Church that survived 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre recieves boon from Episcopalians
A historic Tulsa church's efforts to feed the hungry during the pandemic inspired Episcopalians across the state and in other parts of the country.
The Rt. Rev. Poulson C. Reed said that inspiration helped raise $164,108.97 for Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church as the recipient of his Bishop’s Annual Appeal. Episcopalians from across Oklahoma and 12 other states gave money towards the effort.
"It was about $64,000 more than our goal and it was by far the most we've ever raised for a Bishop's Appeal," said Reed, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma.
Reed said people were impressed with Vernon AME's commitment to the community. The church in Tulsa's Greenwood District is the only black-owned building that remains from the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, which included the burning down of businesses and homes in Tulsa’s thriving Black Wall Street community as well as the murder of Black Tulsans by white mobs. A few of the Black Tulsans hid from the mobs in Vernon’s basement.
"I think the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma were so inspired by historic Vernon AME Church. I think that's what it is. In the middle of this pandemic we wanted to really support an organization that was doing incredible work in their community and Vernon is doing that," Reed said.
"Vernon began feeding the hungry in their neighborhood at the very beginning of the pandemic and they have fed people every single day since, which is remarkable."
Episcopal parishioners were given the opportunity to send in Bishop's Appeal donations throughout the month of December. Reed said the diocese's donation was presented to the Rev. Robert Turner, Vernon AME's senior pastor, and his congregation on Tuesday.
Reed said the funds will help refurbish the Tulsa's church's kitchen and also help the congregation bring its vision of a prayer wall to fruition. The church hopes to create a prayer wall for those who visit the church to learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and perhaps write their prayers for the church and community.
"Our people were very moved by both of those things," the bishop said.
Turner said he was overwhelmed by the Episcopalians' generosity.
"It is by the the largest single gift we have received from any church," he said.
"I thank God so much for Bishop Poulson Reed. What we've been able to do since 1921 is nothing but the grace of God."
Faith Editor Carla Hinton edits The Oklahoman’s Spiritual Life section, and covers faith and spirituality, and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com. Contact her with story ideas and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a subscription today at oklahoman.com/subscribe.