THE HISTORY OF Turner Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church began as does the history of most African Methodist Episcopal churches. It emerged out of the labors of those who toiled to build a tabernacle unto the Glory of God. It came about, not as the efforts of a dissatisfied group of members of one African Methodist congregation, but as the desire of a group to organize another African Methodist Episcopal church in an area between Brown Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church at 14th and Constitution Avenues, N. E. and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, at M Street Between 15th and 16th Streets, N. W.
In the Year of our Lord 1919, the group, members of Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, then located in Southwest Washington, met at the residence of Mattie Throckmorton, 525 U Street, N. W. for the organization. They were Frank J. Blackburn, Mattie Throckmorton, Annie E. Sewell, Effie V. Sewell Scott, Emma Sewell Crockett, Ellen J. Scott, Ella N. Jones, Ella N. Vass, Amelia L. Bridgida, Annie S. Elliott and Edward R. Elliott.
The above group organized under the leadership of Reverend Joseph DeWitt Wilson and his beloved wife, Eleanor J. Wilson. They purchased the red brick edifice which still stands on the comer of 5th and P Streets, N. W. From the oganization of the church in 1919 until the present time, the church has had pastors in the order indicated in the continuing history below:
Reverend Joseph DeWitt Wilson served from 1919 to 1921. The membership began to grow and the church began to prosper; however, a law in the Annual Conference dealing with a minister's age for admission to the Conference left Reverend Wilson without a charge.
The Reverend J. S. McEddy served Turner from 1921 to 1922. This was a slow period in Turner's growth, but in spite of many difficulties, these stalwart christians were not discouraged. They continued to work hard and with confidence in God and with sincere prayer to Him, Turner continued to progress.
Reverend Melvin J. Key served from 1922 to 1925. This young pastor aroused greater interest and the church began to see the dawn of a new day and a new generation which began to take interest in christian leadership and in christian education.
Reverend A. Lincoln Criglar served from 1925 to 1930. Under the leadership of Reverend Criglar, Turner demonstrated greater progress. In 1930, because of the death of the pastor at Campbell African Methodist Episcopal Church located in Anacostia, Bishop A. L. Gaines transferred Reverend Criglar to Campbell. Dr. Charles H. Wesley, Presiding Elder, with the consent of the membership requested that Reverend J. DeWitt Wilson be reappointed to Turner. Bishop Gaines, who had previously restored Reverend Wilson as an assistant pastor at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, reappointed Reverend Wilson to Turner.
Under the leadership of Reverend Wilson the church began to grow spiritually, financially, and numerically. Many improvements were made to the interior of the church -- installation of a choir loft, rearrangement of the pulpit and installation of an organ. The church was cleared of debt and a stone wall was built around the yard. Reverend Wilson served faithfully until his sudden death in 1944.
The Reverend Clarence Clyde Ferguson, once a Presiding Elder, succeeded Reverend Wilson in 1944. He, too, was a spiritual and dynamic leader with foresight, wisdom and great pastoral ability. Under his leadership, Turner continued to grow and to develop rapidly. A parsonage, located at 509 P Street, N. W. was purchased. The church grew from a mission to a station charge. Reverend Ferguson served as pastor until his death in 1946.
The Reverend Isaac Alphonso Miller was assigned to Turner in September 1946. He made observations and realized the needs of a fast growing congregation and presented plans to accommodate the needs. His foresightedness and his soul stirring preaching, together with his unusual planning ability, forged Turner to the front of African Methodist Episcopal Churches in this area. His ability to draw from other churches and to convert new members made it necessary to seek larger church facilities.
The first plan was to enlarge the present edifice. An architect's plan was presented, but the proposed renovation of the site would not have met the needs. So, under the leadership of Reverend Miller, the building at 6th and I Streets, N. W., that housed the Adas Israel Congregation, was purchased. Many improvements had to be made to the interior to conform to African Methodist Episcopal doctrine.
A law in the African Methodist Episcopal Church at that time required that a pastor serve no more than eight consecutive years at a charge. As such, in May, 1956, Reverend Miller was assigned to Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Reverend Arthur L. Powell came to Turner in May 1956 and remained until July 1956.
