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Faith of a Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara Woods Washington

The Times makes me grateful for my Master of Divinity earned from Three institutions of historically Black origin; “Gammon Theological Seminary” in the “Interdenominational Theological Center” in the “Atlanta University Center”.

Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Atlanta, now, since 1968, United as Methodists; takes it’s place as one of the most important congregations in Christ Faith transmission.  My current study of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities has me returning to the history of Central Church.

Originally named Clark Chapel to honor a truly great man of God, Davis Wasgatt Clark who through his work in the New York and Cincinnati Methodist Episcopal Church, took the ministry up the now I-75 corridor establishing the Church in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. His election to the Episcopacy in 1864 and his service as the First President of the Freedman’s Aide Society made him a friend to many.

Born in Clark Chapel/Central Church in 1869 Clark University became an Institution of higher learning.  The “First Bulletin of Clark University” dated 1879 records the foundational history: 

 “Early in the year 1869, a primary school was opened in Clark Chapel, Atlanta, Ga., by (Pastor) Rev. J. W. Lee and wife.  Proving a success, it was adopted by the Freedmen’s Aid Society,…”.  This most primary source also dates the relocation of both The School and Clark Chapel’s move to Loyd Street.  “Later in the year, the Summer Hill school-house was purchased, and the school transferred to that building.”   Within Two years:  “During the winter of this year, Rev. L. D. Barrows, D. D., taught a theological class in the basement of Loyd Street Church.  In the spring the property on Whitehall street, was purchased, and the present institution put in operation.  Dr. Barrows returned to the North, Rev. J. W. Lee was made President, with Prof. Gosling and Mrs. Lee, Associates.”

I can scarcely express the Light given in the finding of this most valuable source which is now ‘my history’… too!  This 1879 Clark University Bulletin concludes the History with this paragraph:

 “The name —Clark University— was given to the Institution in honor of Bishop Clark who visited this section of country shortly after the close of the war, and organized the Southern work.  His deep interest in this field of labor never ceased while he lived.  His library is now the property of the Institution, and his widow is one of the trustees.”

By the “1879-81 Clark University Catalogue” The Theological school had moved from Loyd Street Church into: “The magnificent College Building, costing over thirty thousand dollars…; Bishop Haven, by personal solicitation secured the money and purchased four hundred and fifty acres of valuable land, the first one hundred donated to the Institution.”

I must repeat here what I wrote in my first Column when Geraldine Heath as Editor in 2007 told me to make an autobiographical statement:

 “While working at Grady Hospital, ‘I heard a cry’ or did ‘He hear my cry’?  But, in a thirty day or so time span, I was enrolled in the summer session to begin a three year Master of Divinity degree program at Gammon Theological Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center.  Hadn’t been to church since leaving home eight years earlier, and now my whole world had been made brand new.  At the time, I couldn’t even spell seminary, inter-denominational or theology, let alone know what they meant.  To complete this 3 year course, I also found myself sitting in the pulpit of Central Church at a time when Dr. Joseph Lowery was at the height of his leadership as President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  He told me my 2nd Sunday there, “reach in the closet and get a robe, grab a Bible and read…”  I said “huh”??  (I did tell you that I hadn’t been to church in 8 years?).  He said,  “what part don’t you understand, robe? Bible?”  Again I said, “huh”???  He said, “you gon be a preacher or you gon be a chicken?”

by email: myfathersmansionpress@gmail.com

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