Friday, 11 March 2016 23:47

Allen Chapel History

In 1951, a young minister sat around his kitchen table teaching Sunday School to a group of about eight eager to learn children.  This group was to set the beginning of Allen Chapel into to motion.  The young, devoted minister was the Reverend Ernest M. Blocker. The first name given to Allen Chapel was the "14th Street Mission".  Even though Allen Chapel was started in 1951, it did not become recognized as a church until the South Florida Annual Conference of 1952.  During this conference, the name was changed to Allen Chapel.

The church rented space and had services upstairs in the Masonic Hall on northwest 6th Avenue and 20th Street.  Originally, there were fourteen pioneer members:

Clearance Burley           Ethel Blocker               Annie Lee Marm

Joseph Clagett                 Primus Burley                Freddie Pollock

John D. Glover                Jessie Dudley                  Cleveland Smith

Minnie Sampson           Jeanette Ancrum           Ruby Brown

Mattie Brown                 Georgia Smith

Trustees:  Cleve Smith, Jesse Dudley, Dover Stokes, Robert Alexander, and Willie Reaves. On January 6, 1956, the Trustees of Allen Chapel purchased the property at 431 N.W. 21st Street.  Rev. Blocker and his family moved into the building on this property.  It served as a parsonage and a church.  Later, the adjourning property was purchased.  This building became the parsonage.  The first building was then converted into a church.  Walls were knocked down, an alter was made, a pulpit and choir stand were constructed.  The Trustees of Allen Chapel purchased still another adjourning piece of property.  They begin to construct a parsonage on this parcel of land.  Due to strict city codes, it was discovered that the acquired parcel of land was not large enough to accommodate both a church building and a parsonage.  Therefore, the parsonage that they had begun to construct was then converted into the church building. The building was completed under the pasturage of Rev. E.M. Blocker.

In 1960, Rev. E.M. Blocker was appointed to another church.  Allen Chapel received as its new pastor, Rev. R. H. Johnson. During this decade no new construction was done to the building.  Allen Chapel had four pastors during this period:  1960-62- Rev. R. H. Johnson; 1962-62- Rev. O.E. Turner;  1962-65- Rev. W.A. Curry; 1965-1970- Rev. F.D. Wright. Membership during these years would fluctuate.  Members would come and members would leave. Because of this trend, the church's membership remained small. Rev. O.E. Turner died while he was a pastor at Allen Chapel.  Rev. F.D. Wright also died while he was a pastor Allen Chapel.  For Rev. Wrights’ funeral and final rites members of Allen Chapel had to journey to West Palm Beach, Florida.  In the years 1971-72, under the leadership of Rev. T.J. Roddy, an addition was constructed to the church building.  It consisted of the Pastor's study, a dining room, kitchen, choir room, restrooms and a foyer. It was during these years that Allen Chapel launched its first bond drive.  Unfortunately not many bonds were sold.  The project did not materialize as a fund raiser as it had been anticipated.

During much of the 70’s Allen Chapel saw many pastors come and go. From 73-79: 1973-75 - Rev. George Washington; 1975- (Aug.- Oct.) - Rev. Leroy Washington;  1975-1977 - Rev. H.L. Davis;  1977- (Aug.-Nov.) Rev. A. Orr; 1977-78 - Rev. J.L. Peterson;  1978-79 - Rev., Rufus Bishop; 1979-81- Rev. Charles Henry;  Because of Rev. Henry’s death, in 1981 we had an (Interim)- Rev. David Williams;  1981-83 - C. Alexander Smith. Rev. Charles Henry passed away while pastoring Allen Chapel.  Rev. David Williams completed his tenure.

