THE CHRONICLES OF THE HISTORIC FAIR PROMISE African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
-1868 to 2008: 140 years with God and The Zion Connection
“We don’t know where we are going unless we know where we’ve been.” This statement uniquely summarizes the purpose of recorded history – to provide an understanding of and appreciation for past events. It is then that history comes alive and serves as a stimulus for present and future endeavors. It is hoped that those who read this historical account will be fervently inspired to continue to build upon the foundation laid by our predecessors.
FAIR PROMISE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH is currently located at 712 Wall Street in Sanford, North Carolina. It was built in 1926 and is preceded by two earlier buildings: Fair Promise Church #1 and Fair Promise Church #2. The cover of this journal is graced by a rendition of the church as it is today. The history of Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church dates back to 1868 – before the city of Sanford was incorporated in 1874 and before Lee County was ratified by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1907.
The first congregation was an African-American slave population that settled in Chatham and Moore Counties during the mid-seventeen and 1800’s. A parcel of land from Chatham County and a parcel of land from Moore County were joined to create Lee County, which is located in the Piedmont section of North Carolina. Therefore, African-Americans were among the first inhabitants of Lee County.
Some of the slave population were free. However, depending upon whose hand they were to encounter, they weren’t treated any better than the slaves who were still suffering under the yoke of servitude. They worked as farmers and laborers utilizing their skills which had been honed in their native land and their workdays were long and hard. The lack of connection to their past and the denial of precious freedom and justice were grievous barriers to their experience of independence, happiness, and joy. A passage from the book “A History of African Americans in North Carolina” – by Jeffrey J. Crow, Paul D. Escott, and Flora J. Hatley, summarized (page 65) how slaves felt in the 19th century. “The slaves felt a bond with each other as the objects of white cruelty and contempt, and they identified with each other as people sharing a common burden and common culture. They were all subject to sale, separation from their family members, whipping, overwork, and mistreatment. They all hoped in secret for freedom and justice. They all resisted when they could. The awareness of their distinct racial and cultural identity never left them.”
Needless to say, the impact of slavery darkened their outlook for a bright future. The difficulties they experienced trying to survive and change the conditions under which they lived fueled feelings of isolation, loneliness, and defenselessness. They met in different slave quarters to discuss their situation and to supplicate themselves before God for help. Their prayer meetings strengthened their faith in God and their trust in each other. Their togetherness, under-girded by their faith, brought hope, determination, and synergetic thinking that manifested in a determination to build a church.
FAIR PROMISE A. M. E. ZION CHURCH is one of the oldest churches in Lee County. In 1868, just three years after our ancestors were lifted from the yoke of slavery, a small group decided to come together in homes for prayer meetings. They wanted to worship God as they pleased, lift themselves spiritually, and maintain their African identity. Once the word spread around the scattered village of Sanford, North Carolina, prayer meeting attendance grew rapidly. When it reached the capacity of their small homes, this fellowship united with other worshippers under a brush arbor at Saint Paul Church in Egypt (which is now known as Cumnock in Lee County) North Carolina in Chatham County. Under the leadership of Reverend Dan McKoy and Reverend Henry Williams, the Morning Glory Society was organized to build a log structured, box house-style church at Saint Paul. Among this group of pioneers was our very own Promise C. Holmes. The zeal and spirit of these men captivated the restless souls of our forefathers; thus motivating them to launch out on faith to build a church in Sanford, North Carolina. Together, they combined their efforts to see this vision through. All of them gave their hearts and hands in a promise that “they would stand by and stand with each other.” From that bond, an everlasting friendship was formed.
The zeal and spirit that captivated their souls motivated them to launch out on faith. They employed the services of Reverend Peter McNaught who organized the group and assisted with plans to build the first church.
FAIR PROMISE # 1: 1870 – 1891 WICKER STREET
Two years later on October 18, 1870, the first church was established in a building located on Wicker Street near the present Wilrik Building. Promise Holmes, the first chairman of the Board of Trustees, was known as a fair and honest man. He was dependable, trustworthy, reliable, and a devoted member of the church. Due to his good character and dedicated service to the church, the members decided to honor him by naming the church “Fair Promise”. Serving with Promise Holmes on the first trustee board were D. G. Gilmore, Elvis Jones, Isaac Heck, and Murdock McLeod. These men accomplished much during their tenure to assure a firm foundation for generations to come.
Because of their thirst for Christ, the church grew rapidly under the leadership of Reverend Daniel McKoy, Reverend A. B. Smyles, Reverend Henry Williams, and Reverend William Mitchell McKoy. After 21 years at the Wicker location, the members decided to purchase a parcel of property on East Pearl Street from John McIver. The members worked diligently to raise funds to build the church and in 1891 it was finally completed. In the presence of many observers, Reverend W. M. McKoy sealed and seated the cornerstone for the second church.
