New Mexico Influence Magazine Article Reprint: The Understated Influence of Alamogordo’s Black Churches

By Chris Edwards, CEO 2nd Life Media/Roadrunner Emporium, Alamogordo reprint from New Mexico Influence Magazine – April May Edition

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley’

John Wesley was an English cleric, theologian, and evangelist, who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism. The societies he founded became the dominant form of the independent Methodist movement that continues to this day.

While researching this article on the “influence” of the Black Church in Alamogordo, we reached to the leadership of several of Alamogordo’s Black churches. I was surprised that the Reverend Warren Robinson of Alamogordo’s Owen’s AME Church provided me the quote above from a Caucasian theologian born in 1703 as the starting point of my journey of exploration. But in reading into the quote and speaking with the various pastors and theologians the path Reverend Robinson was sending me down was to understand the meaning of “service,” and that service expands well beyond the confines of a “Black Church” or any church for that matter.

When one researches the American Black experience, the fights for social justice and American society, it becomes clear that no pillar of the African American community has been more central to history, identity, and social justice than the “Black Church. Reverend Robinson made it very clear to me that in Alamogordo, “there is no single voice speaking as the Black Church”, just as there is no Black religion.

Pastor Mark Anthony Phillips of Alamogordo’s Holy Temple Church of God in Christ emphasized that the church is about” traditions and faith”, and that laws and societal norms may change, “but the foundation of faith is still and will always remain consistent in scripture.” Pastor Phillips served in the US Airforce for 24 years and then was called to serve as a pastor. In 2000 he was ordained and in 2018 became head pastor of his congregation.

Pastor Johnnie L Walker leader of Alamogordo’s New Covenant Worship Center concurs that the “foundation of the church and the teachings of God and Jesus are the foundation but that the approach to spread the word is much different than times of the past.” Pastor Walker as the newest pastor of Alamogordo’s Black Church community is viewed by many in the Black faith community as representing the “next generation of pastoral leadership for Alamogordo.” Pastor Walker’s outreach is more technologically progressive than the church of the past. He says some sermons over half of his participants are online, yet a challenge is they are not as engaged as an in-person service. Pastor Phillips emphasis was, “that there is no true substitution, to an in-person worship service”, but admits for the church, Black or otherwise, “to stay relevant, we must all evolve in approachall the while sticking to the fundamentals of faith.”

The Black Church This is Our Story, This is Our Song; a book by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. tells the reader that “the traditions and faiths that fall under the umbrella of African American religion, particularly Christianity, constitute two stories; one of a people defining themselves in the presence of a higher power and the other of their journey for freedom and equality in a land where power itself-and even humanity-for so long was (and still is) denied them.”

“Collectively, these churches make up the oldest institution created and controlled by African Americans and as such they are more than simply places of worship. In the centuries since its birth in the time of slavery, the Black Church has stood as the foundation of Black religious, political, economic, and social life. For those who lived through slavery followed by Jim Crow racism, the church provided a refuge: a place of racial and individual self-affirmation, of teaching and learning, of psychological and spiritual sustenance, of faith and a symbolic space where black people, enslaved and free, could nurture the hope for a better today and a much better tomorrow.”

As a white male that grew up in the south, I witnessed the aftereffects of the implementation of the civil rights act. I was bussed, had one of the first black teachers in a white school in Memphis, and I saw firsthand, racism in action. I witnessed the influence on my classmates, my peers, and my generation in the aftermath of Jim Crow, my generation would refer to this period as a “cleanup phase”, cleaning up the mistakes of past generations. This was the generation that was supposed to bridge racism, that was to rebuild a community that did not see color, race nor creed and our generation was the transitional generation. However, in many ways it seems we have failed in that aspiration, thus the evolution of Black Lives Matters.

The influence of the Black Church has always been one of a “safe-house” for people of color. But its mission today has moved well beyond that, to one of “service to a broader community.” Interestingly, all these years later, when I attend a church service, I seek the “Black Church” as my refuge. I find the “Black Church” to be more welcoming, less judgmental, and more spiritually enlightening to my void in faith, and that is why this story is important to me.