In 1981, Allen Chapel had to be relocated.  Their property was acquisitioned by the City of Miami Fashion District.  Services were held for several months at Bethany Seven Day Adventist Church.  Rev. C. Alexander Smith lead the members through this transition. In 1982, the church purchased property on the corner of N.W. l2th Avenue and 111 Street in Miami.  They converted a house on the property into a temporary church building.  Bro. Arthur Small supervised the converting of this building.  It was done by the women of Allen Chapel and the only other men to help were Bro. Elbert Bradwell and Bro. John L. Thompson, Sr.  The women knocked out walls and made the building suitable to have a church service.  Some of the women working were Annie Pearl Collins, Clara Stephens, Yvonne Monds, Laura Jones, and Rose Johnson. In 1983, Rev. C. Alexander Smith returned to the C.M.E. Conference.  Rev. Robert Shaw was appointed to Allen Chapel.  Under his leadership, money was added to the building fund, plans for the church were drawn, and variances for the construction of the church were obtained.  Everything was ready to begin construction.  Unfortunately, Rev. Shaw did not get the opportunity to complete his work.  He was moved to Mt. Zion A.M.E., in Oakland Park, Florida in 1985. Rev. Allen C. Turner was appointed the new pastor.  Under his leadership, the church continued to add money to its building fund.  They also begin to search for already constructed churches to purchase.  None were found.  In 1988, Rev. Samuel L. Gay, Sr. took on the challenge to build Allen Chapel.  He came to Allen Chapel with the same vision as its members.  They all wanted to see a new structure for Allen Chapel.  Several fund raisers were held to increase the building fund.  Construction of the building began in June, 1989.  Elder L.J. Greene was hired to build Allen Chapel.

The construction of Allen Chapel was completed in July, 1990.  Even though the final inspection had not been done, the first service was held in the new structure in August, 1990.  The “little house” that had served as a church building for Allen Chapel was demolished in October, 1990.  The women of Allen Chapel held their first Women’s Day in the new structure in September, 1990.  Dr. Lynette Pennington was the guest speaker for the event. On February 3, 1991, dedicatory service was held for the new Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.  Our bishop, Bishop Philip R. Cousin of the Eleventh Episcopal District, delivered the dedication sermon. The month of February proved to be a busy one for the members of Allen Chapel for during this month we hosted the District Conference of the Ft. Lauderdale District on February 19-20, 1991.  Rev. Frank A. Allen was the Presiding Elder. The men of Allen Chapel held their first Men’s Day in the new structure in June, 1991.  The guest speaker for the 11:00 A.M. was Rev. Robert B. Ingram, who was also Mayor of Opa Locka, Florida. In July, 1992, Allen Chapel paved its parking lot.  Women of the church were exceedingly happy because they no longer had to scar up the heels on their shoes. The cornerstone was placed into the new church building.  The Masons played an active part in this ceremony. Family, friends and community members joined Rev. Gay in mourning the untimely death of his wife and helpmate, Mrs. Inell Howell Gay. In February, once again, Allen Chapel hosted the Ft. Lauderdale District Conference.  It was held February 16-18, 1994. The Rev. Frank A. Allen was the Presiding Elder.  In November, 1994, Rev. Samuel L. Gay made the decision to retire.  

