We've Come This Far by Faith
A History of Pleasant Union Christian Church of North Raleigh
Raleigh, North Raleigh
The First 156 Years
Pleasant Union Christian Church of North Raleigh
"And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16: 18
Great organizations in history do not begin or end in any specific date. Instead they reach back to the hearts of men. The forefathers of Pleasant Union Christian Church of North Raleigh must have been looking for a church a century ago whose builder and maker was God.
While no minutes of the organization meeting of the church have been found we learned through oral tradition that the church was organized around 1860. There was no structure at the time. The members gathered and worshipped in a bush arbor just back of where the present cemetery now stands. There they made plans for building a church.
In the mid 1880s Rev. William Allen served as pastor and is believed to have been the first pastor of Pleasant Union Church. While under Rev. W. Allen's Leadership, a one room log structure was built in the early 1890s on one acre of land donated by Reynolds Allen a white Slave Master, Mr. Allen made a commitment to the slaves who were residing on his plantation that he would donate one acre of land and a deed for the purpose of a church. The stipulation was that they would continue to work for him after the abolishment of slavery. The church was given the name Pleasant Union Christian Church.
Rev. John Allen served as Pleasant Union's second pastor. Although the church was established for more than twenty years, it was not until December 20, 1894 that a deed was executed. The trustees listed on the deed were; Romulus S. Heart, Gideon Allen, William Evans, Hinton Cooley, Charles Thompson, Merritt Thorpe, Allen Thompson, Robert Bledsoe and Ransom Allen.
Through their recognition and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the supreme Lord, Giver and Head of this church, these early Christians prospered and grew numerically, spiritually and physically, soon there was the need to build another church. The Lord gave the vision to Rev. Sellars who served Pleasant Union faithfully from 1910 until 1928. Therefore, a new larger wooden plank church was erected. This church was built in the mid 1900s. Rev. Sellars organized the Deacon Board. Some of the early deacons included; Deacon's; William Dozier, Claude Rogers and Melvin Thomas.
Church members would walk or travel by mules and buggy to attend church. For many years worship service were held once a month on the second Sunday. Baptismal took place in a creek across the road from the church. Sunday school was held each Sunday. Consequently, the Sunday school played an outstanding role and made an invaluable contribution to the development of the total church program. The Sunday School Department extends as far back as the early 1900s. Some of the early Superintendent was the following; Claude Rogers, William Dozier, Fletcher Scott, Nathaniel Scott, and many others.
Brother Shepherd Rogers was one of the first members of Pleasant Union Church to become a school teacher. He attended Franklin Christian College. Franklin Christian College was started by the James O'Kelly Christian Church in 1872 to train black leaders for local churches. He taught at various schools in the community including Ray School and Lovely Hill. His parents James and Piety Jeffries Rogers were some of the early members of Pleasant Union. Brother Rogers is buried in the church cemetery.
In 1913, Pleasant Union Christian Church joined the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference. This conference was organized in Raleigh, North Carolina. Other area churches that were members of this conference were; Manly Street (ca. 1867), Poplar Springs (1869/1871), Holy Springs (1871/1872), Hickory Grove (1880), Maple Temple (1895) and Eagle Rock (1905) and several others. At the count of 147 churches the conference divided into four conferences; Eastern Atlantic, Lincoln (Lincoln Colored Christian Conference), Southern District and State Conference, and the original North Carolina Conference. Sometime around the late 1920s Pleasant Union Church joined the Lincoln Colored Christian Conference which was organized in Cary, North Carolina in 1909.
Not only were the members of Pleasant Union servants of God but they were also servants in the community. They were apart of organizations such as The Raleigh Union Society and Pleasant Union Masonic Lodge. The Raleigh Union Society of Pleasant Union was started in the mid 1920's. Meetings were held at the Pleasant Union Masonic Lodge Hall. Members would meet once a month and develop programs that would help the community. Membership in the society included the following Pleasant Union members; Sarah Dozier, William Dozier, Esther Keith, Rufus Keith, Viola Allen Keith, Wade Keith, Annie Bell Mitchell, James Mitchell, Estell Scott, Fletcher Scott, Lillie Rogers Scott, and Nathaniel Scott. Other community members were; Ira Scott Mangum, Milton Mangum, Morris Parker and many others.
