Goler Memorial AME Zion Church, 630 North Patterson Ave., celebrated its legacy as a “Freedom Church” last month during a special service that featured State Sen. Earline Parmon and Jerry McCombs, president of the Western North Carolina Lay Council of the AME Zion Church.
Chartered in October 1796, the AME Zion Church was created as a place to worship God without discrimination. James Varick, considered a forefather of the AME Zion Church, was elected its first bishop in 1822. The house that he and other AME Zion leaders rented in New York was often referred to as “The Liberator and the Freedom Church” and was a frequent stop on the Underground Railroad. The AME Zion Church has been home to Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth – all of whom preached freedom and pleaded for the cause of justice for all during the days of slavery and the women’s suffrage.
Many local residents played key roles in the church’s development. Dr. Simon Green Atkins, the founder of the school that would become Winston-Salem State University, was the first elected general secretary of education of the AME Zion Church. History recalls Dr. Atkins as “a man of deep, pure consciousness, keen scholarship, eloquent and exhaustive in speech, constructive and economic in educational spheres.”
Last month’s service at Goler also celebrated the church’s 132nd anniversary. Founded in 1881 as Winston Tabernacle A.M.E. Church, Goler held its first worship service in the Forsyth County Courthouse. Canadian Dr. William H. Goler was a pastor of Goler Memorial. He later became the second president of Livingstone College, a school in Salisbury founded by the church. In 1886, he donated the land where Goler Memorial now stands.
Today, there are 3,000 AME Zion congregations serving more than a million members.