Phillips CME Celebrates 150th
Phillips Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 2015. Organized in 1865, around the close of the Civil War, the church is five years older than its denomination, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. It was assigned to the first Annual Conference in the denomination. It is the second oldest African American congregation in Huntsville.
The Reverend Keith Ellison says he is excited about leading Phillips through this unique celebration of its rich and storied history. “We pay homage to the vision, hard work, courage and ministry of our forbearers,” he said. “We rejoice in a heritage made possible by the grace of God and dedicate ourselves to use our gifts and talents more fully to do God’s will.”
The church launched its celebration with a revival in January 2015. Among the culminating activities was a Black Tie Gala held at the Jackson Center at 7 p.m. on August 21st, highlighting actress, Robin Givens. Ms. Givens and her cast presented excerpts from her stage play “Joy in the Morning.” On September 20, Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick III, son of former Phillips Pastor Reverend Lawrence Reddick, Jr. and Mrs. Elizabeth Reddick, preached at a special 10:30 a.m. worship service. Bishop Reddick is senior Bishop of the denomination.
Phillips has been a cornerstone in the Huntsville community. Known through the years for its unique Vacation Bible Schools, summer enrichment programs, kindergarten, day care center and model after-school tutorial-mentoring program, it continues a tradition of service through its Phillips Brotherhood Community Outreach. Church members have collaborated with CASA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Blossomwood School, First Stop and numerous other agencies to fulfill their mission.
In addition to Bishop Reddick, former Pastor Charles L. Russell was elected 21st Bishop of the denomination in 1938. The Reverend Robert O. Langford, who launched his ministry at Phillips, was the denomination’s first General Secretary of Evangelism. He organized Langford CME Church in Monroe, North Carolina in 1912 and Brown Temple C ME Church in Ashville, North Carolina in 1924. Mary Lula Shepherd, also a member of Phillips, was a charter member of the Connectional Women’s Missionary Society organized in 1918. Numerous other members have served at all levels of the Church.
In the CME tradition, Phillips has been served by itinerant ministers. Most were builders. Some built churches. Others built up the body of Christ.
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Phillips CME Church Facts
- Phillips CME Church was organized in 1865, the year the Civil War ended and five years before the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was organized. It is the second oldest African American Church in Huntsville, Alabama.
- In 1954, the General Conference changed the name of the denomination from “Colored Methodist” to “Christian Methodist.”
- The early years of the church were marked by a series of relocation. Worship services were held in homes, lodge halls and the Fred Davis School, all located in “the Grove” an African American community located in the area where the present church stands. Later, the congregation moved to a converted broom factory on West Clinton Street.
- The congregation purchased Rison Chapel, an edifice located on Church Street, at a cost of $1,200 in 1908.
- The frame building burned in 1916. Pastor A. D. Avery, also an instructor of brick masonry at Alabama A. & M. College, and his students built a new edifice with financial help from Bishop Charles Henry Phillips.
- In 1922, the new edifice was named in honor of Bishop Phillips.
- The congregation moved to its present site, 200 Davis Circle, in 1973.
- The mortgage on the Davis Circle site was burned on Palm Sunday, 1994.
- Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, the first and only female bishop of the CME Church, presides over the Fifth Episcopal District.
- Mrs. Mary Lula Shepherd, a member of Phillips, was a charter member of the CME Connectional Women’s Missionary Society organized in 1918.
- Attorney Robert Jones, a member of Phillips, served on the site Selection Committee for Councill High School in the 1890's.
- Attorney John Kemp, a member of Phillips was an advocate for the establishment of Councill High School in the 1890s.
- The Reverend Charles Lee Russell, Pastor of Phillips from 1913 to 1914, was elected 21st Bishop of the CME Church in 1938.
- The church has fed homeless people through the years and provided for some of their other needs.
- The Reverend Robert O. Langford, who launched his ministry at Phillips, served as the first General Secretary of Evangelism for the CME Church from 1922 until 1930.
- Reverend Langford planted Langford CME Church in Monroe, North Carolina in 1912. The church celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2012. He also organized Brown Temple CME Church in Ashville, North Carolina in 1924.
- The Reverend Lawrence L. Reddick III, son of former Phillips Pastor L. L. Reddick, Jr. and Mrs. Elizabeth R. Reddick and a native Huntsvillian, served as editor of The Christian Index, the official publication of the CME Church for 16 years.
- In 1998, the Reverend Lawrence L. Reddick 111 was elected 51st Bishop of the CME Church. Today, he is Senior Bishop of the denomination.
- Outreach has been and continues to be a strong focus in Phillips’ mission.
- The Church served as a voting site until the Councill Court Community was dislocated.
- In the early 1950s, Mrs. Elizabeth Reddick organized a productive kindergarten at the church.
- In the 1970s, the church operated a day care center.
- During the late 1980s and the ‘90s, Phillips organized and operated a model after-school tutorial/mentoring program.
- Funding for the tutorial program was generated through dinner theaters and banquets featuring nationally known speakers such as Journalist Tony Brown and Mrs. Mary Shy Scott, International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Additional funds were secured through grants from United Way and the State of Alabama.
- The Phillips Brotherhood Community Outreach (PBCO) has ministered to at-risk boys for nearly two decades. The organization collaborates with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, CASA and Blossomwood School. One highlight of the ministry is the annual enrichment trip for the boys to nearby cities.
- In collaboration with First Stop, members and auxiliaries have provided sleeping mats, snack packs, hygiene bags and other items for homeless people.