctuary one Sunday.
The churches decided to tear down St. John and build Trinity -- a perfect name literally and Biblically for the combined three churches -- on the East Morrow site.

Work started late 2016. The new sanctuary was dedicated in late February.

"Everyone has bought into it. We all started visiting each other as churches so it made sense," said church member Dorothy Ewings, who along with her husband, has literally helped build the church by hand. "You can feel the energy in the new building."

And that personal touch from several church members makes the process even more special.

"A lot of hard work and dedication has gone into this," church member James Lofton said.

"You can feel the soul of God in there. We've put a lot of time in there. It's exciting to let us know what God has helped us do," Brown says.

With a new sanctuary, the three congregations are settling in to one. The first Sunday of the month draws in the biggest attendance, average 60 to 70 members. That's the next challenge.

"Now the hard part comes, getting people to receive Christ. People come to church all their lives and haven't received Christ, haven't truly worshiped. We've got to learn to go out the door and tell people about Christ," the 60-year-old pastor says, his Louisiana accent drawing out his words.

With the firm foundation in place and getting stronger, Brown and his wife say they and the congregation are getting ready for the next steps.

"We have some things in mind for outreach," he says.

As the church grows, he looks back and sees it somewhat fitting that his first time in the pulpit in West Point was on Mother's Day.

When a visitor suggested if it had been Father's Day it might have been even more fitting, he quickly pointed out his wife is a pastor, too, and they share some of the duties at the new church.

On each Sunday now, the Browns, he tall and in a black robe with gold trim and her dressed sharply in a black ministerial robe, lead the congregation up the sidewalk and into the new church.

"It's all about nurturing in God's view," he concluded.