Turner Chapel AME has a rich history that dates back to the early 1800s. Even though it is one of the oldest established churches in Marietta, Georgia, it continues to evolve based on the needs of the community it serves. African American residents of Marietta began their first religious meeting shortly after the settlement of the town. This was a group of 37 persons of all denominations who desired a place to meet for prayer and worship. The meetings were held in a log cabin on Task Street (no longer exists) near an abandoned Coco-Cola bottling plant and a tobacco cigar factory. Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the second oldest AME congregation in Georgia. It was established in 1865. In 1839, the Presbyterian Church vacated their building on the north east corner of Waddell and Lawrence Streets in downtown Marietta. The Presbyterian Church offered the use of the building to the little group which had grown from their original number of 37. In 1854, this Marietta Square location was purchased by freed men and slaves and was called Trinity Church for Negroes and Indians. The purchase was made and paid for while the free Negroes and slaves were still members of the Marietta Methodist Church. During that time the church operated under the direction of the First Methodist Church which supplied its pastors until the end of the Civil War in 1865. During the Civil War Trinity’s church was used as a hospital for the Union soldiers.
In 1865, Rev. Henry McNeal Turner moved to Georgia and established St. Phillip’s Monumental A.M.E. Church in Savannah as the first AME congregation in Georgia. Thereafter, he began organizing AME churches throughout Georgia. Upon his arrival in Marietta in 1865, he organized Trinity Church for Negroes and Indians under the auspices of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and became Trinity’s first Negro Pastor. Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church (later renamed Turner) was the second AME congregation in Georgia.
On July 6, 1867, the trustees of the Marietta Methodist Episcopal Church transferred the property deed to the trustees of Trinity AME Church for the sum of ten dollars. The trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church were: Humphrey P. Reid, Lemuel Bennett, John T. Burkhalter, George N. Lester, George R. Gilbert, William Phillips, Rhodolphus W. Gable, James Y. Gaut and James F. Nutting. The trustees of Trinity were: Simpson Jones, Peter Simmons, William Evans, Washington Horace, Thomas Fair, Baileus Towns and Thomas Jackson. In 1891, under the leaderships of Rev. Dan Strickland, the church was rebuilt and the name was changed to Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. An eight-foot strip of land on the west side of the church was purchased on July 28, 1899 from Mrs. Dorothy Stephens while the Rev. W. A. Fountain, Sr. was Pastor. In 1902, pews were purchased under the leadership of Rev. W. A. Lawrence. The choir loft was added during the pastorate of Rev. J. A. Hadley in 1906 using a $450 grant the church received from the federal government for using the church as a hospital during the Civil War.
The ladies’ lounge was built during Rev. R. E. Romans’ pastorate and the vestibule was added when Rev. C. L. Williams was Pastor (1916-1921) . Under the leadership of Rev. Doctor D. S. Jacobs, Turner Chapel AME added $7000.00 of church property, increased the building fund by $3000.00 and purchased a piano. Dr. Jacobs also served as the Director of Turner Theological Seminary In-Service Training Center and the Associate Director of Religious Education for the State of Georgia.
Due to urban renewal and revitalization of the downtown Marietta area, Turner Chapel AME was forced to relocate. The 548 Lawrence Street property was purchased from the City of Marietta on December 6, 1971. On September 12, 1972, a contract was issued for the work to begin, however, groundbreaking ceremonies were not held until April 8, 1973. The first services were held on March 3, 1974 under the pastorate of Rev. H. H. Kenner. Serving as trustees were: Kenneth Carter, Emory Dennis, Derry Holmes, Thomas, Kilgore, Walter Moon, Fred Reeves and Frank Sexton. The cornerstone was erected in 1974 by Wilber Sanders and Ralph Russaw. The cornerstone from the 1891 was built into the Lawrence Street church marquee, which still stands today along with the original church bell. The altar from that building is also currently used in the Lawrence Street church.
A steady growth of members led to a need for additional space. A new wing, designed and built by Walter Dean Moon, was added to the original structure in 1988. The addition included: a pastor’s study, choir room, classrooms, library/conference room, a communion room and storage space. Under the leadership of Rev. Ben Fortson: the church purchased two new vans, paid off the church’s first mortgage in five years, laid the cornerstone to the church, purchased a piano and choir robes, organized several new ministries and increased the membership to over 400 members.
On June 12, 1988, Rev. Kenneth Marcus became the Pastor of Turner Chapel AME. Under his guidance, Turner Chapel AME purchased vans, increased the ministerial staff and number of choirs and purchased land for the new Turner Chapel AME Church site.
In 1990, after just two years under the leadership of our “Dynamic Duo husband and wife ministerial team”, Revs. Kenneth and Cassandra Marcus, the Lord continued to bless Turner with phenomenal growth. In 1993, Pastor Marcus and church officers agreed upon a vision for Turner Chapel AME that included a new sanctuary, educational facility, multi-purpose center, childcare facilities and an activity center. In 1994, Turner Chapel members filled the church to capacity during each of three Sunday services held at 7:00 am, 9:00 am and 11:00 am. A Church Expansion Committee was formed to address the immediate and long-term needs for worship space in October 1994. In January 1996, Turner Chapel AME began worshipping at Wheeler High School’s 450 seat gymnasium. The move allowed Turner Chapel AME to return to two services. After nearly a year and a half of setting up and breaking down chairs and other furnishing for worship services, the church sought other options.
