The African American Church in the Wake of COVID-19
Updated: Jun 14
By J. Isaac Noel Benjamin II
In its heyday the church was the heart and soul of the community. Historically, wars were fought over what the Church deemed as necessity. In some respects, not much has change. The church is especially important to the African American community. The church is more than just a way of life. The church was and is a conduit to many things African Americans were denied by society.
Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church of Lansing is the oldest black church in the city. Its first services were held in a building on North Washington Avenue. The church formally organized by the Reverend George W. Henderson of the British Methodist Episcopal Church in 1866 and was first called the Independent Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1875 it was reorganized as Bethel A.M.E. Church. In 1902, upon the death of the Reverend George R. Collins, the pastor for many years, the church was renamed the George R. Collins A.M.E. Church. It was incorporated in 1906. The church received its present name, Trinity A.M.E. Church, in 1964.
During the church's first decade, the congregation purchased a small frame building and moved it to a site on the 100 block of North Pine Street. In 1877 a modest brick church was erected near the original site. It served the congregation for eighty-eight years. In 1965 the Congregation was forced to relocate to make room for the State Capitol Complex building project. Selling its downtown property to the state, Ingham County's oldest black congregation then moved to this ten-acre tract, where it built a church and a parsonage. Starting with twenty-one members, the church had over four hundred members by its one hundredth anniversary in 1966.
In 2020, Pastor Lila Rose Martin is the Pastor of Trinity AME Church. “The church is a lifeline,” said Martin. Martin has been Trinity’s pastor since September 11, 2011.
“I felt a calling from God that this should be my life’s work,” she said. “
Pastor Martin has paid her dues in service. She was the assistant pastor of St. Stephen in Detroit for 20 years. “I have a basic love of people,” explained Martin. “I’ve always sought to make things better for people.
” Martin, a child of the Civil Right era grew up in rural North Carolina. “I had a good childhood,” noted Martin.
The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus has presented a new challenge for people worldwide. Especially, in the African American community. “Our ability to socialize and a break bread has been challenged” said Martin.
“Don’t loose faith, though. We are all in this together. When this is over, we are going to have a big celebration.”
The outbreak of COVID-19 has given the community cause to collectively turn to prayer. “Folks that had previously been on the sidelines have taken a new look at the church and God,” said Martin.
“It’s important to except God into your life. All things are possible through God!”
Pastor Martin acknowledge there are many struggles in the African American community and counselled the benefits of learning how to work together and “stop fighting each other,” she said.
In the wake of COVID-19 Marin noted that she is still tending her flock. “We have regular conference calls, a Facebook web page and our class leader system,” said Martin.
“Through our class leader system, we call everyone daily. If there’s a need, we are able to response quickly.”