Missouri Synod Church in Downtown Memphis


Spotlight On A Southern African American Lutheran Family

Trinity has been blessed with many African-American members who are dedicated and supportive in every way. Many are active in the various missions of the Church and many are either currently or have in the past, held positions on the Council and the Board of Elders. Many represent Trinity as public ambassadors in the community at large and in dealings with other congregations. All deserve honor. Today, I single out one family for special recognition. There have been many generations of African American Lutherans baptized, confirmed and ministered to at Trinity Lutheran Church. One family of third generation Lutherans is the that of Vienna D. Stovall, born 1924 in Natchez, Mississippi. Vienna’s parents and siblings relocated to Memphis, Tennessee in 1929. Vienna married Jesse Stovall in 1948. Memphis was still a segregated society; although, blacks and whites in the area around Redeemer Lutheran Church, lived peacefully in close proximity for years. In 1946 Calvary Lutheran Church, serving the same geographic area as Redeemer, was formed to minister to the black community. Vienna and Jesse Stovall, who were both baptized and confirmed Lutherans; and joined Calvary Lutheran Church at 1008 E. McLemore Avenue in 1949. Vienna and Jesse gave birth to their first child, Cynthia, in 1952, the second, Donna, was born in 1953, their only son, Michael, born 1958, the fourth and last sibling, Lisa, was born in 1964. In the 1940’s a private school, started to provide African-American children with a better education than was available in public schools,

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A look back, forward. A commentary by Rev. Roosevelt Gray Jr.

The official history of black ministry in the LCMS began in 1877 — 14 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and 30 years after the Synod was formed. The significance of these historic events would change the course of history for many blacks in the Deep South and eventually throughout the nation. In the Deep South throughout those early years, educating blacks and the education system were driven by segregation. Yet it was known that many white Christians would create and encourage opportunities for education as they fought for fairness and equality in educating their black neighbors, fellow Americans, and Christian brothers and sisters. Both black and white churches were creating communities of Christians who believed that education, faith and family were at the very foundation of how God had created humanity to live together. Our predominantly German church body heard the Macedonian call 137 years ago to go south and reach a large population of black Americans who were in many cases relegated to a lifestyle of subsistence and share-crop farming, and as day servants and common laborers. Though some blacks were being educated in segregated black schools and higher-education institutions, the vast majority lived a meager existence as American citizens and often had little hope of a quality education that would give them social, civic or community equality, or an upwardly mobile life that would lead them and their children out of a lifestyle of poverty and illiteracy. click here to read more.(link goes to

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In Case You Missed Black History Month

Throughout the month of February, we highlighted the relationship of Trinity Lutheran Church and Missouri Synod, with African-Americans and other peoples of color. For instance, Trinity’s pastor was asked to lead the dedication of Missouri’s first African-American church in Little Rock, AR in 1876, just eleven years after the close of the Civil War and how Trinity helped start the first Lutheran church in Memphis headed by an African-American minister and helped run a parochial school in Memphis, set up exclusively for black students. We looked not only at the history of long ago, but recent history as well. We took a look at the how African-Americans have played a vital roll in the ministry of the Lutheran church as well as focus on some of the ministry focused on People of Color (not all Blacks are American, nor are they all from Africa). We started with the story of Rosa Young,  a woman who dedicated her whole life to educating the poor and spreading the Good News of Christ’s salvation. Then a report on Immanuel Lutheran College, an institution started in 1907 to education black teachers and ministers. Rev. Roosevelt Gray serves as director of LCMS Black Ministry, a historic LCMS ministry that serves predominantly black communities and African immigrants. He provides leadership and direction for LCMS districts, congregations, schools and related organizations as they minister to minority groups in their communities. He has written a commentary for Black History Month that looks back at the history of the

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Rosa J. Young – Mother of Black Lutheranism

Rosa J. Young, the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from the Concordia University System, is often refered to as “the mother of Black Lutheranism.” Born in the tiny farm community of Rosebud, Alabama in 1890, Rosa was exceptionally bright and excelled in school. After sixth grade, her parents sent her to Payne University, a school that had recently been created by the African Methodist Episcopal Church to serve the black community. There, she received her teaching certificate and passed the state exams. She then taught at various African-American schools across Alabama as a traveling teacher. A common practice in areas deprived of qualified teachers. In 1912, she returned to Rosebud. At the time, African American children who were not allowed to attend public schools. With the encouragement of both blacks and whites,  Rosa young opened a school to provide basic education and religious instruction to the African-American children of her community. The Rosebud Literary and Industrial School started with  Ms. Young and seven students its first year, but by the start of the third year, it had grown to 215 students, and several additional teachers. In rural Alabama at this time, there was almost no black owned farmland. African-American farmers worked plots of land owned by white landowners in exchange for a “share” of the profits. It was customary for the landowner to extend credit to the farmer and his family to buy groceries and daily necessities, in addition to seed to plant in the Spring. This would

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Lutheran Seminary Key Player in Battle of Gettysburg

Monday marked the 150 anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the pivotal battle of the American Civil War. This past weekend, thousands of re-enactors assembled in Gettysburg to re-enact the three-day battle in exacting detail (minus the death and bloodshed), and to join with thousands more  in marking the historic occasion. Playing a pivotal role in the event was Schmucker Hall, a stately ediface on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Schumacher Hall, originally served as dormitory, classrooms, and caretakers housing. Emanuel Ziegler, the steward for the seminary, his wife and five of his six children, found themselves trapped in the middle of the deadliest battle in American history. “My father was steward and my mother matron of this institution…and I was one of five children at home at that time…We succeeded in getting back to our home [the Seminary], but it was in use as a hospital, all the space in the large building was filled up with wounded soldiers. The doctors in charge, learning it was our home, cleared two of the rooms and we moved in and got busy helping care for the wounded. My mother took charge of the kitchen and did the cooking…hailed by the wounded and others connected with the hospital as mother.” Hugh M. Ziegler,1933 The Lutheran Theological Seminary was founded by Samuel Simon Schmucker, who was also instrumental in starting the General Synod of the Lutheran Church (now part of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) “The injury done to

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