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Historical Marker Unveiled at St. Mark
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Mark marker imageLast Sunday afternoon, a crowd of about 40 members and friends attended an unveiling ceremony at St. Mark AME Zion Church in Whiteville. A brand-new black and silver plaque from the Reuben Brown House Preservation Society designates St. Mark as one of Columbus County’s important historical structures.

The building has stood at 114 W. Virgil St. since 1915, but the church was founded 50 years earlier, in 1865.

The morning service featured a message from Alexander L. Jones, Sr., presiding elder. At the conclusion of the service, Rev. Jones commended the good work of Pastor Charlrean Mapson.

After a benediction, the crowd moved outside, where Mapson uncovered the marker with the help of Donna Scott, historical marker committee chair for the preservation society.

"St. Mark is a church brimming with pride,” Mapson said. "The church has been a constant force in the community for many, many years.

"The honor of having the history of the church solidified through induction into the Reuben Brown House Society is the pinnacle of our life’s long work here. We strive to be a beacon of light in a dark world. Our vision for the church is simple: Reaching Others for Christ Through our Worship, Witness, Work and Walk.”

The church members put their beliefs into action in a variety of ways. They feed those in need through their "Feed the Children” program and (in partnership with Chadbourn’s Food Lion) distribution of perishable foods; they have distributed items to Hurricane Matthew victims on two occasions in the past year.

St. Mark members look out for the wellbeing of all ages through Duke Divinity School’s Reimagining Health Collaborative and through abstinence promotion.

They continue forging positive ties in the community by holding racial reconciliation talks and working to defeat gang violence. They have partnered with other congregations to hold joint services.

The First Church Recognized
RBHPS initiated the historical marker program in 2013 and had put up only nine plaques prior to Sunday’s unveiling. All nine were on private homes or business structures at least 75 years old.

Members of the preservation society are proud and excited about recognizing their first historic church, Scott said. Scott was a catalyst for the process that led to Sunday’s celebration.

In January Scott was among several members of outside choirs who sang with St. Mark’s own choir for a Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial service. "I noticed a certificate on the wall with a date in the 1800s,” said Scott.

After seeing the building’s cornerstone, Scott realized that St. Mark was a perfect candidate for the society’s recognition. "I spoke to one of the church members, Thomas Jones, and asked if he thought St. Mark would like to apply for a plaque.” Jones took the question to his fellow trustees, who readily agreed to the idea.

The application process was simple, and approval was "a no-brainer,” said Scott, considering St. Mark’s well-documented age. "The church has never changed its name” since it was founded, she said.

Both the founding date and the building date are shown on the new plaque, which is next to the front door.

Longtime and New Members’ Comments
Lifelong member Louise Pridgen Turner was happy to see her church identified as historic by the preservation society. "This church has been my life,” she said at a chicken dinner after the unveiling. Her grandfather was among those who laid the cornerstone, and the fellowship hall was named for her father Hezekiah Pridgen, Sr. "My roots, spiritually and otherwise, are here,” she said.

Ruthie B. Jefferson has been part of St. Mark even longer than Pridgen has, "80-some years,” she said. "I was 8 or 9 when I joined, and I’m 92 now.” She has never been part of any other church. For 41 years she was the church secretary. Jefferson’s great-grandson LaMont Davis represented the youth of the church in the unveiling ceremony.

Jefferson thought the Presiding Elder had delivered a good message. "I’ve heard him a lot of times, and this was one of his best,” she said.

Anthony and Tisha Davis, with son Malachi, are St. Mark’s newest members; the congregation received them in the morning service just before the unveiling. At the dinner in the fellowship hall, Anthony Davis said, "This is a great church. It has a family atmosphere, and we felt welcomed from the time we stepped in. We felt the Spirit of the Lord in the house.” Davis commented that he and his family travel from Myrtle Beach to attend St. Mark, "so you know it must be good. The pastor ministers the Word. You can come in here and leave a different person.”

The historical plaque was paid for by 12 sponsors. The Reuben Brown House Preservation Society has several more applications for markers in process, said society president Janice Young.

By Diana Matthews (dianamatthews@nrcolumbus.com)

Article and Images Courtesy of and as Published October 2, 2017 in The News Reporter www.NRColumbus.com

The Reuben Brown House Preservation Society is an IRS Code 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions to the RBHPS are fully tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes.

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