FAIR PROMISE # 2: 1891 – 1924 – EAST PEARL STREET
Soon after being dedicated, Fair Promise Church became affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Connection as a member of the Carthage District thereby, changing the name of the church to Fair Promise African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Fair Promise became known as one of the leading black churches in then Moore County. After the creation of Lee County in 1907, Fair Promise retained a special identity among churches in the Zion Connection, thus making it the lead church in the Sanford District.
Though times were very hard, Fair Promise Church managed to grow in stride under the leadership of faithful ministers such as Reverend Edgar Bennett, Reverend R. Hasty, Reverend W. H. Waddell, Reverend W. H. Graham, and Reverend W. B. Gordon, to name a few.
In 1912, A. L. Boykin was contracted to build the church parsonage at 508 Ramseur Street under the leadership of Reverend William H. Horton. Following Reverend Horton’s tenure, the parish made significant progress under such stewards as Reverend W. M. C. DeBerry, under whom the mortgage for the parsonage was paid in full, Reverend Robert Taylor, and Reverend G. W. Harrell.
During the pastorate of Reverend G. W. Harrell, the congregation began to make plans to build a more contemporary church. This seed-idea became embedded in restless hearts which were ready to launch out upon the arrival of Reverend J. J. Wells. His influence lay in his dynamic preaching and ability to inspire. The officers and members mobilized their talents and began to perfect plans for modern brick structure.
In October 1921, a large plot of land was purchased on Wall Street from W. M. Peoples. The congregation and interested citizens of Sanford witnessed a ground-breaking ceremony at 712 Wall Street for the third and present church. Edward Boykin, designed the structure, and his son, Arnold “Link” Lincoln Boykin, local contractor, builder, businessman, and member of the Board of Trustees, built the church where we are worshipping today. (News article printed in The Sanford Herald dated February 22, 1992.)
FAIR PROMISE # 3: 1924 to the present 2008 - 712 WALL STREET
The depression years presented a great challenge, but there were stout-hearted trustees whose faith in God never wavered. E. Wicker, D. M. Goldston, H. T. McKeithen, E. H. McKoy, Jimmy Buie, and Cicero Heck gave zest to wavering minds which forged ahead. After the depression, the church continued to face serious financial problems, but by the grace of God, overcame its obstacles. The members and ministers such as Reverend C. E. Norment, Reverend Eugene E. Morgan, Reverend I. B. Turner, Reverend S. Riggs, and Reverend J. C. Flowers sacrificed much to safeguard this place of worship. “If God be for us, what can be against us” must have been engraved in the hearts and minds of those who served the Master so well during those trying times.
By the time Reverend L. A. Ruthledge joined our flock, African-Americans were beginning to see the light. At last, doors were opening up to job opportunities and as the members prospered, so did the church. So much so, that the church’s indebtedness was paid off due to the helping hands of Dora McKoy, Pauline Waddell, Nettie Horton, Lenora Marshall, Irene Smith, Janie Jones, Lillie B. Monroe, Dannie Johnson, Merry Ernestine McKoy, Meta Goldston, Cora Gilchrist, Lois R. Hooker, Minnie Buie, Mamie Peace, Edna Bush, Ada Riley, Dora Sellars, Flora White, and others too numerous to list.
After Reverend Ruthledge’s reign as pastor, the torch was passed on to Reverend R. H. Johnson and then on to Reverend J. S. Davenport. The church successfully reached many of its goals at this time under the direction of Coley M. Hooker, Sr., then Chairman of the Trustee Board. Other trustees included Dan White, Sr., W. B. Wicker, John Monroe, Gilford Smith, Mary Jane Quick, and Lillie B. Monroe who was the first woman appointed to the Board of Trustees.
God gives to each person characteristics and assets which will equip them to carry on His work. Reverend Datus I. W. McInnis was a man of strong Christian character, an excellent preacher, and a methodical administrator. It was during his pastorate (1950 – 1958), that W. T. Horton – then chairman of the Trustee Board, Thomas J. “Tommy” McLeod, Hubert Waddell, William Doyle Turner, Sr., Professor W. B. Wicker, Eugene E. McKoy, H. G. Harris, Fred Thompson, Moses McMillian, Coley M. Hooker, Sr., J. S. Simmons, Sr., and Gilford Smith, spearheaded rallies to raise funds to purchase new church pews. The arrangement of the pews gave the church a greater seating capacity enabling it to accommodate large group activities and the Central North Carolina Conference. Reverend McInnis did a marvelous job before falling prey to a serious illness. His name can never be erased from the chronicles of Fair Promise.
