Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Plant City's Allen Chapel AME Church celebrates 120 years

PLANT CITY

Sunday services at Allen Chapel AME Church felt like a homecoming at times for Ann Williams, who spent years following her husband as he reported for duty at one Army base after another.

"I visited a lot of churches during my travels but I never got the same feeling I would get when I came home," said Williams, 72, who returned to Plant City for good in 1982. "It was like reconnecting and finding out how the church had grown."

Through the industrial revolution and the jazz age, the Great Depression and Great Recession and spanning the civil rights era, Allen Chapel at 1109 E Laura St. stuck to its calling, ministering to generations of worshippers through baptisms, weddings, funerals, prayer meetings, picnics and Sunday services.

Sunday marks another milestone for the storied African Methodist Episcopal church, one of the oldest in the city: It will turn 120 years old. The celebration, or "Founders Day," will occur over two days.

The church stages a rap-gospel concert Saturday and welcomes a guest speaker, the Rev. Orenthia Miller, on Sunday. The program also will include a special musical program from the choir.

Allen Chapel's pastor, the Rev. Ricky A. Polk, said the church's history mirrors that of the community it served. Not just a respite on Sunday mornings, Allen Chapel served as a meeting place where members floated and debated the day's issues, spiritual and otherwise.

The church proved a refuge during turbulent times. Worried mothers and grandmothers sought a comforting word there, and many in the community turned to Allen Chapel amid day-to-day struggles and cultural and political changes.

Simply put, "It was our church in the black community," said Allen Chapel stewardess Eddie Mae Mitchell, 68, who helped organize Founders Day.

Polk, 55, said black churches traditionally filled roles of spiritual and social healer because they served as the only refuge for many blacks.

"That's all we had was the church," he said.

Allen Chapel played that role too, weathering changes as the community around it changed.

The church's current site is its third. Allen Chapel started at a home on Lake Street, then moved to donated land on Laura. It relocated to Laura and Warnell streets in the 1920s, Mitchell said. The pale-blue stucco building was renovated in the late 1990s.

Through it all, its focus of saving souls stayed the same.

"Really, it's a haven," said Mitchell, who has attended services there for nearly 60 years. "It's where we came together and worshipped and served the community by helping those in need, the poor and taking care of the sick, but most of all by saving the unsaved."

The challenge now as Polk sees it is to save a young, unchurched generation heavily influenced by music, video games, TV and movies.

He's having some success. Since Polk, who was born and raised in Plant City, became pastor two years ago, church attendance is up by about 100 members, including many who had left but returned.

He attributed the boost to prayer and steady preaching. He also pointed to a spiritual hunger among some young people.

Getting them to persevere in their faith is the real challenge, Polk said.

"We're not trying to make people just join the church," he said. "We're trying to make disciples."

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2454.

   
Comments
Firefighters battle apartment complex fire in Tampa

Firefighters battle apartment complex fire in Tampa

TAMPA — Firefighters were battling a blaze at Captiva Club Apartments on Thursday night, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.According to video taken at the scene, the roof of one of the apartment buildings at 4401 Club Captiva Dr. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant in Gilchrist County

Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant in Gilchrist County

Two Gilchrist County sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed at a restaurant about 3 p.m. Thursday.The deputies were at Ace China restaurant in downtown Trenton when a man shot them through the restaurant’s window, a Sheriff’s Office statement said.A...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

ST. PETERSBURG — Beef jerky, mayonnaise and Altoids mints were the only edible things in view inside one of the houses. There was no running water. The refrigerator was empty. A bed sat on top of the deteriorating living room floor. Cigarette butts b...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

ST. PETERSBURG — Development of the city’s long-awaited pier advanced another step Thursday.The City Council approved a $15 million construction contract and additional money to design a waterside restaurant, build a playground and ferret out naming ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions.The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 at...
Updated: 2 hours ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro south on Interstate 275...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

LARGO — Detectives are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who broke into a home early Thursday morning and confronted the owners with a knife.The incident took place about 3:40 a.m. at a townhouse at 7360 Ulmerton Road, according to Largo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

SEMINOLE — A Seminole man was arrested on allegations that he burglarized a home, set it on fire and stole the homeowner’s dog, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Austin Lang, 19, now faces numerous charges of burglary, arson and poss...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputies: 15-year-old threatened attack on River Ridge High School

Deputies: 15-year-old threatened attack on River Ridge High School

NEW PORT RICHEY—A 15-year-old student was arrested Wednesday on allegations that he threatened to stage a shooting attack on River Ridge High School, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The student attended Schwettman Education Center, dep...
Updated: 4 hours ago