Tabernacle Baptist placed on national register

Published 4:21 pm Friday, July 19, 2013


Tabernacle Baptist Church is now listed as a historical site.

The church, located on Broad Street, received recognition after a team effort between the historical commission and Tabernacle’s Legacy committee worked for more than a year to put everything together.

The national historic recognition was awarded to Tabernacle Baptist, July 14 for both the site’s Christian stewardship and social justice.

“Tabernacle is a very unique, historical place in that we are being recognized in the Christian stewardship side as well as the social justice side,” Tabernacle’s Legacy committee chair, Dr. Verdell Lett Dawson said.

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The church, which was built in 1922, featuring neo-classical architecture, served as the home of four presidents of The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and was the home of the first mass meetings for the voting rights movement of the 1960s.

Dawson said in terms of the national registry, the nomination is centered on two pastors, first the Rev. Dr. D.V. Jemison, as the central figure for the premise of Christian stewardship and then the Rev. Dr. Louis Lloyd Anderson as the face of social justice.

The Rev. Jemison served as pastor for 44 years over two pastorates, during which he served as president of The National Baptist Convention, Inc — the largest Baptist denominational organization in the United States.

The Rev. Anderson served as pastor for 40 years, and is known for courageously opening the doors of Tabernacle for the first mass meetings of the national voting rights movement. Mass meetings later moved away from the most visible Tabernacle edifice downtown to Brown Chapel AME Church in the black neighborhood for the safety of participants. The Rev. Anderson also dared to run for political office in segregated Selma during his tenure as pastor.

Dawson said there are also other characters who played an important part on the social justice side of Tabernacle’s history, siting their congregation included at least two members of the Courageous 8 — Marie Foster and the Rev. J.D. Hunter.

“We are truly grateful for the recognition, but we see that as the manifestation of our faith, and the manifestation of how we light the Selma community in the past ad how we intend to do in the future,” Dawson said.

After almost a year-long search for a pastor, Tabernacle Baptist called the Rev. Otis Dion Culliver who began his pastorate, Sunday, June 16. Upon receiving the news of Tabernacle’s historic recognition Culliver said, “Tabernacle is a blessed congregation. This recognition challenges us who serve today to do bold things for God as did our ancestors.”

Brenda Brown, who served on Tabernacle’s Legacy committee, agreed with the pastor’s sentiments.

“The church is truly, truly blessed. We’re just really excited,” Brown said. “This designation places our church in its rightful place in the voting rights march. It’s a national icon and serves as a vehicle for our story in our role of the civil rights impact involving Selma.”

Brown said seeing the recognition finally come to fruition, a project she has been working with for more than a year, has been a true blessing.

She said the historic recognition, in addition to the Tabernacle’s new pastor, the church is continuing to blossom, saying the church is experiencing a new day and a new beginning.

“It’s like it’s our season. We have a new pastor, we just celebrated our 128th church anniversary and we just received the recognition of being put on the National Register of Historic Places,” Brown said. “Everything just [came together] so quickly. We have a new pastor there with great ideas, a great vision, but we’re also going to fiercely follow what God wants us to do and how he wants to use the church.”

Brown said the process began in February 2012 and their goal now is to get the historical recognition marker by the end of the year.

“The church is very excited. We’re very blessed and truly appreciative,” Brown said. “Any time you have a historical recognition — history is very, very important because we need to know where we are, where we were and where we’re going — like the past, present and the future.”

The Historic Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church was previously included in the Alabama Register of Historical Sites.