In 1997 due to Turner Chapel’s projected growth, it was determined that a sanctuary seating 2500 to 3000 persons would be needed. The church then began acquiring the land for the future worship center. With membership continuing to grow, Turner decided to build a recreation center prior to building the worship center. In 1998 to alleviate the moving, setting up and breaking down of chairs construction began on the recreation center. On July 18, 1999, Turner Chapel AME opened the doors of the new Turner Chapel Recreation Center which served as a “temporary worship home” to over 4000 members until the new main sanctuary building was completed. The Turner Chapel AME Recreation Center was located at 545 Hyde Drive, which was later changed to Kenneth E. Marcus Way. In 1999, the church was blessed to be able to retire the bank loan.
In 2000, Turner began to address current and future parking needs by adding the East Parking Lot. Each Sunday, the church operated shuttle services from the East Lot to the worship site. Blessed again, Turner was able to pay off the cost of the parking lot.
In 2002, the Church Expansion Committee announced plans for the new 100,000 square feet worship center. It included three levels which featured state-of-the-art audio/video technology, a generous narthex, and ample facilities. In the same year, construction began on the property at North Marietta Parkway and Fairground Street bordered by Rigby Street and Roosevelt Circle.
Phase one of the worship center is now complete. In subsequent phases, Turner plans to construct a 1000 seat fellowship hall and a 65,000 square foot education center.
The Village, comprised of the children and youth ministries, has been a vital part of Turner and its ministry. The first Youth Pastor, Rev. Wayland Conner, was hired in 1993 and served until 2006. It was under his leadership that the first Rites of Passage class was started in February 2003. Since that time, over 250 youth have matriculated. In March 2003, the first Spring Production was performed with 40 participants. Since that time participants per production has grown to 215+ with over 10,000 participants over the period to-date. In July of 2007 Rev. Don Ezell was hired as Youth Pastor. The Village took 18 youth on its first international mission trip to Trinidad in June of 2010. In October 2009 the first College Fair was held. The fair has grown to over 50 colleges and universities represented and over 1000 persons in attendance. In May 2014, a record $4.3 million dollars of scholarships was accumulated by 50 graduating students. Also as of May 2014, the 4th Gates Millennium scholar from the Village in five years was announced.
Since its inception in 1865, Turner Chapel AME has had 53 Pastors to serve its illustrious congregation. Three of the pastors were elected to the bishopric: Henry McNeal Turner, William A. Fountain, Sr. and Harold I. Bearden. In addition to serving as Bishop of the AME Church, Henry McNeal Turner also served as Morris Brown College’s first President. Bishop William A. Fountain. Sr. and Reverend William A. Fountain, Jr. both served as Presidents of Morris Brown College. A number of former Pastors have served as Presiding Elders. They are: Dr. D. W. Wiggs (1936-1939), Dr. J. S. Downs (1922-1924), Dr. J. R. Hurley (1946-1948), Dr. D. S. Saunders (1931-1933), and Dr. A. J. Harris (1950-1952).
Since 1865, Turner Chapel AME has grown to include over 6,000 members, over 100 ministries (functioning under the “Purpose Driven Church” concept), and 46 parcels of land. Turner has built three church buildings and is in the process of creating a vision of church, recreation and study that will impact the community of Marietta for years to come.
The men and women who founded this great church should inspire present members of Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Some of the founding members who had recently been released from the shackles of slavery gave all they had to ensure that there would be an edifice for worship. Join Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in prayer and praise as it continues to embark on the journey the Lord lays ahead for it. THE MIRACLES KEEP UNFOLDING!!!
The Motto "God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family" is a great summary of what the African Methodist Episcopal Church believes.
Also known as the AME Church, the denomination is Methodist in terms of its basic doctrine and order of worship. It was born, through adversity, of the Methodist church and to this day does not differ in any major way from what all Methodists believe. The split from the main branch of the Methodist Church was not a result of doctrinal differences but rather the result of a time period that was marked by man's intolerance of his fellow man, based on the color of his skin.
It was a time of slavery, oppression and the dehumanization of people of African descent and many of these un-Christian practices were brought into the church, forcing Richard Allen and a group of fellow worshippers of color to form a splinter denomination of the Methodist Church. To find the basic foundations of the beliefs of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, you need look no further than The Apostles' Creed:
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead; and buried. The third day he arose from the dead' he ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Church Universal, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.”
The vision of Turner Chapel AME is to make a difference in people's lives by extending the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ. In August of 1997, Turner Chapel AME adopted the Purpose Driven Church concept originally developed by Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County California.
The Purpose Driven approach uses The Great Commandment on which to base the Worship and Service purposes or goals for ministry in the church. In addition, the Purpose Driven approach uses The Great Commission on which to base the Evangelism, Discipleship, and Fellowship purposes or goals for ministry in the church. Jesus emphasized all of these principles to define the activities of churches and Christians. When broken down, these scriptures create the 5 purposes of ministry of a Purpose Driven Church.