Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Article excerpt

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

The story of the African-American church is one of the richest in American history. And there is no African-American church more famous than Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist. A cradle of the civil rights movements, founded in 1886 during Reconstruction, Ebenezer's early pastors promoted black business, built the first public high schools for blacks, and fought Jim Crow. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as co-pastor with his father. Under the leadership of King's successor, Dr. Joseph L. Roberts Jr., Ebenezer's 2,000-member congregation in 1999 completed construction of the New Horizon Sanctuary, designed by the black architectural firm Stanley-Love-Stanley. The sanctuary--whose central axis passes though King's crypt--was designed around the concept of an African meeting house, and serve as the new home for a 115-year-old congregation that is building on its heritage as it enters the third millennium.

The rear of the church is in the shape of a drum--the heartbeat and the communication method of ancient Africa. The base of each interior column is clad with one of four African cross motifs--two are Coptic Christian from Ethiopia, one is the cruciform with a globe superimposed upon it, and the fourth is a design from the original church reminiscent of the African weaving patterns. …

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