Jones Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
“A Black History Legacy”
Jones Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1940 by four very dedicated and hard working Christians committed to their cause of providing a place for their families and neighborhood to worship. Jacob Clements, his younger cousin, Edward Glover, Sr., and his two sons, Eli Clements and Simon Clements took it upon themselves to build the church after the lumber was donated to them by a white church in Fallston. At the time, Edward Glover was well-known in the area (he was a very successful well digger), and the white church offered him the materials free of charge when they decided to tear their church down and erect another. Jones would be built from the remains of the older church.
A white gentleman by the name of Paul Stacey owned the land where the church would be built. He also owned the land that the Flat Rock School was already standing on and he agreed that a church could also be built and maintained there free of charge as long as the church was in use. If the church ever closed or moved, the land would go back to the Stacey family.
These great men set our on the task of building a new church. Jacob Clements was a carpenter by trade and the other gentlemen also had great carpentry skills. The men of the neighborhood also contributed their time and expertise and the church was built. After they hauled the materials to the site on a mule-drawn wagon, Jacob, Edward, Eli, and Simon worked diligently and tirelessly to complete the church. They had to work together well in order to reach their goal. They were all humble men who were very different personality wise, but who shared common values regarding Christianity and Stewardship.
Their wives are also to be commended. Jacob was married to Roberta Glover Clements, Edward to Bertha Hill Glover, Eli to Mary Jackson Clements, and Simon to Lenora Maddox Clements. These were all strong, committed wives, mothers and church members who could be counted on in any undertaking their husbands started.
The church was named after its first pastor, Reverend Jones who was a strong leader who cared a great deal about the church. He had preached years earlier in the Flat Rock School which stood on the same grounds as the church. The school was considered large for its time. It had 3 classrooms for students in grades 1 through 7. The school had good attendance at that time as all the black children from the neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods such as Belwood, Delight, Beam’s Mill and Little Junction attended. The completed church was made of wood with one large worship area for the congregation and two outside doors with steps leading into the church. There was also a back door and a wood stove heated the church. The church was built on ground covered by wide, flat rocks, thus the school name (Flat Rock) as well as the informal name for the church. After the church was built, it enjoyed the same neighborhood involvement and could boast of large numbers in attendance every Sunday. Jacob, Edward, Eli, and Simon were the first deacons (Stewards) of the church with Jacob playing the leading role in establishing the church. After his death, the three remaining pioneers continued to form an airtight bond as leaders of the church that could not be broken until their deaths. They were indeed strong pillars upon which the church still stands today.
Other early pastors of the church included Reverend Ridley (serving on two occasions), Reverend Womack, and Reverend Blassingame. Reverend Ridley boarded episodically at the Edward Glover household, staying there for long periods of time and even pitching in to help the family with farm/field work.
One of the most notable events associated with Jones Tabernacle was the much awaited First Sunday in June Celebration held on the grounds of Jones. This was an annual event sponsored by the Brothers and Sisters Union of which all four founders were active members as well as their wives. This event was so well attended and elicited so much excitement that it has been compared to the county fair or a large modern-day carnival. Blacks who had moved away would save their vacation days to attend and it was not unusual for cars to be double-parked 1½ miles from the church in either direction. Neighboring residents, like Edward Glover had to leave home early or be blocked in by cars just trying to find somewhere to park. There might also be Charter Buses from Chicago or Detroit or other large cities. At that time, blacks mainly inhabited the whole area so the celebration had a great deal of cultural significance for the community. There would be photographers on site, venders, every kind of food you could imagine (including a barbecued pig or two), ice cream, games and the latest information on current events. Tables built from the Mulberry tree in the churchyard to the church building spanning several car lengths would be covered with home-cooked food donated by ladies in the neighborhood. You could look forward to seeing everyone there.
After several years, as with all good thing, the tradition of the First Sunday in June and the thriving membership at Jones Tabernacle came to an end. The culprit came in the form of the dreaded Boll Weevil. Cotton was the number one crop at the time and when the small beetle infested the cotton boll, cotton harvests were diminished by up to ½ the normal yield. Nearby residents who had survived by share cropping could no longer make a living and most had to move away to places like Hickory or Newton in order to find work. Some moved as far away as Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and Detroit. Many sent for their relatives after they got established so that the only remaining families surrounding the church were the ones who owned their own farms such as Edward Glover, William Ramseaur and the Dillinghams. Needless to say, with the advent of the boll weevil came the loss of church membership/attendance and the return of the church to mainly being supported by it founding fathers and their families. The Brothers and Sisters’ Union disbanded and the members from Jones Tabernacle joined the Masonic and Eastern Star Lodges in Lawndale. The county closed the school in the early 50’s in light of upcoming integration and the county’s unwillingness to continue supporting it.
