WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A historic church in Winston-Salem marked its 200th anniversary with a service on Sunday.
St. Philips Moravian Church was started in 1822 in Salem with a mostly enslaved African-American Moravian congregation.
Hymns of worship music were heard coming from inside the centuries-old church Sunday.
“We're the oldest African American church standing here in North Carolina. We're the only African American Moravian Church in the country,” said Dorothy Pettus, Vice-Chair of the Board of Elders.
The church, hoping to carry on that legacy, sitting in the same seats that slaves sat in years and years ago.
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. was the guest speaker at the service.
“It was a very humbling experience," Kimbrough said. "I found myself about to get emotional when they were talking about, you sitting in the same building where slaves sat. That was a very humbling experience. And when you looked around, it didn't look like much had changed in terms of the furniture or things like that. And so, to me, that was a very humbling experience. And I think that's what came over me. And that's where the energy came from.”
Pettus and Sheriff Kimbrough encourage others to visit the church.
”We're just a small congregation and everybody gets along with everybody. We're not big and you get to know each other. That's, I think, that's very personable, you know, I think that's important,” Pettus said.
Sheriff Kimbrough added, “We've got to be connected to something more than ourselves. We got to stop being self-centered, and become more selfless. You got to start getting involved. There's too much happening in our community. Too many young men and women are dying, too much going on. We've got to take out religion outside of the church walls. We've got to do so many things differently than what we've been doing.”
In the courtyard of the church are unidentified slave graves.
Just a few miles away, at the corner of Salem Avenue and Cemetery Street, over 330 graves have been recovered of people, many of who were enslaved.
The restoration of the St. Philips Moravian Second Graveyard is a desire of the congregation.
Donations were collected at the service Sunday that would go toward that restoration project.