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Historic Visitors Chapel AME marks 145 years

by Elisha Morrison | November 9, 2015 at 4:00 a.m.

Historic Visitors Chapel AME Church will celebrate its 145th anniversary with a day of remembrance followed by a three-day revival.

According to the church's website, Visitors Chapel was founded at its current location, 319 Church St., by the Rev. Henderson Patillo and a small congregation in 1870. Patillo had previously been a circuit rider traveling by wagon to Hot Springs from Malvern with the Rev. B.W. Whitlow. Before founding the church, worshippers met under a brush arbor surrounded by oak trees.

The original church on the site was "a log cabin type structure, interior and exterior, lighted by oil lamps hung from the center of the ceiling, and tallow candles along the sides of the walls." The land for the church was donated by Chicago industrialist "Diamond Joe" Reynolds, who was responsible for the creation of a railroad between Malvern and Hot Springs.

Three times since its original creation the church has burned. The first fire occurred in 1878, the second in 1905 and the third in 1913. Each time the church members rebuilt from the ashes, according to the website.

The current church strives to make an impact in the Hot Springs community through various outreach ministries. For the past 13 years, the church has fed about 100 homeless people every third Saturday of the month. They hold a food pantry associated with the Arkansas Food Bank every Thursday. According to Yvonne Dooley, a trustee for Visitors Chapel, between the two ministries, the church was able to feed about 500 people in October.

The church has a "Boys To Men" mentoring program. Dooley said they plan to expand to add a program for girls. The church also plans to add a singles ministry, couples ministry and special needs ministry.

With two grants from the Arkansas Historical Society, Dooley said Visitors Chapel members are working hard to maintain the historic landmark church. The first grant of $200,000, has been used to stabilize the church's dome and redo the church roof. With the second grant, the church is making phased improvements including re-plastering and repainting the sanctuary. They also plan to improve access for members with the addition of an elevator.

The Rev. Gregory Nettles, a native of Camden, has led the church since 2013.

The celebration will kickoff with a special day of remembrance Sunday. At 10:45 a.m., the Rev. James Thomas, former pastor of Visitors Chapel, will deliver the message. At 3 p.m., guest speaker the Rev. Willie Toney, pastor of Bethem AME, Carthage, will speak.

Celebrations will continue with a revival Monday, Nov. 16, through Wednesday, Nov. 18. Monique Walker-Davenport, executive pastor of Harvest Kingdom Christian Cathedral, Charlotte, N.C., will lecture starting at 6 p.m. each night. She will also serve as Psalmist.

Walker-Davenport is granddaughter of the late Bishop Carl E. Williams Sr., founder Institutional COGIC and daughter of its current pastor, Bishop Carl E. Williams Jr., according to a press release. She is known as an evangelist and gospel choir soloist.

At 7:11 p.m., a messenger will follow Walker-Davenport each night. Superintendent Ronald Matheney, pastor Johnson Memorial COGIC, Camden, will speak Monday. On Tuesday, Walker-Davenport will deliver the lecture and message. On Wednesday, the speaker will be the Rev. Charles Boone, pastor Greater Ward Chapel AME, Pine Bluff.

The four days of celebration will be themed "145 Years of Faith, Hope and Love."

Local on 11/09/2015

Print Headline: Historic Visitors Chapel AME marks 145 years

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