Rev. Robert B. Ingram was appointed pastor of Allen Chapel. Official charge of the church was given to Rev. Ingram on December 14, 1994.  Under the leadership of Rev. Ingram many programs and projects were implemented.  One major project was to raise money to aid in paying off the mortgage. Almost $27,000.00 was raised in this drive. An annual toy drive was implemented.  Toys were distributed to needy students at Lakeview and Van E. Blanton Elem. Schools.  Four families at the church and children at an AIDS shelter also received toys. On January 28, 1996, Bro. Joseph Baron Silas delivered his trial sermon. In February, Allen Chapel sponsored a 100 Men in Unity Program.  This program was a mini-local spin-off of the 1,000,000 Men March on Washington.  Focus was given to the plight of our local African American males.  In July, the Young Eagles Program was started.  Allen Chapel co-sponsored the Young Eagles Program with Federation of Black Employees.  This program is designed for African-American males between the ages of 7-18, focusing on various aspects that affect black males today.  In July, Allen Chapel sought to develop the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church Community Development Corporation.  This is a non-profit organization established to benefit the community through housing, juvenile delinquency prevention, and educational projects. An extensive application had to be completed.  Development of this project is pending on the application to be completed, submitted, and approved.  In August, Allen Chapel sponsored the “Frank C. Cummings GospelFest”.  This program was organized with gospel singers from around the country, including Mimi Redd, “Order My Steps”, to raise funds for Edward Water College.  In December, Allen Chapel extended its toy drive to three neighborhood schools: Lakeview Elem., Van E. Blanton Elem., and H.S. Reeves Elem.  Over 150 students received toys.  Other projects completed, this year was the upgrade of office equipment; purchased a high-tech copier machine and fax machine.  Bro. Andy Young had his trial sermon on January 26, 1997.  In February, a Black History Program was given honoring Rev. Samuel L. Gay, Sr., Funds were raised for the mortgage fund.  In April, the annul Men’s Day Celebration was held.  $15,000 was raised for the mortgage fund.  In September, the Annual Women’s Day Celebration was held.  Enough funds were raised to pay off $13,000 mortgage indebtedness.  In November, a Mortgage Burning Service Ceremony was held to commemorate the end of the mortgage.  Plaques were presented to all former pastors of Allen Chapel.  Bishop Frank C. Cummings conducted the ceremony.  The founder of the church Rev. E.M. Blocker was present at this event.  In February, the Black History program was held honoring members with twenty-five years or more of membership at Allen Chapel.  In May, the church motto was imprinted on the wall of the sanctuary.  On May 29th, a revival was held featuring the Rev. Dr. Wilson Ezefor from Nigeria, Africa.  During this year the youth of the church delivered the morning messages on the fourth Sunday of each month. Another high tech copier was purchased to produce bulletins and souvenir journals.  The speakers and the microphone systems were upgraded.  Began letting youth of the church deliver the morning message each Fourth Sunday.  Started monthly “Good News Bulletin” which highlights the good things happening in the members’ lives.  On January 23rd, the retirement of our musician, Sister Edith Hudson was celebrated.  Sis. Hudson served as musician for Allen Chapel for forty years.  February, the youth traveled to the Black Heritage Weekend.  Members were awarded first place and third place winners.  In June, the property adjacent to the church was purchased.  It will house the Bishop Frank C. Cummings Learning Center.  The first pastoral history book and historical calendar was produced.  Allen Chapel AME Foundation received 501C3 status from the IRS.  The first Male Choir of Allen Chapel was assembled. First Unity Day was observed. 

On December 25, 1999, the pastor emeritus, Rev. Samuel L. Gay, passed away.  A memorial wake was held at the church on Wednesday, December 28th.  Family and friends came to Allen Chapel to bid a final good-bye to Rev. Gay.  His funeral was held on Thursday, December 29, 1999, at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, Liberty City.

During the year 2000, the church was blessed with soul winning formulas that delivered family and children services to the community.  They delivered food to the needy and toys to elementary school children.  They continued their efforts of co-sponsoring with the Dade County’s Federation of Black Employees, a youth program to guide  young black males in a direction built on the church’s spiritual service  and rich history.  The church purchased a new piano and a color copier.  New carpet and alter cushions were also purchased.  A Phone Tree to communicate with members was also purchased.  The Read to Lead Program was established to assign youth projects during the summer months that would improve their reading and thinking skills.  The first pictorial directory of members was produced.  School supplies for youth of the church and the community were purchased.  The first Minister of Music was hired:  Bro. Timothy Thomas. 