Also part of the Pleasant Union Church Community was the Pleasant Union Masonic Lodge. The Lodge was founded in 1910 its first location was in the woods between Pleasant Union Church and what is now Blue Jay Park. The Lodge later was relocated next door to the church. Early members included; Fletcher Scott, Floyd Baker, Kirkman Dozier, Alsey (Bud) Evans, Clyde Evans, Luther Hayes, Buck Ware, Henry Robinson, and Alvin Lynn.
Pleasant Union School also joined the Pleasant Union Church Community in the early 1920s. The school was first housed in the Pleasant Union Masonic Lodge Hall, classes were held downstairs. Later with the help of the community they were able to have their own building. The schools funding was with the financial support of the community. Pleasant Union Church was one of the schools largest benefactors. The church would host fundraisers such as box parties and food sales to raise money for the school. Many of the Pleasant Union Church members were students at the school. The teachers were; Ms. Whitehead, Mrs. Bertha Alston, Ms. Lucy Thorpe, Ms. Gertrude Paris, Mr. Lashed, Mrs. Boxdell, and Ms. Sarah Marks.
Our early members were really dedicated to serving God. Revival Meeting was held on the second week in August beginning on Sunday evening through Friday night. Revival consisted to two services every day with guest minister. Everyone who professed the Lord as his or her Savior during Revival Week would join on Friday night. They would be baptized on the second Sunday in September at 10:00 a.m. at near-by ponds. Since most members were farmers, they set aside this time every year for revival. Meals were eaten at the church twice daily lunch and dinner. Women of the church would bring baskets of food for both services and spread it on long wooden tables on the outside. Dedicated Mother of the church who willingly support these efforts were; Clee Bledsoe, Annie Bell Mitchell, Thelma Thompson, Lizzie Scott, Cora Bledsoe, Esther Keith, Ellie Laws Harris, Viola Mitchell Keith, Viola Allen Keith, Civa Bledsoe, Lillie Rogers Scott, Sarah Dozier, Lucretta Harris Lancaster, Flora Jones, Estell Scott, Ira Scott Mangum, Clovenia Clemmons, Anne Evans, and many others.
During the late 1920s Elma Pettiford donated the first piano to the church. The piano was a self-playing piano (also known as pianola). It was told that the piano was first played at her funeral (Joanna Rogers Pettiford) and this was first time anyone had seen this done at a funeral.
From 1931 through 1956, Pleasant Union had seven pastors. The Rev. E. D. Baker served until 1934. Under his administration, the church organized the Missionary Circle and Senior Choir. Although his tenure was short but it was effective. The Rev. S. W. Albright served until 1938. In 1935 he sent the first delegate, Deacon Fletcher Scott to represent Pleasant Union in the Association in Burlington, NC. Rev. W. B. Bruston served from 1938 - 1942. Pastor J. W. Albright served the remainder of 1942 and through 1944. Rev. William Thomas served the remainder of 1944 through 1948 Rev. E. J. Hooker served from 1948 to 1956.
In 1953 under the leadership of Rev. E. J. Hooker, the church decided to expand and they purchased an additional one-acre plus track of land, the property joined the land back of the old white plank church. (This is the current location of the church where we now worship). On June 2, 1953, a deed was conveyed to the following trustees; Nathaniel S. Scott, G. Harvey Harris and William Harris. The purchase price of the one acre tack was of the land was two-hundred and fifty dollars made payable to C.C. Edwards. The first church bus was purchased in 1955. Brother Otis Harris and Bro. John Irvin Thomas were the drivers. Rev. J. H. Milteer served from 1956 through 1959.
In January of 1959, the Rev. Leon White was called to fill the pulpit. He served until 1960. He was a very young man full of ideas, alert, straightforward, and above all a praying man. Rev. White was one of the most prolific voices of the gospel to preach throughout the city and state. This biblically sound man spiritually touched lives while raising the awareness of the plight of African Americans. He provided leadership and support to the Deacon Board and he organized the first Youth Department.
In 1960, God saw fit to call a new shepherd, Rev. Clarence Dortch to Pleasant Union. During his tenure the structural conditions of the white plank church had begun to deteriorate. The church at that time was heated by a wood burning pot belly stove. Bro. Percell Scott a very devoted member would make the fire for Sunday morning services. Bro. Scott served as the church sexton for more than thirty years. During this time the church had no running water or in-door bathrooms. In 1967, the members voted to remodel the church they had to assume a loan on the existing property (two acres of land). Upon obtaining the loan the trustees discovered that the deed on the property donated by the estate of Reynolds Allen was never recorded. After hiring an attorney the church was given a new deed dated June 28, 1967. Trustees listed on the deed were; Nathaniel Scott, Owen Evans and Macon Keith.