Eli, Edward and Simon had fortunately brought all their children up in the church and had groomed them to carry on the church business just as they had done. The church had also been blessed with Pastors who really loved the church and had strong influences on the church people. Nevertheless, there were times when church attendance was low and the livelihood of the church depended on a very few members to sustain it. Edward and Bertha, Eli and Mary, and Simon and Lenora were still there giving their absolute all for the church they loved. At the same time, Sammie Lou Vinson and Alvesta Vinson, Eli’s daughters and Glen Vinson, Edward’s grandson were fast becoming strong cornerstones for the church and could be counted on no matter how dismal things may have sometimes seemed.
Rev. Sallie Hamilton was sent to pastor Jones in approximately 1964. She, along with her husband, Hicks, traveled from Rutherford County to Fallston every Sunday and could not be deterred by weather or health. Rev. Hamilton was always willing to sacrifice whatever was necessary for the church and its members. In 1975, she spurred the young male members to undertake a renovation of what had now become the “Old” Jones Tabernacle Church. Glen Vinson, Robert Vinson, Jr., Kenneth Merrit, Sr., Forest Vinson, Lester Vinson, Dale Vinson, Leroy Vinson, Jr. and William Vinson, Sr. came together to complete a remarkable amount of work to the church in a short period of time. Glen drove Eli Clements’ ’50 Chevy Truck to haul sand for the project and they went right to work to complete all needed tasks including painting the floors and walls, rebuilding the steps and patching the siding on the church exterior. The young women made new draperies. After completing the work on Saturday, there was the fear that the church pews would not be dry before church services the next day (and that, heaven forbid, any of the ladies should get their Sunday Best ruined by the paint). Consequently, the church was kept open all night and fans were placed throughout the church to speed up the drying process. All went well and thankfully no dresses were sacrificed in the process.
Pastor Hamilton served at Jones for 13 years before having to leave due to health reasons. While waiting on a new appointment, the church was blessed with some remarkable young ministers in the interim, including Reverend Joe Louis Miller and Reverend Jimmy Lyles. Finally, Reverend Harold Sullivan was appointed and he and his wife, Carrie were like a new breath of life for the church. Under Reverend Sullivan’s leadership the choir became active again, new programs were initiated at the church and the dream of building a new church began developing. In 1981, that dream was realized and the doors of the new Jones Tabernacle CME Church were opened. It seemed like a huge undertaking – the original leaders had all passed on and the church membership was low – but Reverend Sullivan encouraged church members to increase their faith and their commitment to this new endeavor. Two new church members, Alton and Pearl Wesson had also joined by this time and were strong advocates for Jones and its growth.
Since that time, the church mortgage has been paid off. The church is still a “family church” and Jones has continued to have good leadership. New members have been added who have made a difference, such a Napoleon and Virginia Thompson and their family. Reverends Thomas Hunt and Kenneth Fleming followed Reverend Sullivan for short, yet notable terms. Reverend Doretha Baldwin, a woman very true to the Methodist tradition, followed them. Reverend William Scott came to serve Jones next and he and his wife, Rose were no less than a Godsend during that period. Reverend Scott traveled every Sunday from Statesville and provided the most faithful and dutiful leadership any church could ask for. He religiously visited the sick and shut-in, the prison-bound and the aged. He showed a special interest in the children of the church and his knowledge of God’s work was remarkable.
Pastor James Tillman followed Reverend Scott and, though only at Jones for a short period of time, he and his wife, Loretta left a memorable legacy. Pastor Tillman rejuvenated the youth choir and sought to encourage members to commit to learning and observing with more fidelity traditional CME principles. Pastor Tillman’s motto was “Its Time to Move to the Next Level.”
Pastor Veldon Meredith came to Jones after Pastor Tillman. He had a long history with the CME Church and; therefore, had a strong dedication to the church body. Pastor Meredith, along with his wife, Delores and their four children brought a special vitality and enthusiasm to the Jones Family. His fiery sermons and “can’t fail” faith inspired his members to “step outside the box” and to move to new heights.
Pastor Johnny Searight is our newly appointed pastor, along with his wife, Shirley.
Sammie Lou Vinson and Alvesta Vinson have both passed on to Glory, but before their demise, they each served as Jones’ unmatchable church mothers for many years. They remained ever faithful and, between the two of them, were often observed to accomplish unfathomable feats in the name of the Lord. When their health started to fade, they abdicated much of their decades-long leadership to the next generation. The examples they set have far-reaching influences on their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who now have the responsibility of running the church. Truly, God has blessed the church and the people in it with a legacy of love, dedication and service.