At a special session of the Washington Annual Conference in July 1956, Bishop Frank Madison Reid, Sr., assigned to Turner the dynamic, inspiring, forceful preacher and pastor, Reverend Samuel Everette Guiles. Under his leadership, the church membership greatly increased. Several new organizations within the church were founded, and a new parsonage was purchased at 1605 Crittenden Street, N.W. New Committees were formed, and the church began to build a new and better Turner Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Recognizing the need for additional and improved church facilities and the need for Turner to be a downtown church, Turner moved forward to purchase adjacent property on the I Street side of the building. As a result of the dedicated efforts of the membership, a dream begun to chrystallize. A service of dedication and cornerstone laying of the multi-service center was held on June 9, 1979. The four-story facility, called the S. Everette Guiles Memorial Center, is used for many church and community related activities. Reverend Guiles died in February of 1980.
The Reverend Goodwin Douglas was appointed to Turner by Bishop Henry W. Murph in April, 1980. It is noted that Reverend Douglas came to us from Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, the church of our founding members. Reverend Douglas accepted an immense assignment. There were many unaccomplished tasks from the previous administration.
Reverend Douglas recognized the needs of Turner and began immediately to reorganize the organizational structure and to develop plans to alleviate all encumbrances upon the church. On March 8, 1981, the S. Everette Guiles Memorial Center was dedicated. The services were conducted by the Right Reverend John Hurst Adams. The church has hosted many meetings (Founders Day, Annual Conferences, Sunday School Conventions and the like).
Upon the elevation of Reverend Goodwin Douglas to Presiding Elder of the Capitol District, Washington Conference, Reverend Edgar L. James was transferred to Turner from Brown Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1993. Reverend James brought a special vision of how the church could grow. Under his administration, the church purchased a nursery school which is now called the Henry McNeal Turner Early Learning Center. Reverend James died suddenly on October 1, 2000.
Reverend Darryl E. Walker was appointed to Turner Memorial on October 28, 2000. He was pastor of churches in Emporia, Kansas; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Bremerton, Washington; Los Angeles, California; Omaha, Nebraska; Tacoma, Washington and Kansas City, Missouri before his transfer to Washington, D. C. and Turner Memorial. Reverend Walker had a dynamic preaching and teaching program that brought more people into the Turner Church family.
On February 19, 2011, Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Jr. (Presiding Prelate of the 2nd Episcopal District) appointed Revered William H. Lamar IV as pastor of Turner Memorial AME Church. Pastor Lamar has served congregations in the 11th Episcopal District in Monticello, Orlando, and Jacksonville, Florida. Most recently he served as a managing director for Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School.
Through innovative programs, church leadership, spiritual awareness and stewardship, Turner is continuing its tradition of progress. So, on the firm and enduring foundation laid by the eleven devout and determined faithful christians, we have today a greater and more progressive Turner Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church. After fifty-two years on the corner of 6th and I Streets, N. W., we have moved to more spacious quarters in Hyattsville, Maryland. God has a tremendous work for us to do. Our relocation has placed us in a position where we are able to expand our ministries to the glory of God. On March 1, 2003, we occupied the new Turner Memorial AME Church.
NOW IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN IN THE ARCHIVES THAT WHAT IS PAST IS PROLOGUE, but, Turner's humble beginnings have opened the door toward brighter things for the future if the ultimate purpose of the church is kept in mind. These are: to serve God, to keep His commandments, and to walk humbly. If any should ask," what is the church?" Answer, "It is the Trinity. First, it is the spiritual temple of the soul embracing the teachings of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; secondly, it is an architectural structure dedicated to God where people come together to worship; and third, it is an organization of christians bonded together in a conference to point the way to Christ and eternal life.
So, on the firm, enduring foundation laid by those eleven faithful christians, laborers, and the hard work of those dedicated men who filled the pulpit, Turner Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church has become a large metropolitan church and while it continues to be "The Friendly Church where God's People Praise Him."