Alamogordo’s Black Church community has a history that followed a parallel path to the rest of the country. The Black community upon the founding of Alamogordo was a segregated community. The schools were segregated with Corinth also referred to as the Delaware School, created for Black youth, and the Dudley School for Hispanic youth. Alamogordo well ahead of most school systems nationwide and began desegregation early, 1946 for Hispanic youth and 1950 for Black Youth.

The building that once housed the Black Children, as Corinth School is now part of the structure that makes up Corinth Baptist Church which is under the leadership of Reverend James E. Forney. The property on which the present church stands was purchased from the school system after desegregation. Today, 94 years since its founding in 1928, Corinth is a symbol of the “city that sits on a hill” with “the light of her various ministries shedding rays throughout this community, state, nation and even in foreign fields-a beacon beckoning to all who have a need of her love and protection” according to its pastor.

Owen Chapel AME Church was established in 1939 in Alamogordo. The church started in the homes of faithful member who were determined to establish an African Methodist Episcopal presence in this area. The history of that gathering was strong enough for the African Methodist Episcopal church to supply a pastor and a relationship with the greater church organization. The history and the activities of Owen Chapel AME church are rich and varied. Pastor Warren Robinson leads the church with a mission of service to the community and one of inclusion and diversity. Though Robinson leads a predominately black congregation with an emphasis on the historical importance of the history of the church to the black experience, his preaching style is one of inclusion of ALL people and a celebration of diversity within the Alamogordo community. His experience in building bridges of understanding between diverse groups is his trademark. Owen A.M.E is the most diverse congregation in Alamogordo. Robinson has received the President George Bush’s Call to Service Award/USA Freedom Corps. He was awarded the Alamogordo Rotary Paul Harris Fellow Award and was given the Office of African American Affairs Everyday Hero Award in 2019. He lives service in his daily actions.

My question to the pastors of Alamogordo’s Black Church community revolves around the “Influence of the Black Church” in modern society. Is the Black Church relevant as we move forward decade’s past slavery, Jim Crow, the marches on Selma and the implementation of the civil rights act and the new youth empowerment by groups such as Black Lives Matter?

The response from all of Alamogordo’s pastors was that yes indeed the “Black Church” is relevant and does indeed still have “influence.” “That influence is as a servant to the community, we as pastors must be more community involved, listen more, talk less we must go where God is and where God is needed,” explained Pastor Phillps. He continued, “it used to be that the women wore beautiful hats and men wore their Sunday best, now we dress down, dress comfortable, welcome and we listen.” Pastor Johnnie Walker explained, “we must get outside our church walls, hit the streets and remind folks there is still an answer there it is hope to solve needs.”

Alamogordo’s Black Pastoral leadership has taken service to heart and each leader is moving their mission forward in a variety of ways.

Pastor Walker has a newly acquired church building that will soon host a new school. The Phoenix Learning Academy team will provide an intensive academic program with a focal point and emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). This STEM model will call for Project/Problem Based Learning lessons, capstone projects, and enrichment learning programs with student activity periods. PLTW (Project Lead the Way) Launch curriculum will also be implemented at the elementary grades, providing strategies for students to adopt a design-thinking mindset through compelling activities, projects, and problems that bring learning to life. This is certainly meeting a community need with thinking outside the box and leadership in implementation by the “Black Church.”

The Joy Center Alamogordo recently hosted a groundbreaking for an expanded 12,000 square foot campus with childcare facilities and more to better serve the greater needs of Alamogordo.

Pastor Robinson has served on a variety of non-profit boards across the community, as the police and hospital chaplain and has now thrown his name into contention as a candidate for Magistrate Judge.