Following Reverend McInnis’ retirement in 1958, Reverend James Aldridge Arnold was assigned (1958 – 1969) to Fair Promise by Bishop Raymond Luther Jones. Because of Rev. Arnold’s charm and personality, others were easily influenced to support efforts for renovating the church and purchasing land for an off-street parking lot. The church edifice and parsonage were painted, modern wiring was installed, new light fixtures were installed in the sanctuary and the upstairs office, new furniture and brass altar sets were donated by the Missionary Circle and Deaconess Board, and the kitchen was remodeled by the Good Housekeepers Club in 1960. The Monroe, McKoy, Reives, and Wallace families gave the accent pieces and red hymnals in honor of and in memory of their loved ones with three hundred hymnals given by various members of the church. Also, plaques were given for fallen heroes of the church who lost their lives on foreign soil while serving this country in an effort to bring peace to war-stricken areas. Additionally, nineteen memorial stained-glass windows were installed which contained religious symbols that reflected beautiful colors that caught your eyes as soon as the church came into view. The electric memorial cross was given by Mrs. Mary D. Wallace in memory of her husband, Andrew J. Wallace. Many individuals, clubs, and organizations added to the ongoing program of the church including the former Quest Club and Pastor’s Aid Board. The Pastor’s Aid Board, organized by W. T. Horton, included other members such as Ethel Horton, Addie L. Douglas, Mary Lee Daniels Darlene Gainey, Edna Foushee, Naomi Siler, Saphronia Buie, Jeanette Fox, Virginia Torrence, Augusta Moore, Irene Marsh, Antoinette Williams, Irene Toomer, Betty Sue Heriot, Carrie Lee McIver, and Mamie Dalrymple served as President.
Reverend C. C. Satterfield, a strong evangelistic preacher, followed Reverend Arnold in 1969 and served until 1971. Souls were stirred whenever he mounted the pulpit. Hubert Waddell succeeded W. T. Horton as chairman of the trustee Board and long-range plans were realized which included the purchase of adjoining property from Dr. J. S. Simmons in order to enlarge the parking area. The Pastor’s Aid Board consisted of Mary Lee Daniels, Mary A. McLean, Mary B. Siler, Plymouth McKoy, Carrie Lee McIver, Missouri Cameron, Augusta Moore, Ida Ruth McKoy Woodard, and Lenora Marshall.
In 1971, Dr. Durocher L. Blakey, son of a long line of Zion ministers, became the thirty-sixth pastor of Fair Promise Church. In addition to his ability to preach, Dr. Blakey was known throughout Zion Methodism as a methodical and systematic administrator. He brought that reputation to Fair Promise and used it in a most positive way by helping the church accomplish many things. The land surrounding the church was purchased and a Memorial Foundation in honor of William T. Horton was established. Dr. Blakey, along with Hubert Waddell, then chairman of the Trustee Board, H. G. Harris, T. J. McLeod, Raymond H. Smith, Ruthell H. Overton, Moses McMillian, O. T. Foushee, Andrew Wallace, and Al Smith led the congregation in completely renovating the interior of the church – paneling the main sanctuary, carpeting the church office, and installing a new public address system. The parking area was graveled and due to the fund-raising efforts of the ladies of the church, was later paved.
In July of 1976, Reverend J. Richard Woodward was appointed to Fair Promise by Bishop William A. Hilliard. In a very short time, he demonstrated his ability to work with people of all age groups in the church. He distinguished himself as one of the outstanding young ministers in the Central North Carolina Conference as well as a leader in local community affairs. He was instrumental in the revitalization of the Youth Fellowship and the Scouting Program of the church. Under the leadership of the women of the church, liquidation of its major financial indebtedness was accomplished. Also during his stay at Fair Promise, the first parsonage was sold and another parsonage was purchased at 1906 Cameron Drive.
The youthful and energetic Reverend Claude E. Willie, III was appointed as our pastor in 1980 and he served us well for eight years. Noticeable progress was made while he was in charge. The church was carpeted in a beautiful shade of blue to match the newly upholstered pews. Chandeliers were hung and a new organ was purchased. These changes and improvements greatly enhanced the beauty of our sanctuary. The Mary A. McLean Missionary Society was formed serving missionaries ages 21 through 40. Also, under Rev. Willie, The Family in Christ Gospel Singers were organized in 1983 to minister the Word of God in gospel song with Wyatt J. Wood and Iris M. Jordan serving as directors.
In 1988, we welcomed Reverend Henry Louis Melvin to our church. His reputation preceded him and he was known throughout the Zion Connection as a great preacher and educator. Reverend Melvin is to be commended for over seven years of dedicated service. During his stay, the church’s steeple was repaired, fifty members joined the church, the indebtedness incurred for renovations was liquidated, and a ramp was built by Girrie Hooker, Jr., (a former member, son of Rev. Girrie Hooker, Sr., and brother of Ophelia H. McDougald and Norma H. Miller), two lots with houses and the Bland property were purchased, and a TV and VCR were provided for use as teaching and training aids to enhance various church activities. On May 7, 1993, a van was purchased to transport members to and from church-related functions. In 1994, the exterior of the church was painted, security windows and doors, and another public address system were installed. Stewardess Board #2 decorated the Narthex with antique furniture and other decorative pieces unique to its architectural design. Reverend Melvin was also responsible for organizing the Fair Promise Men’s Council. On May 7, 1994, several members accompanied Reverend Melvin to Livingstone College where he received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity Degree. On May 8, 1994, he named Mrs. Etta Crutchfield, Mrs. Ivey R. Hooker, Mrs. Lois R. Hooker, Mrs. Addie Lois Douglas, and Mrs. Mary A. McLean as “Mothers of the Church”. During his illness, services were conducted by Dr. Ocie M. Brown, Presiding Elder, Rev. James Elliott, and Bro. John G. McNeill, Local Preacher. After a lengthy illness, Reverend Melvin entered into eternal rest on June 4, 1995. He was funeralized at Fair Promise on June 8, 1995 by Bishop George E. Battle, Jr., and entombed at Lee Memory Gardens, Sanford, NC.
In July 1995, Reverend Anthony Noland Witherspoon began his pastoral appointment at Fair Promise. His energetic presence was uplifting to a grieving congregation. Upon his arrival, we grew spiritually and progressively. Under the leadership of Eugene E. McKoy – chairman of the Trustee Board, William Doyle Turner, Sr., James E. Hooker, Ophelia H. McDougald, Terry L. Bristow, Raymond H. Smith, Ruthell H. Overton, Amanda McIver, and the members of the church, the parsonage was renovated, new front doors to the sanctuary were installed, the interior of the church was painted, and colorful liturgical altar wear was made to use throughout the year for worship services and special occasions. The Women’s Ministry was organized and it published the first edition of “The Promise”, the church’s bimonthly newsletter in July 1996. The Women’s Ministry was also responsible for decorating the Fellowship Hall with paintings identifying portions of our roots in remembrance of persons who have made a difference in our Christian lives, our African American heritage, and in our church. A Planning Board was also organized to set new visions for the future of the church. Children’s Church and Children’s moments were added to our worship service under the guidance of Edith C. Cox, Conference Director of Youth. Many new members joined, also. Martin S. Kendrick preached his Initial Sermon August 25, 1996 and was ordained. The Youth Bible Study was organized and the first instructors were Mrs. Chantal Sullivan Rivera and Reverend John G. McNeill. A new computer (given by Kenneth Williams in memory of his wife, Pamela G. Cox Williams) and copier were purchased to replace outdated equipment in the church office. Thanks to the Missionary Department, the church had a lounge in which to relax after working long hours at the church. Fair Promise was also registered in the city of Sanford as one of its historic sites.
Reverend Reginald D. Swann, Sr., succeeded Reverend Witherspoon. We welcomed Reverend Swann and his family into our fold in November 1997 and he served us faithfully until June 2001. Rev. Swann is to be commended for his strong spiritual leadership and emphasis on kingdom-building. He was a dynamic, anointed preacher and teacher of the Word of God whose lifestyle was in line with his teaching. Shortly after their arrival, he and his wife began a counseling ministry for those seeking help, prayer, comfort, and spiritual guidance. He was very involved in the historic 1998 celebration of the church’s 130th Anniversary. In 1998, Reverend Swann placed much emphasis on the organization of the Christian Education Department with the vision of activating each department, thereby providing ministries to address the needs of every age group in the church. Under his leadership in 1999, the Board of Trustees unveiled a “Y2K Plan” that was aimed at making many much-needed repairs to the church, its grounds, and other church properties. Project ’99 was the first of the Y2K plan to be launched and resulted in the mortgage burning of two dwellings. Instrumental in this endeavor was Clara Waddell Hoke and Eugene E. McKoy, then Chairman of the Trustee Board.
For the first time in our church’s history, a baptism by immersion ceremony was held during the morning worship service on August 22, 1999 and eight members were baptized: Terry L. Bristow, Reginald Buie, Brenda Faye Cameron, Lamont McIver, Alphonsa Roberta McLean, James Robert McMillan, Jr., Bruce Edward Petty, and Maxine Brown Trumbo. Along with Superintendent Jasper W. Marshall and the Sunday School staff, the Pastor put an extensive campaign into action to increase our Sunday School attendance which was a huge success with a noticeable number of members and auxiliaries in attendance.
Reverend Reginald D. Swann, Sr. continued his pastoral labors into the 21st Century. He felt that it was crucial that the church be prepared to fulfill the spiritual needs of its population and meet the foreseeable challenges that lay ahead in the new millennium. Reverend Swann and the Board of Trustees noted several structural repairs, the need for additional space, curb appeal, and an evangelistic ministry. Temporary safety measures were made in the parking lot and lighting problems were improved in the dining room and along the stairwell. The Deaconess Board membership increased to twelve and the Class Leaders became noticeably active to encourage church attendance. Under Reverend Swann’s administration, The Fair Promise Male Chorus was organized with Mrs. Iris B. McKoy Jordan as Directress. Many of the new Bicentennial A. M. E. Zion hymnals were donated by the church family along with Representative Leslie Cox of the North Carolina House of Representatives and his wife, Joyce. On September 26, 1999, Terry L. Bristow preached his trial sermon. Then on April 29, 2001, Iris M. Jordan preached her trial sermon, becoming the first female preacher from Fair Promise. During the conference year 2000 – 2001, Reverend Swann continued his efforts to improve the total church until June 2001, after which Dr. Ocie M. Brown, Presiding Elder, supplied the pulpit for a month.
On July 1, 2001, the energetic Reverend Dr. Sherwin O’Neal Greene, Sr., arrived at Fair Promise as the 42nd Pastor of Fair Promise. Reverend Greene’s first and foremost priorities were to spiritually revive the church, unify the congregation, strengthen the leadership structure of the church and restore it to its original grandeur. His powerful sermons stirred the souls of everyone throughout the church as well as throughout our radio-listening audience via WXKL 1290 am. On Wednesday evenings, Pastor Greene guided a mix of ages and faiths to a deeper study of the Bible. When we studied the Prayer of Jabez, which is based on I Chronicles 4:10, a spiritual movement swept through our church touching the lives of many. Six persons joined the church, worship service attendance rose to a new high and many members rededicated their lives to Christ and began supporting the church’s every effort. A Deaconess Consecration Ceremony was held for new candidates, increasing the roll to twenty-one.
During Pastor Greene’s first members’ meeting, he shared his vision of “The Fair Promise Family Life Center.” The church family was elated over the idea. They whole-heartedly accepted the vision for the future and promised their full support. That very night, the membership empowered the Board of Trustees to not only begin the preliminary planning for the Family Life Center, but to include the renovation of our present structure and the purchase of nearby properties for additional parking. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Pastor Greene, Eugene E. McKoy, Ophelia Hooker McDougald, Charles J. Alexander, and Maxine Brown Trumbo met with a local architect and a general contractor and visited two sites to purchase. Soon thereafter, a tract of land from the estate of Mable Seymore was deeded to Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church. So much has transpired here at “The Promise” in such a short time. Our church motto – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” from Philippians 4:13 becomes more and more evident as we press on toward the mark of the high calling of God.
On November 18, 2001, the congregation had the privilege of welcoming Reverend Dr. Sherwin O’Neal Greene, Sr., back as Pastor of Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church. There was much enthusiasm and hope for the future shown on the faces of those in attendance. During the standing ovation, Dr. Greene silenced the crowd to declare this conference year as the year to “enlarge our territory”. Pastor Greene focused much attention on spiritual growth, praise, local and global outreach ministry, giving generously of one’s time, talents, and financial resources, and a “Church at Work”. We have come to realize that the true family of God is a church where every member is actively involved in ministry. The James Varick Brotherhood (Formerly The Men’s Council) made a vast attempt to involve the male population in church services and ministries. They are to be commended for the outpouring of male participation in activities leading to Men’s Day and the Men’s Day worship service. Members are more actively involved, especially in key leadership positions, in instructional roles, and presiding at special church events. Internal changes were made to enhance worship services and to improve the operation of the church. Local Instructional Development classes, instituted under Rev. Melvin, have continued under Dr. Greene to enrich our experiences and broaden our knowledge of doctrines of the A. M. E. Zion Discipline, as well as seminars and workshops on the district, conference, and connectional levels. Pastor Greene was instrumental in the formation of The Voices of Praise as a combined choir which is composed of The Chancel Choir, The Family in Christ Gospel Singers, and The Male Chorus, under the direction of Dr. Brooksie Harrington, an English professor from Fayetteville State University, who loves God and music. This choir was organized to minister in song at worship services and special celebrations with Sister Iris McKoy Jordan serving as Minister of Music.
When conference year 2001 – 2002 began, the renovation and building project was in its infancy. Pastor Greene kicked off the new year with the Fair Promise Christ Endowment Fund to generate $120,000.00. Then the Board of Trustees hastened their pace to complete the time-line set for preliminary planning. The Trustees have completed their task and presented it along with a proposed plan to the church family. Their report was met with approval with very little change. The Fair Promise Christ Endowment Fund has moved up the financial goal post to $33,158.88.
The Woman’s Home & Overseas Missionary Society and church family have enlarged their territory by helping church families meet their financial needs during very difficult times in their lives. Thirteen members from Fair Promise were stoled at the third Sanford District Missionary Mass Meeting which was held at Jonesboro Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church --- the largest group ever from any one church to be stoled. Mother Frances M. Brown and Mother Meta G. Thompson were appointed to the Mother Board, joining Mother Mary A. McLean and Mother Addie Lois Douglas. We have committed ourselves to being a fellowship who believes in loving one another, sharing Christian joy, and generously giving to those in need at home and in our native land. This conference year has, without doubt, been a fruitful season at Fair Promise all because we believed that – “I am the true vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: For without me, ye can do nothing”. The Gospel according to John 15: 5.
Pastor Greene returned from the One Hundred Twenty-Third session of the Central North Carolina Conference to a “church at work”. The Twelve Tribes of Israel rally was at its peak in 2003 with every tribe striving to raise the most funds for the 135th church celebration. Congratulations to Mrs. Naomi Smith Siler and the Tribe of Judah for rising to the challenge. Little Miss Iris MacKenzie Jordan was crowned as the winner of the Baby Contest.
In March of 2003, we experienced an electrical fire in the sanctuary. Undaunted, Pastor Greene and the congregation held all weekly and special services as scheduled with the aid of the Lee County Arts Center, Star of Hope Freewill Baptist Church, Knotts Funeral Home, Blandonia Presbyterian Church, Horton Funeral Home, and First Presbyterian Church on Hawkins Avenue. A special note of gratitude is extended to them and the community for opening their doors to us. During our displacement, the Board of Trustees, led by Chairman T. Darryl Cox, Sr., moved forward on the building/renovation project. On May 2, 2003, Patricia Goldston, owner and architect of Sweetwater Design, presented a set of blueprints of the Fair Promise Family Life Center.
God placed the feet of Pastor Greene firmly on the pathway to lead the saints toward a higher spiritual living by studying “The Purpose Driven Life” written by Rick Warren. The Acolyte Ministry was reactivated with Sandra Cox-Holmes as leader. This year has been full of activity with Sadie Horton leading the Youth Department. The Christian Education Department sponsored the first Awards and Recognition Banquet in July 2004 at which we honored our 2004 high school graduates: Mr. Adrian Kittrell Woodard and Miss Phylicia Janell Gooch. Adrian received a full scholarship to Hampton University of Virginia. Mr. James Emerson served as the guest speaker. Other youth and children were recognized for various awards as well. Pledges have continued to increase the Fair Promise Christ Endowment Fund during 2004.
In 2005, the Trustees, the Blooming for Christ Ministry, and the Buds of Promise initiated Project Beautification – Phase 1. The exterior of the church was revived with paint, shrubbery, and flowering plants, the first men’s conference entitled “Men’s Night Out,” sponsored by the Central North Carolina Conference, was hosted by Fair Promise with men from all across the conference and ecumenical community in attendance. The Sanford District’s 93rd Church School Convention was also hosted by Fair Promise. The new robes for the Children’s Choir were dedicated along with the brass Cross and candlelighters used by the Acolytes. Jamaal Spencer Barnes, a graduate of The O’Neal School of Southern Pines, who received a number of scholarships, most notable being the Coca Cola scholarship, gave the 2005 graduates and youth of Fair Promise several keys to being successful in school during his speech at our annual Awards Day held June 2005. Everyone really enjoyed our first “Sunday in the Park” service that was followed by a picnic lunch at San-Lee Recreational Park on Pumping Station Road in Sanford.
In conjunction with Fair Promise Day 2005, the descendants of Promise C. and Ellen Hudson Holmes (the church’s namesake) included worship and fellowship with Fair Promise Church on Sunday, August 14, 2005, in their family reunion activities. Reverend Leonard H. Jones, II, Pastor of Mt. Pisgah C. M. E. Church in Evington, Virginia, a direct descendant of Promise Holmes, delivered the morning sermon entitled “It’s Shouting Time” lifted from Joshua 6: 10. One of the memorial stained-glass windows, located in the Pastor’s study, was dedicated in memory of The Promise C. and Ellen Hudson Holmes Family. Also, during this special service, the congregation welcomed Reverend Dr. Avery C. Brown as interim pastor of Fair Promise Church.
In November 2005, at the 126th annual session of the Central North Carolina Conference, which convened with Simon Temple A. M. E. Zion Church in Fayetteville, the Right Reverend Richard Keith Thompson, Presiding Prelate, appointed Reverend Dr. Avery C. Brown, Sr. as pastor of Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church. He began the conference year by meeting with all of the officers, the administrative staff, and each auxiliary, board, and organization to emphasize their importance and role in the life of the church.
Our church experienced a first in January 2005 at the Eastern North Carolina Episcopal Convocation held in Raleigh as it witnessed the first ordination (deaconate) of our very own, Sister Iris B. McKoy Jordan by Bishop Richard K. Thompson. Reverend Jordan became the first female to be ordained from Fair Promise.
Our Black History Observation included the recognition of Margaret Holmes Turner, a former member, and a grand-daughter of Promise C. Holmes, our church’s namesake. She received the Trailblazer Award for dedicated service as a human rights activist that she rendered during the struggle for equality during the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina.
On April 30, 2006, the members hosted a Welcome Ceremony and Reception for Rev. and Mrs. Avery Brown. Various state and local political officials, Lee County administrators, the local president of the NAACP, and fellow ministers gathered to bring greetings to our new pastor while recognizing the significant presence of Fair Promise Church in the community. Each spokesperson extended their support in maintaining our church mission and vision for the future. Rev. Brown is very passionate about each member’s growth toward spiritual maturity, so much so, that he instituted a small class specifically for that purpose. He has broadened our church’s ministry by forming outreach ministries with the community and area churches. The best is yet to come!
On January 14, 2007, Rev. Avery Brown announced that he had been appointed as senior pastor of York Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church in Greenville, NC. The very next day, twenty-eight members from St. Paul A. M. E. Zion Church of Silverdale, NC, accompanied Reverend Shawn E. Williams to his newly-appointed destination - - - Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church, Sanford, NC. On January 21, 2007, the enthusiastic Rev. Williams began another chapter in God’s Master Plan. Since that moment in time, Fair Promise has been moving on up to the next level of grace – a united assembly of spirit-filled people with a common interest and a defined purpose in the Body of Christ exemplifying the church’s mission statement, “Each One – Reaching One, Teaching One; Thus making disciples for Jesus.” Rev. Williams began his pastorate by building up the broken pieces. Once again, the first church in the Sanford District is “the most exciting church in Sanford, NC.” Fair Promise is not only a church, but it’s a home also. As stated in Maxie Dunnam’s book entitled “This Is Christianity,” the church is a home of grace, a home for all and a home for new life. Shortly after Rev. Williams arrived at Fair Promise, he sensed a need for a spiritual transformation, extended outreach ministries, and a desire of the people to revive the building renovation plans for the future of the church all of which he immediately started to address. The church family is committed to its mission statement to spread the Good News.
To our surprise on Sunday morning, February 11, 2007, the Right Reverend Richard K. Thompson and Mrs. Georgia Thompson entered the sanctuary for the sole purpose of celebrating our risen Saviour, and departed to serve as wholeheartedly as ever before. Bishop and Mrs. Thompson also worshipped with us on Men’s Day, June 3, 2007.
Some of the highlights for this conference year (2006 – 2007) are as follows. We received a grant from Lee County Health Department for the Easter Egg Hunt - Health Jam that was held on Saturday, April 7, 2007. Our radio broadcast was expanded to include a new segment on Friday’s entitled “Hour of Restoration” on WXKL 1290 AM. A Planning Committee was formed to develop a needs analysis for the future of the church. After the initial needs analysis was presented, the Planning Committee and Board of Trustees worked collectively to select an architectural firm. After many interviews and presentations by various firms, Millennium 3 Designs was selected as the architect for our new building project. A new Prison Ministry is held at The Sanford Correctional Center on alternating first Sundays. There is a renewed focus in the Youth and Young Adult ministries in the life of the church with the incorporation of a Health Awareness Ministry that concentrates on diseases that plague the African-American population. The Minority Health Careers Club was started under the leadership of Alice Stone Kendrick and affords middle and high school students opportunities to be exposed to African-Americans professionals in the healthcare field. The Summer Enrichment program was instituted for students in grades 3 through 12. Children’s Church was re-established as part of our morning worship. The church is involved in serving the less fortunate population at the Bread Basket every month on the second Tuesday which is coordinated by Naomi Smith Siler.