Under the leadership of Rev. Clarence Dortch plans were in place for the building of the third edifice. While looking toward the future, a Building Fund Committee was established. The Building Fund President was Leila Bledsoe, Coleen Keith Harris, Sectary, and Nathaniel Scott Treasure. The Building Fund Committee held several benefit programs until they were able to raise enough money for the church foundation. Deacon Otis Harris served as the supervising carpenter on the building of the church which he donated his time. There was also many other men of the church who donated their time as well. Also, there were dedicated women of the church who volunteered and would prepare lunch every Saturday for the men working on the church.
While the current church was under construction a notable occasion took place on Sunday, June 4, 1972 Pleasant Union Church held its first Baccalaureate Ceremony. This was the first program held at the present church under the leadership of Rev. Clarence Dortch. After learning that African American graduating seniors at Millbrook High School were not invited to the Baccalaureate Ceremony at Millbrook Baptist Church. Coleen Keith Harris organized a Baccalaureate Ceremony on their behalf. Members of the church graduating from Millbrook Class of 1972 were the following; Gloriatine Scott, Claudia Scott and Barbra Scott. Upon learning of this great injustice other graduating seniors joined them from various Triangle Area High School including students as far as Carthage, North Carolina. Donald Ellison who was also a member of church and a senior at Durham High School joined them as well. Other community seniors who participated were; Brenda Peebles, Deborah Scott, and Marshall Stephenson. Dr. Nelson Harris Interim President of Shaw University was the Keynote speaker other platform guests included; City Councilmen Clarence E. Lightner (Raleigh first African American Mayor), Millard Peebles (Raleigh's first African American to serve on City of Raleigh Planning Commission), Dr. N.M. McMillian Pastor of Baptist Grove Church and many other Triangle Area Clergy. The choir was made up of Pleasant Union Youth Choir members and other Triangle Area church youth choirs. Earline Shepherd a music teacher from Carthage Elementary School was the pianist. Mr. Randy Shepherd (Founder/Director of MLK All Children's Choir) a graduating senior of Broughton High School and Music Director of Oberlin Road Baptist Church directed the choir. Little Miss Lynne Harris and Master Greg Scott were the Marshalls. Also assisting in this effort was Christine Scott, Lytha Evans Ellison, Flonnie D. Keith, Mary Keith, Minnie Peebles, Matilda Scott, Walter Keith, Sr. Jule Harris, Sr. Garfield Scott and Randy Ellison.
After much fasting, praying and sacrificing the current sanctuary was completed in 1974 under Rev. Dortch leadership. During Reverend Dortch pastorate the white plank church was replaced with the block structure church. He organized the Pastor’s Aid Committee, Busy Bee Club, Building Fund and Kitchen Committee. After 19 years as pastor, Reverend Dortch retired because of poor health. He passed away on November 11, 1986.
During the time of pastoral transition Rev. Leowen Evans, a life-long member of Pleasant Union Church, served as Interim Pastor from January 1981 until January 1982. Rev. Evans provided leadership and support to the Deacon Board and planned the annual Men's Day. He also added first and third Sunday services.
On February 28, 1982 Rev. Brooks was installed as our thirteenth Pastor. To date Rev. Brooks is the youngest pastor to serve as Pleasant Union. During his tenure Rev. Brooks was the first full time pastor with office hours daily. He started having worship service every Sunday. Rev. Brook established the C.W. Brooks Choir. Sister Mamie Evans served as the choirs first President. Rev. Brooks initiated the renovation to the church which included the following; new pews were purchased and installed, purchase of pulpit furniture (all the furniture is still in place), installed new carpet. Membership and Finance grew at an all time high. Under the leadership of Rev. Charles Brooks the church left the Lincoln Conference. On August 8, 1982 members of Pleasant Union Christian Church voted to become full pledged members of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ. Later the church name changed from Pleasant Union Christian Church to the Pleasant Union United Church of Christ. In 1983 Rev. Brooks resigned to pursue a Master of Divinity Degree at Virginia Union University of Theology.
In the years 1985-1987, Rev. Donald W. Morgan served as pastor of the church and worked with the members for the building of God's kingdom. Reverend Michael D. Allen accepted the call to pastor Pleasant Union Church in 1987. Since his resign as pastor the church has witnessed the following accomplishment; the addition of the new Senior Fellowship Hall, Baptism Room, and the up-grade to the current structure. Our parsonage was completely remodeled in 1994. The parking lot was paved and an additional parking lot was added. The church added a computer room to help equip members and the community for the twenty first century.
