“The Lord allows us to inhale and exhale and all of us in here are alive and that’s enough [reason] to praise God. I only want to add one thing: Everybody that love the devil, be quiet.”
No one was quiet, as more than 50 people heeded Eldress Claudette Mayes’ call.
With tambourines shaking, drums a-drumming, pianos arpeggio-ing, and shouts of “hallelujah!” and dancing in the aisles, they celebrated Sunday the 65th birthday of the founding of Thomas Chapel Church on White Street off Columbus Avenue in the Hill.
The church was established in 1948 by Elder Luther Thomas in a building that formerly housed the Ashkenazic synagogue Ahavat Shalom.
According to Eldress Jacqueline Roberts, wife of current Pastor Clarence Roberts, the founder “was like a pied piper. He was one of the first bus ministries,” she said, meaning he would patrol the neighborhood bringing children and others in the church van to sing and pray and discover the power of a spiritual fraternity with Jesus.
With about 125 current members, including many children and a strong musical ministry that includes the singing Monk Family, the church is going strong in its 65th year, said Roberts.
“Music is a very important part of our ministry, but it’s [only] part of saving souls,” she said.
Every Wednesday afternoon, the church provides a hot meal to up to 200 people. Many discover the church through that service, said Pastor Roberts.
The motto of Sunday’s founders’ day celebration was “Still standing and solid as a rock.” The language of the worship was all spirit and fire in the name of praise and gratitude for the gifts of life and faith.
Eldress Mayes was the orchestrator of the ceremonies. Several times she rose from her piano and sermonized: “Are there any firemen in the house?” Men and women alike raised their hands. Then she extended the metaphor: “Fires for the holy ghost. And “we don’t put them out.”
Little girls in a dance group called “The Anointed Ones” dressed in white and purple robes and showed off their liturgical choreography. Roberts said that today, as in the beginning of the church, a main approach is to “reach the children, [then through them] reach the adults.”
Older members like James Williams and Maggie Hamrick swayed and clapped to such gospel classics as “Lord I Just Want To Thank You,” “The Lord Been Good To Me,” along with the congregation’s spiritual anthem, “We’ve Come This Far By Faith.”
Several said they keep on coming back for the spirit of the place—or rather Christ keeps bringing them back to Thomas Chapel.
Willete Wise has been attending for a year. He said coming to church exceeds the benefits of going to the doctor. “Praising God,” she said, “is like my medicine.”