United Methodist Coalition is Rebuilding Burned Historical Black Churches in the South

Yoshiko Tachibana hangs drywall at Antioch United Holy Church in Rocky Point, North Carolina

National turmoil over passing the federal budget demonstrates what happens when people stop talking to each other. But in San Luis Obispo, we still talk! Liz and I love learning important, inspiring things about our community of which we were unaware.

That happened recently when I spoke at the SLO Lions Club. Liz was talking to former Cal Poly professor Del Dingus after dinner. She was delighted to find that following the 2001 Easter fire at SLO’s United Methodist Church, Dingus and his wife, Yoshiko Tachibana, and other Methodists followed the lead of Rev. Lloyd Saatjian, pastor at the First UMC in Santa Barbara, in joining a national coalition to rebuild burned historically black churches in the South.

“It takes two hours to burn a church and two years to rebuild it,” Saatjian said.

Dingus told Liz about Antioch United Holy Church in Rocky Point, North Carolina. In 1998, arson destroyed the 62-year- old church, home to 20 close-knit members. The FBI has been unable to discover the culprit. This was the third black church to be burned within a 20-mile radius there in three years and sadly arson was a frequent occurrence for Southern black churches in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Fundraising for these efforts was hurt by the force of Hurricane Floyd, “an about every 500-year event,” in 1999. People had to rebuild homes, stores and farms. Help was needed! In 2001, Rev. John Wood spoke at United Methodist churches from Shandon to Santa Maria, corralling 15 volunteers into an enthusiastic crew. Except for Wood and an electrician from Hawaii, none had framing experience. They’d travel to North Carolina for a week in August to enjoy 85- to 100-plus-degree days with around 100 percent humidity.

They’d pay their own way, $800 each. In July, Catholic and Quaker rebuilding teams from the Midwest had volunteered at Antioch. Dingus and Tachibana raised money by plying their church friends with avocados and freshly squeezed orange juice, courtesy of their garden.

A few months after SLO’s church was hit by arson, it raised $2,000 for building supplies for Antioch.

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SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Tribune
Dan and Liz Krieger

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