First Christian Church
“Good News” Newsletter
The Church Doors Are Open!
There’s a feeling of hope and optimism in the air as it seems things are getting back to “normal” at First Christian. “Hosanna Happenings” was a big success, and many enjoyed our return to in-person Easter service this year. Several have mentioned how excited they are to be back in the building and once again fellowshipping with one another.
We will continue to follow safety guidelines as we slowly get back to in-person activities. Each week, our attendance has increased, and as more and more of our members are being vaccinated, we anticipate a continual increase in our service attendance.
It has truly been a blessing that we have been able to distribute food for families throughout this Pandemic Crisis with our Mobile Food Pantry. Our hope and prayer is that we will be able to continue to distribute food every fourth Tuesday in the upcoming months.
The building is now being used for events including birthdays, baby showers, and weddings. Our calendar is beginning to fill up as we are planning several church activities over the next few months.
On May 1, we will have our annual “Spring Cleaning” at the building. This will also include a fellowship breakfast/brunch at 9:00 a.m. for all those participating. Last year the event was cancelled, so we are hoping for a good turn-out this year.
On May 9, Mother’s Day, we will resume our Sunday School classes at 9:30 a.m. Mark your calendar and plan to join us as we study and discuss the Bible.
Our Education Committee also announced that this year’s Vacation Bible School will be held in July, and we are planning a big celebration of First Christian’s 106th anniversary in October.
It feels good to be back in the building. It’s almost as if we are returning to “normal”.
How Important Is In-Person Worship?
by Pastor Darell Christopher
“We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works. We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer.” (Hebrew 10:25-26 ERV)
A few weeks ago, after much consideration, First Christian Church of Tahlequah made the decision to begin offering in-person worship services again. We started with only a few in attendance, but each week our in-person attendance has increased as more of our members are being vaccinated, and more members feel it is okay to worship in-person.
But, how essential is in-person worship? Why not choose the conveniences of worshipping online, at home, versus having to get dressed and come to a building for service? Though I am very thankful we have the technology during this Pandemic crisis to offer online streaming worship services, I would argue that based on what the scripture teaches about worship, in-person worship is preferable, if not essential.
So why is in-person worship so important? When we worship with one another in-person, we are in a unique environment where we can fellowship with one another. John 4:24, Jesus says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Just being around other like-minded Christians helps in our worshipping God in Spirit and in truth.
One positive result of this crisis has been the recognition that the church is not a building. The church is the body of Christ. But that’s not to downplay the importance of having a building that focuses our attention on serving God. With online services, we can only receive only a partial experience. In our church building, we display sacred artwork, and we present sacred music that we can appreciate as a community. In this safe environment, we can lift our voices up to praise God, and we can have our silent moments of reflection. When we assemble at the church building, we can experience the liveliness of the community and also “block out” the distractions of the outside world.
One of the greatest blessings of in-person worship is being with my fellow Disciples and enjoying the “Ties that bind” us in relationship with Christ and one another. I love my Church family, and I look forward to when we can assemble together in Jesus’ name.
In Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 and warns us that, “These people honor
me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their
teachings are merely human rules.” My prayer is that our worship will not be in vain,
and we will worship God in Spirit and in truth.
We are all creatures of habit, but I hope we don’t get out of the habit of attending
in-person services. I am confident that those who truly love the Lord will have no problem
attending in-person services when they deem it is right to do so. As the day gets closer, my
prayer is that we will keep encouraging one another and that we will keep worshipping and
We are still standing, and we praise God for His love and mercy.
GOING DOWN THE ROAD WITH JUDY:
Exploring Oklahoma’s Historic Churches
By Judy Shade
Greetings Sisters and Brothers,
This month we are exploring the Ward Street Memorial A.M.E. church in Muskogee, OK. This church has a long, rich history. The building has been here since before statehood, and is continuing its mission to reach people through their virtual services.
I have also included a history of the A M.E. church (see below), mostly because I did not know much about the denomination. Enjoy.
The Ward Chapel AME Church is a historic African Methodist Episcopal Church building at 319 N. 9th Street in Muskogee, Oklahoma. It was built in 1904, three years before Oklahoma achieved statehood. It was added to the National Register in 1984.
It was deemed significant as "one of the oldest remaining social institutions in the black community of Muskogee"; it "is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church and the second oldest black Protestant church in Muskogee". It is a one-and-a-half-story 90 by 44 feet (27 m × 13 m) church, built of brick laid in running bond, painted yellow.
The Ward Chapel congregation was founded in 1883. The 1904 church building "was built in 1904 to accommodate the growing congregation and to serve the spiritual and social needs of Muskogee's black community which numbered over 7,000 at the time of construction."
A Brief History of the A.M.E. Church
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. When officials at St. George’s MEC pulled blacks off their knees while praying, FAS members discovered just how far American Methodists would go to enforce racial discrimination against African Americans. Hence, these members of St. George’s made plans to transform their mutual aid society into an African congregation. Although most wanted to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church, Allen led a small group who resolved to remain Methodists. In 1794 Bethel AME was dedicated with Allen as pastor. To establish Bethel’s independence from interfering white Methodists, Allen, a former Delaware slave, successfully sued in the Pennsylvania courts in 1807 and 1815 for the right of his congregation to exist as an independent institution. Because black Methodists in other middle Atlantic communities encountered racism and desired religious autonomy, Allen called them to meet in Philadelphia to form a new Wesleyan denomination, the AME.
The geographical spread of the AMEC prior to the Civil War was mainly restricted to the Northeast and Midwest. Major congregations were established in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, and other large Blacksmith’s Shop cities. Numerous northern communities also gained a substantial AME presence. Remarkably, the slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, and, for a few years, South Carolina, became additional locations for AME congregations. The denomination reached the Pacific Coast in the early 1850’s with churches in Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco, and other places in California. Moreover, Bishop Morris Brown established the Canada Annual Conference.
The most significant era of denominational development occurred during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Oftentimes, with the permission of Union army officials, AME clergy moved into the states of the collapsing Confederacy to pull newly freed slaves into their denomination. “I Seek My Brethren,” the title of an often repeated sermon that Theophilus G. Steward preached in South Carolina, became a clarion call to evangelize fellow blacks in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and many other parts of the south. Hence, in 1880 AME membership reached 400,000 because of its rapid spread below the Mason-Dixon line. When Bishop Henry M. Turner pushed African Methodism across the Atlantic into Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1891 and into South Africa in 1896, the AME now laid claim to adherents on two continents.
While the AME is doctrinally Methodist, clergy, scholars, and lay persons have written important works which demonstrate the distinctive theology and praxis which have defined this Wesleyan body. Bishop Benjamin W. Arnett, in an address to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, reminded the audience of the presence of blacks in the formation of Christianity. Bishop Benjamin T. Tanner wrote in 1895 in The Color of Solomon – What? that biblical scholars wrongly portrayed the son of David as a white man. In the post civil rights era theologians James H. Cone, Cecil W. Cone, and Jacqueline Grant who came out of the AME tradition critiqued Euro-centric Christianity and African American churches for their shortcomings in fully impacting the plight of those oppressed by racism, sexism, and economic disadvantage.
Today, the African Methodist Episcopal Church has membership in twenty Episcopal Districts in thirty-nine countries on five continents. The work of the Church is administered by twenty-one active bishops, and nine General Officers who manage the departments of the Church.
Retired General Officer
Dennis C. Dickerson
Children Enjoying the Easter Egg Hunt
Online Giving Now Available
Those who wish may now give to First Christian Church, Tahlequah online!
You may give through our website by clicking here.
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Tithe.ly Giving App:
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