Bishop T. Larry Kirkland congratulated a nearly packed Quinn Chapel A.M.E. congregation on its new building during Sunday's dedication service, telling members the church must focus on teaching.
"If God designs the church, it's going to be a teaching and learning church," he said.
The church, which was started by a group that included slaves in the late 1840s, just finished its third move. It's the second move due to highway projects.
"Quinn Chapel is the oldest African-American entity in Jefferson City of any kind, and one of the
oldest Christian churches" in Jefferson City, Pastor Cassandra Gould said.
This time, the move was needed to make way for a planned Whitton Expressway interchange intended to provide better access to the old Missouri State Penitentiary. The city's Convention and Visitors Bureau now offers tours at the empty prison.
Church leaders say the forced move has turned into a blessing because the old building had serious water problems in the basement and access for the older members of the church wasn't always easy.
"This is state-of-the-art. No doubt about it," Kirland told churchgoers during the dedication service sermon.
With 7,200 square feet, the church isn't much bigger than the last one. But the space is better used to equip the church, which has grown from 80 members to 125 in the past 21â„2 years, Gould said.
The new building is one level, which makes it easier for some of the older members, she said.
About 150 people attended Sunday's dedication service.
Despite the beauty of the church, Kirkland said, it needs to focus on inward beauty. "If we're going to grow, we have to teach," he said. The entertainment of a church service, including dancing, shouldn't overshadow the message, he said.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church needs to avoid "spiritual malnutrition," he said.
"We serve too much junk food," he said, comparing "sermonettes" to "Jiffy meals." "People need to hear the word of God," he said to cheers from the congregation.
Sherrelyn Woodruff, a trustee board member of the church, said the new building is an exciting new beginning, and that they're blessed to remain in the neighborhood. Some church members, including Lincoln University students, walk to church.
Longtime church member Annette Driver said the church is bring vitality back the area of The Foot.
"Quinn Chapel is not only a bright light, it's the light, a beacon of our community now," Driver said.
Alfred Robinson, pro tem of the trustee board, said the state funded most of the cost for the new church since the state forced it out of its old location. Some of the items from the old church are being used in the new building, he said, including the four white columns in front of the church, the steeple, stained glass windows, and some doors.
"We tried to get some of the old with the new, because some of those items were donated by former members and we wanted to make certain we carried those over to the new church," he said.