Each pastor is expanding their use of technology, reaching an audience through expanded offerings of service to the Alamogordo community and are reminded daily that the traditions and the stability of the church ultimately bring people home to the church. People still get married, people still die and need funerals for closure and solace, the traditions and rituals of familiarity are there when the people need them. For Maya Angelou, like the other members of her generation, the words of the King James Bible, the power of the Negro Spirituals, and the sermonic tradition of the Black church were the vernacular language and soundtrack of black life and a safe home. As the crosses carried by the civil rights generation are past to the shoulders of the Black Lives Matter generation, churches and their leaders must evolve with the faithful. The evolution of the Black Church is quietly on display in Alamogordo for those enlightened or informed enough to see it and its “understated influence through service.”

https://acrobat.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:e604d3e0-ec11-4fc2-88c2-3b67cf357592

AlamogordoTownNews.com National Small Business Week on Alamogordo’s MainStreet New York Avenue

May 1st through 7th is the official week of Small Business designated by the Small Business Administration as Small Business Week.

Sherwin Williams Paint Store, GloBug, Elite Memories Boutique, Blush Hair Salon, Showcase Carpets and Tile, New,Mexico Influence Magazine, Renefit Southeast New Mexico Influence Magazine, Fitness, AlamogordoTownNews.com, 2nd Life Media, Emanuel Lydia Productions, Our Little Country Store at Roadrunner Emporium, the Local Bodega, Del Ora Goldsmith, Rocket City Game Lounge, Mission Billiards, MoniCakes, Barbies New York Avenue Salon, D & H Stamp and Sign Company, Capped, Flickinger Center, Country Corner Kitchen, Believe It Nutrition, StrangeLove Tattoo, Alamo Jump, Picacho Peak Brewing, Good News Thrift Store, and new shops coming – this is the New York Avenue business district and this is Alamogordo MainStreet and that is Small Business. 

Alamogordo’s Main Street Business District of New York Avenue represents the largest concentration of small businesses in Alamogordo.

From the cultural arts, classes,  live music and antiques of Roadrunner Emporium, to fine entertainment at the Flickinger Center, to a higher end Fine Art experience at New York Art and Music, to finest in fashions at Elite Memories Boutique, beauty and fashion at Blush Salon, Fine speciality gifts at Victoria Alamogordo, finest in quilting supplies and fabrics at Pins and Needles, excellence in locally procured selections at the Local Bodega, trivia and beer at Picacho Peak Brewing Company, late night gaming at Rocket City Game Shop, billiards play at Mission Billiards, tile and flooring, paint supplies, nutrition needs or a hot breakfast each can be found in the New York Avenue business district of Alamogordo’s MainStreet.

The Alamogordo MainStreet organization is concentrated on revitalization and partnerships to reinvent this important corridor and in community partnership with the Alamogordo Center of Commerce, the city of Alamogordo and New Mexico MainStreet; it celebrates Small Business Week with a reminder of this important corridor to the economic vitality of Alamogordo, Otero County and Southern New Mexico. 

Alamogordo MainStreet Executive Director Nolan Ojeda via a press statement concerning Small Business Week reminds Alamogordo citizens; “Alamogordo MainStreet is Small Business. The partnership businesses of Alamogordo MainStreet are the heartbeat of Alamogordo and is exactly what the SBA seeks to highlight with Small Business Week May 1st thru 7th. As the Executive Director of Alamogordo MainStreet, I’d like to personally invite you to our district, this week and (of course every week), as we celebrate Small Business Week and cap it off with our Downtown Nights Celebration this Friday with most stores open till 8 pm. This Friday night we will have a live radio remote from KALH radio at Roadrunner Emporium, a DJ spinning music in front of Victoria some special street vendors and special pricing and events at most of the stores till 8 pm.” 

Nolan continued, “We also welcome all of those coming in this weekend for the Holloman Air Show and invite them to see what makes Alamogordo’s MainStreet the New York Avenue district so unique.”

