Unless the Lord Builds the House

The story of the African-American church is one of the richest in American history. And there is no African-American church more famous than Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist. A cradle of the civil rights movement, founded in 1886 during Reconstruction, Ebenezer's early pastors promoted black businesses, built the first public high school for blacks, and fought Jim Crow. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as co-pastor with his father. Under the leadership of King's successor, Dr. Joseph L. Roberts Jr., Ebenezer's 2,000-member congregation in 1999 completed construction of the New Horizon Sanctuary, designed by the black architectural firm Stanley-Love-Stanley. The sanctuary-whose central axis passes through King's crypt-was designed around the concept of an African meeting house, and serves as the new home for a 115-year-old congregation that is building on its heritage as it enters the third millennium.

Hut-shaped arches reminiscent of a sculpted mound comprise the roof. Inside, the ridges step down toward the pulpit. Four large skylights fill the worship center with natural light. Patinaed copper roof seams suggest the long grass thatch commonly found on African dwellings. The bell tower was inspired by a monument in Ethiopia constructed by the Queen of Sheba in honor of King Solomon.

The rear of the church is in the shape of a drum-the heartbeat and communication method of ancient Africa.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2001
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