The History of Pine Grove AME Church: 1872- Present
A Celebration of Life: Christian Men and Women
Embracing Our Past….Enriching Our Present….Envisioning Our Future
The Mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and environmental needs of all people by spreading Christ's liberating gospel through word and deed.
The roots of Pine Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church rises out of slavery. Approximately two years after the civil war, bands of former slaves from Swygert's and other quarters met on Sunday afternoons for their Bush Arbor Services, first on Shuler's Hill, and then on Coogler's Hill. The Lord rewarded their faithfulness. In 1872 land was donated by these former slaves to build the first church on the site of the current structure.
On a Sunday night in 1875, the church suffered a total loss in a devastating fire. Yet from the ashes of the burned church arose desire, hope and a determination to rebuild. The Panic of 1873 was still causing anxiety and fear for many throughout the U.S. but it did not prevent these worshipers' efforts to rebuild. In 1897, Willis Steward donated his share of two and one-half acres to trustees Willie Richardson, Adam Metze, Wade Paris and Frank Washington for the construction of Pine Grove's new building. From its very beginning, Pine Grove has been built upon the dedication and commitment of her members and on every level of leadership, both pastors and lay.
During the 1890's and early 1900's, Pine Grove was part of the old Methodist circuit and worship services were held only once a month. Other churches in the circuit were St. Paul, Young's Chapel and Hopewell AME Church. Pine Grove remained a circuit church with Friendship AME until 1985 when the Columbia Conference officially changed her status to a station church. The church experienced tremendous growth in membership, ministries and community involvement during this period.
Pine Grove's Pastors
The members of Pine Grove AME Church have enjoyed stellar pastoral leadership from its early beginning until the present. While not all pastors had lengthy tenures, each came at a particular season in the life of the church and contributed to its growth and development. The following is our earliest record of Pine Grove's pastors:
- Reverend W.J. Robinson arrived in 1916. Robinson later became a presiding elder.
- C.A. Dunlap
- Rev. W.G. Owens
- Rev. S.J. Johnson
- Rev. C.R. Hawthorne. Hawthorne later became a presiding elder.
- Rev. Verseal Janerette preached his first sermon at Pine Grove on November 3, 1957 and served for 16 years.
- Rev. George Ashford began his pastoral ministry in 1976
- Rev. Joseph A. Darby became the first pastor to serve Pine Grove as a station church in 1985. Darby later became a presiding elder.
- Rev. John C. Roberts served from 1991-92.
- Rev. Stephen Singleton was assigned to Pine Grove in the year 1992 and served 13 years.
- Rev. Lavern Witherspoon was assigned at the end of conference year during post-conference 2006;
- Rev. Dr. James S. Cooper began his tenure as pastor in November 2007. Cooper was named a presiding elder from the pulpit of Pine Grove AME Church.
- Reverend Orlando M. McCauley, Jr., was assigned to Pine Grove at the close of the 2013 Annual Conference.
History was lost during the early pastoral appointments of Reverends. Jackson, Martin, Lewis, Burt, Emmanuel, Dickerson, Robinson, Shaw, Logan Vance, Hendricks, Israel, Cunningham, Williams, Gambrell and Simmons.
Rev. Dr. Charles E. Young began his tenure as pastor in March 2015. Young was named a presiding elder from the pulpit of Pine Grove AME Church in November 2016.
Declaring the Works of the Lord
Pine Grove's history is embedded with testimonies of one generation declaring the works of the Lord to another. The testimonies spread through renovations, new constructions, development of ministries to serve people all ages, genders and social standings and the establishments of choirs and organizations. The following represent highlights in Pine Grove's history:
- Pine Grove's annual revival has been consistently held during the week of the third Sunday in August from 1897 to present.
- The Jubilee Choir was first established in 1916 by Mr. Swygert and later reorganized by Mr. Julius Rawls, with the assistance of Ms. Nora Reeves and Mr. Thomas Kenly.
- On July 11, 1976, the mortgage for the remaining $6,000.00 for brick veneering was paid in full. Phase II of the Willis Steward Educational Building was completed and dedicated in 1975.
- In 2006 Pine Grove was transferred from the Columbia District of the Columbia Annual Conference to the Newberry-Spartanburg District and became the lead church.
In the year 2000 a new 600-seat sanctuary was constructed adjacent to the old sanctuary. The old sanctuary was converted into a fellowship hall and named in honor of Mr. Fletcher H. Bouknight. Under the capable leadership of Reverend James Cooper, the church launched a debt free campaign and paid off the mortgage of the new sanctuary in 2013. Today Pine Grove remains debt free.
Pine Grove continues her journey of kingdom work in these days of new challenges and paradigm shifts under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr.