EAST NEW MARKET — For the first time, the Faith Community United Methodist Church on Shiloh-Rhodesdale Road is the site of a historic marker. It was a long time coming! The excitement was palpable at the ceremonial ribbon cutting to confirm the church’s inclusion in the 125 mile Harriet Tubman Byway driving tour across Dorchester and Caroline counties. The church has been part of the tour for several years, based on Samuel Green’s ministry in the second oldest church in Dorchester County and his link to the Underground Railroad.
In 1843 a free black woman, Sarah Young, deeded land to seven free black trustees, including the Rev. Samuel Green. Rev. Green and the original church trustees established the Colored People’s Methodist Episcopal Church in August 1844, in East New Market. That church, now the Faith Community United Methodist Church, “is the second structure to house this continuously active congregation. The original church site has recently been reacquired by the congregation.” (harriettubmanbyway.org).
Samuel Green, born around 1802, was an African-American slave, freedman, and minister. According to historical data he helped Harriet Tubman and other runaway slaves reach freedom. Rev. Green was arrested in 1857, not for aiding the Underground Railroad but for having a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” considered an “inflammatory” abolition document. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Abolitionists called for his release and slaveholders called for his incarceration. He was released in 1862 and, after a stint in Canada, returned to Dorchester County where he was an active member of the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church until his death in 1877.
Mary Dennard Turner opened the ribbon cutting as “something that has been long overdue and something for you to share with us. Our historical signage. Our history.” She introduced previous minister the Rev. Jonathan Whitney who had returned for the celebration.
“Days like today don’t really come often enough,” he said. “I’m thankful there will be more of them.” He described “a new African American Heritage Museum that is being built in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian.” He plans to work with the curator to add the Dorchester County church and its history to the exhibit. “The door is open for our story to be in Washington, DC.” A member of the original Heritage Day Committee, Rev. Whitney noted “Our committee has come a mighty long way. It has stayed the course. We’ve had plays, and meetings upon meetings upon meetings. This marker has been in our joy, our dreams, for at least six years. You’re part of history in the making. Congratulations Faith United Methodist Church. Congratulations East New Market. Congratulations God.”
Founder and committee president Marva Sampson explained, “I’m just grateful that God has given us the opportunity as a Heritage Day committee to see the marker installed. And for all the hard work that the community and the church have done together. That means so much.” An East New Market Town Commissioner, Ms. Sampson added, “Thank you for coming and sharing this blessing with us and we look forward to seeing you again next year with your new president, Herschel Johnson. We are going to support him and I’m going to take a back seat. After 13 years it’s time to move on.”
Mr. Johnson received the 2012 Individual Achievement Award from the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area Management Board.
Lay speaker Michelle Nichols said, “On behalf of our pastor, the Rev. Beverly Holland, we are excited about what God has done. We’re honored to partake of this occasion and be here to witness the fruits of the labor of this committee. It’s remarkable to have such a prominent piece of history here and a marker that will be here for generations to come so that our children and our children’s children will learn and understand our history. We are part of a rich legacy and history. It’s so important to pass that along.”
The Heritage Day Committee included: Doretha Abraham, Marva Sampson, Royce Sampson, Herschel Johnson, and Mary Dennard Turner.
East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline passed out the scissors and counted to three – the group cut the ribbon and history was made.Special to the Dorchester Banner/Charles Hurley The picture of grace, Atear Frock performed a “liturgical dance” for attendees at the 13th annual Heritage Day Celebration at Faith Community United Methodist Church.[/caption]
Heritage Day 2014 had begun. Chapel United Methodist Gospel Choir sang followed by master of ceremonies William Jarmon, former Trustee of the Dorchester County Historical Society. He introduced keynote speaker Barbara Lockhart whose novel, “Elizabeth’s Field,” reflects a deep knowledge of and abiding interest in the history of an area first populated by the ancestors of today’s Faith Community United Methodist Church.
A highlight of the day was Katherine Nau’s video, “The Life and Grace of Sara Young” which was presented by the Historical Society and, according to Executive Director Ann Phillips, told the story of the former slave’s life after slavery using oral history videos of her descendents.
This year’s theme was “Telling it like it is.” And they did – quietly, eloquently, strongly, but most of all, joyfully.