Rene Sepulveda partner in Roadrunner Emporium explained that the partnership between him and Chris Edwards, is so excited with the momentum of Alamogordo MainStreet and the New York Avenue business partnerships; “that we deepening our partnership with Emmanuel Renteria and Lydia Aspen and their New York Art and Music Studio and investing into the district idea of creating a cultural arts sub-district.  The first example of that investment partnership was our joint Evening Under the Stars Event this past weekend. That event was the tip of the iceberg in showing the potential of arts on New York Avenue. This event resulted in several thousands of dollars worth of art to be purchased by collectors and showcased musical talent with multiple performances throughout the evening.”

The small businesses of New York Avenue have two events scheduled for May Downtown Nights is Friday May 6th with merchants open till 8 pm and Atomicon is Saturday the 14th with a full array of costumed fun similar to a traditional ComiCon event with the street closed off from 8th Avenue to 12th and to include a Hobbit Village at Patrons Hall that evening.

Alice Weinman the owner of Victoria Alamogordo and the veteran business owner of the district says of Small Business Week, “we’ve been in Historic Downtown Alamogordo for 37 years, still here and still moving onward.” 
Alamogordo Small Business is moving forward which is evident every day with the renewed energy of Alamogordo MainStreet and New York Avenue. Come on down and join the multiple small businesses for Small Business Week! 

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St Patrick’s Evening 5 pm onward- Chris Ward Exhibition, Vibe@5, FREE Live Music & More at Roadrunner Emporium, New York Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Make Thursday night, a complete night of arts and culture, live music, free foods and fun in Alamogordo. 

Start the night at 5 pm at the Granada Shopping Center, East 1st Street Alamogordo. On March 17th from 5 pm to 7 pm in the main Gallery Room Adjacent to Clay Time Pottery & Ceramics there will be an exhibition of the original works of Chris Ward. Food, refreshments and meet the artist will be happening. Chris Ward has been involved with art since he was a child winning a second-place school competition at 11 years old. Watercolors and pastels were his medium.

Next jump in your car and drop by Green Health CBD, for a St. Patrick’s Day themed Vibe@5 event hosted by the Center of Commerce. Live music by James Ethington, education, door prizes, food, beer & wine, and networking.

Finally end up at Roadrunner Emporium on the historic New York Avenue. The party at Roadrunner runs till 9 or possibly 10 pm. Featuring 4 musical talents performing for FREE.

Roadrunner Emporium is hosting its St Patrick’s Day New Issue Release Party for Influence Magazine that is FREE and OPEN to the public 6 pm until? Come see Alamogordo’s largest St Patrick’s Day tree of leprechauns and Irishness.  Wear your best Irish Green and join in the fun. The evening will showcase 4 live performers singing and playing live instrumental music from 6 pm to 9 pm. Picacho Brewing Company will be serving wonderful free appetizers, free beverages and more. 

A live remote from KALH radio hosts will be out front of the shop at 928 New York Avenue 6 pm to 8 pm, interviewing our local celebrities, artists, Influence Magazine article contributors, and more. 

Meet the editor; Meike Schwarz and the publisher; Cedric Fisher. Meet some of the artist of Roadrunner Emporium and New York Avenue to include spinning artist Linda Swenson spinning yarns on location, meet Delia Lopez Holloway a local acrylics painter whose works have been on display throughout New Mexico, Linda Howard whose collectibles from Capitan have been showcased for generations.

Coach Robert Sepulveda the most award-winning track and field coach in Alamogordo’s history will be on site as featured in Influence Magazine. Also on site will be the legendary owners of New York Avenue Art and Music Studio; Lydia Aspen and Emmanul Renteria to bring wonderous smiles to anyone in their presence. 

Come join the FREE fun, the live music, be entertained, enjoy some free snacks and beverages, and shop on New York Avenues crossroads of art, culture, music, history and commerce 928 New York Avenue’s Roadrunner Emporium 6 pm to 9 pm. 

Live singers include Lenore Whitney, Influence Magazine showcased performers and more. Come on down 6 pm to 9 pm Thursday. 

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