MCALLEN, TEXAS (KVEO) – Many gathered on Tuesday to witness a new dedication at the historic Bethel Missionary Church monument hosted by Village in the valley in an effort to celebrate Juneteenth.
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The historic monument was founded in 1936 and is recognized as the first African-American church founded in the town of McAllen. Church members said it was demolished in the early 2000s for financial reasons.
“If you’ve been around here a few months ago, you might have found tires a bit like a dumping ground,” said Marsha Terry, co-founder of Village in the Valley.
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Terry said their organization, with the help of volunteers and the Town of McAllen, had successfully restored it to what is now “Bethel Garden”. The Town of McAllen has invested money and resources to revive the neighborhood located at the corner of 16th Street South on Booker T Ave.
Former McAllen mayor Jim Darling said once he learned about the problem facing the region, he knew he needed to invest funds. He also signed a proclamation to make June 19 “National Day of Celebration of the Nineteenth June”.
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“We had meetings, of course with Dr. Howard, we came here and we looked at it, and thank goodness I had the town’s money and its high-stakes money,” Darling said. .
Terry explained how they were able to paint a wall painting of a fence that celebrates the church and repair the area by adding benches and flowers.
“They put up some beautiful flowers and it’s just a much nicer space to commemorate what stood here before which was Bethel Baptist Missionary Church,” said Terry.
On Tuesday at the monument, Terry said they held a rededication ceremony to commemorate those who worshiped in church.
“People who have a spiritual mind, I think it’s an important part of our history, an important part of Juneteenth and it’s an important part of black culture because spirituality is an important part of how we are growing, ”said Terry.
Dr Theresa Gatling, Co-Founder of Village in the Valley, explained why it’s important to learn more about Juneteenth.
“The Emancipation Proclamation rose to fourth in 1863, but we were not told in Texas until 1865 that we were already free. So we are celebrating this day as the day all slaves were free, including those in Texas, ”Gatling said.
Bishop Michael Smith and his wife Sharan Smith attended church. They said seeing the land restored made them smile. The church is where they first met and shared a lot of experiences there.
“I preached my first sermon, I was in the choir, sometimes I was acting Sunday School principal. So I guess you can tell I am regrouping here, ”said Bishop Smith.
The Smiths remember when the church brought their community together.
“It was a community, although the majority was African American, they still had fellowship with the Hispanics in the area, so they grew up together, so it was a community within a community,” said Smith.
Village in the Valley member Dr Ray Howard said the church is not just a religious center. He hopes that the memory of the church will be passed on from generation to generation.
“It was a community center, it was an education center, right in front of us even though it no longer exists, that was where the Booker T. Washington school was.” Dr Howard added: “It is now also part of our legacy, although I did not have the chance to go to church, I feel the presence of those who did. “
Village in the Valley will be holding events throughout the week to celebrate June 17th, to learn you can go to their Facebook page.