Rev. Robert B. Ingram continued as pastor of Allen Chapel during these years.  The annual projects of Thanksgiving Benevolence, Annual Toy Drive, Black History Program, the Observance of Mother’s and Father’s Day, Unity Day and distribution of school supplies to students Continued.  As one look through our annual conference reports through these years one can readily observe that each year the church showed growth both attendance and finance.  Other notable projects were: A media room for audio/visual equipment was constructed and equipped with the latest equipment.  Members participated in  a scholarship program in African Children School,  They assisted the Ingram Angels, an organization for young ladies in attending the Ebony Fashion Fair;  Members participated in the retirement ceremony of the church secretary, Sis. Laura Jones, from the Miami-Dade Public School System.  The church sent a donation to Morris Brown College, which was in financial trouble.  The church also sent the pastor and his wife to the Women’s Missionary Society and Young People Division’s Quadrennial. 

During the Annual Conference of 2003-2004, Rev. Robert B. Ingram was appointed to Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, Opa Locka and the Rev. Marie W. Poitier was appointed to Allen Chapel  A.M.E. Church.  This was the first time in the history of Allen Chapel that a female pastor had been appointed to Allen Chapel.  Rev. Poitier continued with the projects that were in place at the church when she arrived.  She did however have our youth to participate in the Debutante Masters Ceremony.  She held weekly book study on Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.  Rev. Poitier was reappointed to Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.  During this year, the pulpit area of the church was renovated.  The pastor’s office was opened in the annex building.  The first Vacation Bible School was held.  The Youth Department began having First Friday Movie Night at the church.   The efforts of Brother Calvin Douglass opened a bread give-away ministry where bread was given to members of the community.  A “ Food Bank” was also opened.  Food items were distributed to the community.  Hurricane Wilma struck the county of Miami-Dade.  Allen Chapel’s roof had to be replaced.  Because the church was insured, the damage was covered.  Allen Chapel continues to forge ahead uplifting and serving the Lord God Almighty daily.  They are implementing programs that continue to seek out and save the lost and those programs that will serve the needy.

In 2011, a new pastor was appointed in that of Rev. Vensen Ambeau.  We travelled some ways to be where we are today and look forward to where God is leading our church.  This young man has brought a breath of fresh air to our church and has encouraged us to continue in the work.  For our community depends on it.   Eyes have not seen or ears have heard all the things that God has in store for us.

 

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be one of God’s servants; but that goes to show that God is the real boss over our lives.  Although I wasn’t running the streets or gang banging or getting in trouble with the law, it was the other things that I was doing that kept me farther away from God’s plans for my life.  It wasn’t strange for me to answer a question like “what is your favorite school activity?” with an answer like “posting on the walls of Miami Edison”, or even a question about my future plans and respond with something like “go to college and make a lot of money.”  Never in my imagination did it occur to me that God had greater things in store for me.  Although, we grew up in a home where I saw a praying man in my father and a woman committed to her church in my mother, for me, however, my first love was the world and all it had to offer.

After completing high school, I attended the University of Florida and this is where the Lord began to reveal who He was.  During the second semester of my freshmen year, at a morning worship service at Greater Bethel A.M.E., for the first time in my life I professed that Jesus was Lord and believed in my heart that He died for my sins. And the rest is history!!!  Since then I have been running for the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind, never looking back and never wavering on my decision.  During my time at Florida I accepted my calling to proclaim God’s Word after hearing a sermon that called for those who were ready to walk bold and courageous in their calling like Joshua did.  Since then I’ve lived by the saying “be strong and very courageous, don’t be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).  After completing my education at UF and obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and a Minor in Communications, I pursued a Master of Divinity at Duke University.

Since completing my M. Div. the Lord has blessed me to serve as pastor in some of the best churches in African Methodism and have placed me in congregations that have been supportive of my ministry and calling, the churches are Collins Chapel in Baldwin, FL (2007-2008), Allen Temple in Riviera Beach, FL (2010-2011), and Allen Chapel in Miami, FL (2011-present).  My desire is to continue in ministry with commitment, faith, hope & love for I truly believe that the Lord is not through with me yet, and is preparing me for His purpose and will.  Most of all, I am blessed beyond measure as the Lord saw it fit to gift me one of His best daughters,  Jasmine Ambeau, to be my wife and partner in ministry.  Truly, the God that we serve is an incredible God who deserves incredible praise!!!