Allen Temple AME Church
Allen Temple A.M.E. Church has held a significant place in the history of Marion, Indiana. Starting out as a Methodist Protestant Church when it was first built, the church endured a series of transformations to make it an important institution for the growth of worship for African Americans. Through the many ministers it has employed over the years, Allen Temple has made several outreaches to the religious and nonreligious communities of Marion. Finally, the actual structure has gone through several changes over its 131-year history, exemplifying its assimilation into the expanding community. Thus, Allen Temple A.M.E. Church serves great importance not only to the African American community of Grant County, but also to the entire population of the area.
Construction by Methodist Protestants
On June 5, 1872, the trustees of the Methodist Protestant Church of Marion, Indiana, purchased land from John Burson located in south Marion (Grant County Deed Records Index 23), at the location of the corner of 35th and Washington Streets (Marion, Ind. City Directory 836). This land would be the acreage on which the Methodist Protestant Church would build a structure they would use as a place of worship. Once built, the church exhibited Romanesque architecture (Grant County Interim Report 92), large stained glass windows, and a bell tower. This church would remain the home of the Methodist Protestants until 1902 when another group of worshippers, seeking a new home, would find refuge in its walls. These people were the founding members of Allen Temple A.M.E. Church (Allen Temple Anniversary Program 2).
Conversion to A.M.E.
In 1898, the Reverend G. Shelton, pastor of Hills Chapel A.M.E. of Weaver, Indiana, desired to establish another African Methodist Episcopal Church in Marion. Unfortunately, a structure for worship was not available at the time, and the church members were forced to hold services in the home of Mr. Turner Wallace at the corner of 35th and Carey Streets. Finally, in 1901, the Methodist Protestant Church was discovered by several members of the church and decided upon as a suitable place to worship. A committee met with the Bishop C.C. Shaffer to obtain permission to purchase the property as part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The bishop granted his approval and the trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church acquired the land from the Methodist Protestants in 1902 (Allen Temple Anniversary Program 2). The building was dedicated in the same year. On Sunday, July 23, 1905, under the leadership of Reverend J. Silas Evans, a large ceremony took place for the laying of the cornerstone in order to commemorate the year of the building’s dedication (“Pastor of the 35th Street Church”). Finally, under Reverend Evans, the congregation of the church decided upon the name Allen Temple for the church in honor of the founding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, Bishop Richard Allen (Allen Temple Anniversary Program 2).
Ministers through the Years
Throughout its long history in the city of Marion, Allen Temple has employed its share of many ministers who each made significant changes to the growth and stability of the church. The first minister of Allen Temple A.M.E. Church was Reverend H.J. Fisher, who was succeeded by the Reverend J.J. Silas Evans, a major contributor to the naming of the church. Reverend W.C. Ervin, Reverend H.C. Moorman, and Reverend J.S.A. Mitcham each aided Allen Temple in the establishment of a church basement. Several other ministers followed in succession including Reverend A.I. Washington II, Reverend Saunders, Reverend C.E. Benson, Reverend W.E. Mayfield, Reverend. C.J.H. Watkins, Reverend W. J. Alexander, Reverend. I.B. Johnson, Reverend J.E. Riddick, Reverend W. J. Riddick, and Reverend W.E. Smith (Allen Temple Anniversary Program 2).
One of the most influential pastors of Allen Temple was Reverend Robert Hearn, appointed in 1966. His work led to the formation of Allen Day Care Center, Marion’s first non-profit child care center serving low-income families, which was sponsored and run by the church (“Viewed by Departing Black Leader: Marion’s Racial Climate.”). Reverend John F. Carter made great strides in the renovation process of Allen Temple as well as organizing the Junior Usher Board and Young People’s Division of the Women’s Missionary Society. Reverend David Perry’s pastorate from 1983 to 1989 led to the establishment of a male chorus. In 1989, Reverend Ida James created a summer day camp and coffee house ministries for teens. Reverend Frederick Greene was appointed to the church in 1995 and helped reach out to the children of the church and community through several volunteer programs sponsored by Allen Temple (Allen Temple Anniversary Program 3). Currently, Allen Temple is under the ministry of Reverend Emmanuel Vaughn. Reverend Vaughn led the congregation in one of their largest celebrations, their 100-year anniversary in 2001, which commemorated the date Allen Temple received the church from the Methodist Protestant Church (Allen Temple Celebrates 100 Years”). Under the leadership of these pastors, Allen Temple grew into an important institution to the city of Marion.
Several changes were made to enhance the beauty of the church as the years went by. In 1914, a small basement was added to the church. Later ministers of the church, including Reverend W.C. Ervin, Reverend H.C. Moorman, and Reverend J.S.A. Mitcham enlarged the basement to the size it exists at today. These ministers also helped to rebuild the parsonage and install a heating system. Then, under the pastor Reverend E.W. Arnold, a serious discussion was brought about to begin renovation of the rapidly aging structure, which was already over 70 years old during his pastorate. A new roof was installed and some more renovation took place under the pastorate of Reverend Ford Gibson. In 1962, more remodeling and redecorating took place and was finally completed while Reverend H. T. Johnson was the minister of the church. This enterprise was completed at the total cost of $40,000.
In 1966, Reverend Robert Hearn purchased property for the church at 35th and Carey Street that would later be renovated and utilized for a community day care program that lasted several years. Under the thirteen-year pastorate of Reverend John F. Carter, a bell tower was repaired, and both new lights and pews were installed. The trustees also purchased a new organ and piano, as well as tables, chairs, and new carpet for the lower level. The church was also able to place bulletin boards outside of the structure. Reverend Carter also oversaw the remodeling of the parsonage, the building of a three-car garage, and the paving of the parking lot. This work totaled over $120,000. Building improvements continued under the direction of Reverend David Perry during 1983 to 1989, notably the installation of new sanctuary doors. With help from Dr. Ida James, pastor of Allen Temple from 1989 to 1995, the church repaired the bell, put a new roof on the church, and built a new parsonage bringing the structure to the state it currently exists in (Allen Temple Anniversary Program 3).
For over a hundred years, Allen Temple A.M.E. has stood as a landmark of Marion’s history. Its change from a Methodist Protestant Church to an African Methodist Episcopal Church served as a step in the growth of African American religious activity in the community. Its ministers have been influential members of the church and community. Over the years, it has gone through many changes that helped growth in the city of Marion and have made significant improvements for the congregation itself. Allen Temple A.M.E. Church represents a not only a building, but a piece of Grant County’s important past, present, and future.
- “Allen Temple Celebrates 100 Years.” Chronicle-Tribune 30 Apr. 2001: AS.
- Allen Temple Ninety-Fifth Church Anniversary Program. Marion, IN: n.p.,1996.
- “Allen Temple Works on New Look.” Chronicle Tribune 24 Oct. 1992: B3.
- Grant County, Ind. Deed Records Index. Marion, IN: Grant County Genealogy Club 1982.
- Grant County Interim Report. Marion, IN: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1993.
- Marion, Ind. City Directory. Marion: n.p., 1901.
- “Pastor of the 35thStreet Church.” Marion News-Tribune 23 July 1905: 7.
- “Viewed by Departing Black Leader: Marion’s Racial Climate.” Chronicle Tribune Magazine 23 Sept. 1972: 18.
This article was written by Jennifer Ahoni and submitted on January 6, 2004 for Mr. Munn's AP US History class at Marion High School.