Mt. Vernon Baptist to host community conversation
Mount Vernon Baptist Church, a historic African-American church in the Hayti area, will celebrate its anniversary with several events, including a community symposium.
Mount Vernon Baptist, led by Rev. Jerome J. Washington, was founded 127 years ago. It is at 1007 S. Roxboro St., just outside downtown Durham. In honor of its anniversary, the church will host a symposium, “The Historic Role of the Black Church in the Southern Community of Hayti,” at 6 p.m. Sept. 12. The program is funded by the North Carolina Humanities Council. Church member Beverly Jones, a retired N.C. Central University history professor, will talk about Mount Vernon’s history and the just-published “History of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 1886-2012.”
Jones said that change is going to come, and churches should not be resistant as long as it’s positive and works with the goals of the church and where God is leading them. The anniversary is as time to reflect on the past and future of black churches in general, she said.
The Rev. Gary V. Simpson, pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, will talk about the future of African-American churches at the event. Jones said what Simpson has learned from changes and transitions at his church can be shared with Mount Vernon. After Jones’ and Simpson’s presentations, gospel singer and songwriter Rev. James Herndon will sing, followed by analysis and a community conversation led by Percy Murray and the Rev. Luke Powery. Murray is a member of Mount Vernon and retired NCCU administrator. Powery is the dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School.
Other anniversary events include an “Evening of Jazz” at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 featuring the North Carolina Jazz Ensemble and Mount Vernon musicians Oliver Hodge, Pete Joyner and Denise Barnes. The jazz concert will be held at the Ivy Community Center at 4222 Fayetteville St. in Durham. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased through anniversary committee co-chairs C. Ray Jones at 919-688-0652 or Jimmy Young at 919-489-5314.
C. Ray Jones, a deacon at Mount Vernon, has been a member since 1960. He is also in the Male Chorus and was on the youth usher board in his youth. Not just an important part of his own life, Mount Vernon is an important part of Durham’s African-American history, he said. Today, the church is a leader in the community with a pastor aggressive on social change, Jones said. They have a strong NAACP member and are an active church, he said, and interested in the Rolling Hills development going up nearby, which is part of the city’s Southside revitalization plan.
“I think it’s a good thing, something really needed,” he said of the new development. “It will make a difference in the community and gets rid of those boarded up buildings.”
Mount Vernon’s final anniversary event will be on Sept. 22 in the sanctuary. At 9:15 a.m., church members for 50 years or more will be recognized. At 10 a.m., there will be a Youth Explosion of music, dance and poetry, and at 11 a.m. the worship service with guest preacher Rev. Percy L. High, who was pastor of Mount Vernon from 1972 to 2006.
At 4 p.m., an evening service will feature guest preacher the Rev. Gregory K. Moss Sr., president of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. For information, call the church at 919-688-1823.