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                                                                ‘It’s a very giving church’:

           Abney Chapel celebrates 100 years  

Abney Chapel Seventh-Day Adventist Church, founded in 1919, is holding its centennial celebration this weekend.

Elsie Corey first went to an Abney Chapel Seventh-Day Adventist Church service as a 3-year-old girl in the early 1940s.

The occasion was a revival led by Pastor E.E. Cleveland. Corey remembers that her parents decided to go to the revival instead of a movie that evening.

It was a decision the family did not regret. For Corey, 78, it began an association with the church that continues to this day.

“We enjoyed it,” she remembered recently. “Everybody cared for each other. All they wanted to know was if you had a need.”

The church on Rosehill Road is celebrating its centennial this weekend with worship, song and a Sunday “Throw-Back Cookout” celebrating the church’s rich history. It’s the culmination of a celebration that has gone on all year, church members said.

The church, which currently has more than 400 members, was founded in 1919 with B.W. Abney as its first pastor. Abney, who came from Jackson, Mississippi, first preached in Fayetteville by the Market House, according to a church history.

Over the years, the church has four locations, including the first on Williams Street. It has been on Rosehill Road since 1984.

Abney served until 1923; his portrait is the first in a series of 29 Abney Chapel pastors on a “Pastoral Legacy” wall displayed inside the church.

Throughout its history, the church has prided itself on its service to the community, said current pastor Sherwin Callwood.

“One thing I’ve found out about this church since I’ve been here, it’s a very giving church,” said Callwood, who came to Abney in January 2018. “If they see a need, they will jump in.”

The church operates a community service center on Old Wilmington Road where people in need can get clothes, furniture and food. It sponsors a school, Greater Fayetteville Adventist Academy, with its sister church, Fayetteville Seventh Day Adventist; and contributes to relief efforts after hurricanes and other disasters.

Abney Chapel also has a food pantry at its Rosehill Road location, open the first Tuesday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Last year, the church sponsored an Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) initiative at the Crown, offering dental and other medical care to people who may not have been able to afford it.

“Probably more than a thousand people showed up. The dentists did fillings, extractions — all of that,” Callwood said. “People were camped out there the night before.” Callwood said a focus on health is part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church’s philosophy.

A focus on youth is also part of the church’s mission. It sponsors the Pathfinder Club, similar to the Boy and Girl Scouts.

Also, Callwood said, the church’s basketball team, the Abney Chapel Bullets, in June won a tri-state championship under the leadership of coach Derwood Clark.

Francis Jackson, who is the assistant chairwoman of the church’s Centennial Committee, joined the church as a girl with her family in the early 1970s.

“I can remember the fellowship, the socials we had,” Jackson said. “We would get together on Saturday nights and just have fun. Play games and things of that nature.”

Paulette Reese is chairwoman of the Centennial Committee. She said while celebrations have been going on all year, this weekend marks the culmination.

Friday night, a “Walk Down Memory Lane” hosted by Elder Melvin Preston featuring many of the church’s past pastors, was held. Saturday, an all day program including a service and performance by the Centennial Mass Choir begins at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, a “Throw Back Cookout” featuring horseshoes, baseball, board games and more begins at 10 a.m.

And on Dec. 7, a black-tie event is planned. The activities are open to the public; more information is available at abneychapel.org.

“It’s going to be awesome. We have people from all over the United States coming to visit with us,” Reese said. “We’re just going to have a good time.”

For Corey, the celebration will be a reminder of the spirit that attracted her family to the church in the first place.

“We were just like family,” she said. “We cared.”

Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at rmullen@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3561.