First Congo church turning 150

First Congregational Church is ringing in its 150th anniversary this month with an open house, banquet and special Sunday service.

And, for the first time since moving to Cooper-Young in 2001, the church will begin services by tolling the “Overton Bell,” the original bell from its old building in Central Gardens, which has been installed on Cooper.

Festivities begin Saturday, Oct. 5 with an open house from 10 a.m. to noon. Guests can tour not only the sanctuary at First Congo (formerly Temple Baptist Church), but the homes of more than 30 “shared-space partners” inside the church.

Those partners include Voices of the South theater company, Red Robin Academy, Local Goods fair trade store, Revolutions community bike shop, Get Fresh Memphis CSA, Roots Memphis Farm Academy and Pilgrim House, the city’s only hostel.

That night at 6 p.m., the church hosts an anniversary banquet featuring entertainment by Sister Myotis (played by Steve Swift) and a puppet show by Kevin Williams and Mule. Reservations are required and tickets are $20. For tickets call Julia Hicks at 278-6786.

Sunday morning services begin at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 5 with a special African drum and dance ensemble to celebrate the ministry.

First Congregational Church was founded as Strangers’ Church for Union troops and abolitionists during the Civil War, said its pastor, Rev. Cheryl Cornish. Since then the church has been associated with the founding of what is now LeMoyne-Owen College, welcomed the first ordained female minister to preach in the 1940s, opened its arms to LGBT members in 1991 and affirmed its commitment to the environment by installing solar panels. The Cooper-Young Farmers Market is held in its parking lot.

“Peace and justice issues are really at the center of our ministry,” Cornish said.

First Congo is located at 1000 S. Cooper at Walker.

-David Royer

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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