Plans are underway to implement a Narcotics Anonymous Program (NAP) in September as well as a five-day cruise to the Bahamas with the Voices of Praise appointed to sing at several venues. The After-school Enrichment program will also be initiated in October in partnership with West Lee Middle School.
On August 4, 2007, the Fair Promise church family voted to build a new sanctuary and fellowship hall which will help us to make an impact in the downtown Sanford community. There is a spirit of excitement as we anticipate the new ministries that will help impact the lives of men and women in Sanford, North Carolina.
Upon receiving the reassignment to the pastorate of Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church, Reverend Shawn E. Williams, stepped up to the helm of “The Promise” and began setting the course for which to take in the upcoming conference year. The Groundbreaking Weekend Celebration for the fourth edifice/multipurpose complex was immediately scheduled for January 26 – 27, 2008.
On December 23, 2007, Rev. Iris Jordan, Minister of Music, and Dr. Brooksie Harrington, musician, with the support of Pastor Williams, presented “A Christmas Salute to the Military.” The Voices of Praise rendered the music in commemoration of our military. Members of the Armed Forces were present including several Army and Air Force Chaplains, active duty and retired personnel, and reserve unit members. The troops graciously accepted the standing ovation for their unselfish sacrifices, dedicated service, patriotism, and bravery. However, they did not wish for their duty to be recognized as heroism. God bless our troops and God bless America.
The Groundbreaking Weekend Celebration was chaired by Rev. Iris McKoy Jordan and consisted of several events. Kenston J. Griffin, co-owner and CEO of Dream Builders Communications, Inc. of Charlotte, NC, was the keynote speaker for the Pre-Celebration Dinner Workshop on January 19, 2008 as well as the Groundbreaking Celebration Banquet held at the Dennis Wicker Civic Center on January 26, 2008. The weekend culminated with Bishop Richard K. Thompson delivering the message entitled “Go Forward” on Sunday, January 27, 2008 from the text of Exodus 14: 13 – 15 with emphasis on verse 15. Following the morning worship service, Bishop Thompson and Pastor Williams led the congregation and local officials to the adjacent lot for the groundbreaking ceremony. What a momentous occasion!
In January 2008, Pastor Williams was appointed to the Lee County School Board. The church family and Sanford community strongly supported the Committee-to-elect Williams to the Lee County Board of Education. Then on May 6, 2008, incumbent Rev. Shawn Williams received the second highest number of votes and was sworn in on July 14, 2008, thus making him the first pastor of Fair Promise to be seated on the board. Shortly thereafter, Rev. Williams agreed to also serve on the Board of Directors at Four Oaks Bank of Sanford, NC.
Fellowship and Fun Day, on Sunday, August 17, 2008, started with breakfast at 8:00 a.m. at the church, followed by morning worship service in dress-down casual attire. Then the Pastor and congregation traveled to West Lee Middle School for an afternoon of games, food, fun, and fellowship. The most memorable part was the softball game. The membership was divided into two teams, those under 35 and those older than 35 years old with the more mature team taking home bragging rights. Even though youthfulness was on their side, experience won out and the young ones vowed to return next year to avenge their devastating loss.
The Men’s Fellowship (formerly the Men’s Council), co-chaired by Brian Sean Horton and Reginald Buie, was reactivated and got off to a good start. We are so proud of our Youth Ministry – they are involved in every aspect of the church. Michael Ross Boyd was presented with a Proclamation by Mayor Cornelia Olive and Grant Cameron Holmes was recognized by the Boys and Girls Club of Lee County as “Youth of the Year”. Several youth participated in the Bread Basket Ministry during the summer. Priscilla Overton Gooch is our webmaster and has done an excellent job of getting us on the internet. You can visit the church’s website at www.fairpromiseamez.org and see the many Outreach Ministries that Fair Promise is involved in. The church office is now staffed daily. Under Rev. Williams, Fair Promise has re-instituted the Noon-Day Bible Study on Wednesday’s which is growing by leaps and bounds. Also, a new ministry, is the Early Morning Prayer Service on Tuesday’s at 7:00 a.m. The Children of Promise is a newly-begun afterschool tutorial program in partnership with West Lee Middle School. Our church family along with the Ebenezer Gospel Assembly Training Center under Rev. Delois Washington went on a 5-day cruise of the Western Caribbean also stopping in Cozumel, Mexico. Fair Promise hosted the fourth C.N.C.C. Checkup meeting for 2007 - 2008 conference year. The “Candidate’s Forum,” with Reginald Buie as moderator, proved most successful in allowing local, state, and national candidates the opportunity to present their platforms. Senator Barack Obama is the first African-American named on the national General Election ballot as a candidate for U. S. President. Nineteen members have joined Fair Promise this conference year. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
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