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Hood Memorial AME Zion celebrates 70 years

Long-time Hood Memorial AME Zion Church members Oscar Reid and Jackie Bowens stand before the church altar. Photo by Alan Hodge

By Alan Hodge

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Hood Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Sacco St. in Belmont’s Reid Community has been a bastion of faith and family for seven decades and to honor that fact the congregation and others got together last Sunday for a 70th anniversary jamboree.

Hood Memorial’s roots go down deep into the local African America church scene and names associated with it include Henry’s Chapel  AME Zion, O’Connor Grove, Mt., Zion AME Zion, Mt. Moriah Baptist, Love’s Chapel Presbyterian, and Mt. Pleasant Baptist. 

From those churches various men and women decided to establish a new religious outpost in the Reid Community so in 1949 land was purchased from Mr. J. Hall. Originally, the building to be built there was a parsonage for the O’Connor Grove AME Zion pastor, however the Hood founders shifted course and decided to build a sanctuary proper for which the cornerstone was laid in July 1953.

The church needed a name and it was decided to call it Hood Memorial after Bishop James Walker Hood (1831-1918) who had been a strong civil rights, religious, and education leader in North Carolina during his life.

The list of early Hood Memorial leaders is long- too long to name them all though they all deserve credit for their vision and hard work. Just a very few includes Professor C.J.B. Reid, Roscoe and Josephine Bowens, Mrs. Minnie Jackson, George and Callie Biggers, and many, many more.

Hood Memorial’s current beautiful stone exterior was not how the church first appeared. Money was tight and the church was built from cinder blocks. The steps out front were made of wood. Local folks pitched in for the construction project which was led by Wilbur Jordan. Other Belmont churches donated items such as the chancel railing which was given  by South Point UMC and the first pews which came from Park Street UMC.

To raise cash for the building project, Hood Memorial held a lot of fish fries. Some folks even called it the “Fish Church” for this reason. Other fundraisers sold oyster soup and an interesting dish made by hollowing out a loaf of bread and dumping a can of pork and beans inside.

Over the years many pastors have preached at Hood Memorial. An early roster includes Rev. T. Graham, Rev. Herman Anderson, Rev. B.A. Mack, Rev. Arthur Parker, Rev. E.E. Little, Rev. Benjamin Morrow- the list goes on and on and on. Several members have also become ministers including Rev. Charles Reid, Rev. Suzanne Earle, and the world famous Jethro Man aka “The Bicycle Man” of Belmont. 

Rev. Reid reflected on Hood Memorial’s role and its contributions in Belmont and beyond these past seven decades.

“The church is the heart of the community,” Reid said “That heart is one of spirit, love, and fellowship.”

But Hood Memorial is more than a history lesson. Today it’s a thriving, vibrant, church with over 60 members that’s part of a town in transition.

“Belmont is changing and we are trying to reach new people,” said member Jackie Bowens. Many of the young adults of the church don’t live in Belmont anymore but they still have membership here. We want to help the younger people catch the spirit.” 

With that philosophy in place, there’s no doubt that Hood Memorial AME Zion Church will be around another 70 years, and that it will still be a gateway to the gospel.

Want to go? Hood Memorial AME Zion welcomes everyone It’s located at  215 Sacco St., Belmont. The Pastor is Rev. Dr. Warren A. Nance, Sr.