In an effort to carry out the intent of Matthew 25:35-38, the Homeless Ministry was established in the mid-1980s under the leadership of Reverend Allen. The Homeless Ministry sponsors meals and personal care packages for residents at the Helen Wright Center every third Thursday of each month. Since the beginning of this century, Pleasant Union has undertaken a number of new programs and ministries. In that same time period, the church also began an Emergency Fund. This fund aids elderly and disabled members with medication expenses. In 2014, the church established a Bereavement Ministry to serve families who have lost a loved one to death. The church’s purchase of a bus and van support these ministries as well as other auxiliaries.
Praise God Pleasant Union!! God has blessed us with the following choirs under the leadership of our current pastor; Anointed Voices of Praise, Male Chorus, New Genesis and the Spiritual Choir. Several musicians have served under Rev. Allen's leadership.
A number of other changes have taken place at Pleasant union in recent years. On April 11, 2002 the church withdrew from the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ. The church name changed a third time from the Pleasant Union United Church of Christ to now Pleasant Union Christian Church of North Raleigh, Inc. Between 2005-2010 four women of the church were appointed to serve on the Trustee Board they were; Sandra Thomas, Yolanda Harris, Anita Smith and Leonie Harris. On December 28, 2008, under Reverend Allen’s leadership, Pleasant Union ordained Faye Williamson as its first woman deacon.
We believe in being supportive of the intellectual endeavors of our youths. The church established a "Spot Light on Youths Program" high-lighting the achievements of members from preschool age to college and beyond. This program was established in 2010 by Renee Garris and is held in June of every year. The church also established a Scholarship Fund to encourage our young people in their academic pursuits.
In 2013 Reverend Michael Allen established a continuing ministry training program to help the new ministers to carry out the great commission. Members are trained to go out and share the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, they are the sowers; there is another group that encourage the new converts through the new membership training class. They are the waters.
Pleasant Unions Leadership
Serving as Deacons in the past are the following; William Dozier. Claude Rogers, Melvin Thompson, Nathaniel Scott, Fletcher Scott, Riley Chavis, Eugene Carrington, William Hunter, Floyd Baker, G. Harvey Harris, William Harris, Johnnie Harris, Garfield Scott, Macon Keith, Horse Keith, Grover Wilcox, Leonard Wilson, John D. Rogers, Oniso Bledsoe, Wilson Rogers, John Allen, Thelbert Evans, Calvin Bledsoe, Lindwood Keith, Barney Lawerence, Alvin Carter, Kevin Black and Oliver J. Stephenson. Currently serving on the deacon board are the following: Curtis Burton-Chairman, Ed Carter, Fontaine Harris, Julius Massenburg, Warren Mitchell-Vice Chairman, Daniel Scott and Faye Williamson.Past Trustees includes the following; Flether Sam Scott, Cephus Keith, James Mitchell, Owen Evans, Orvid Harris, Henry Harris, Vester Keith, William Douglass Scott, Lindwood Keith, Tommy Lawrence, Dennis Bryant, Maurice Bridges, Anita Smith and Leonie H. Harris.
Current Trustees include the following; Ralph Chambers, Treasurer, Houston Clark, Joe Garris, Yolanda Harris, Vice President, Leonard Lawrence, Chairperson, Ray Powell, Kenneth Smith and Sandra Thomas.
As part of the body of Christ Pleasant Union members have spoken both loudly and softly through their own actions, deeds, and words. They have been cornerstones in good as well as bad times. The splendor of Pleasant Union, however, does not rest in the accomplishments of any one of its members, or in the beauty of its physical building. Nor does it rest on the longevity or length of time it's been in existence. The splendor of Pleasant Union rests in the fact that for 156 years, Pleasant Union has its foundation that. "Christ is All" and its purpose is to win souls for Christ and bring them into His Kingdom.
"People Make History," if one believes that statement, they would find the profiles and articles about the members of Pleasant Union Christian Church of North Raleigh very interesting.
Pleasant Union's members have played sterling roles in our city, state, and nation. They have been ex-slaves, laborers, politicians, preachers, teachers, writers, musicians, artists, lawyers, doctors, activists, and many other folk. In many cases they have been the first to act upon and reach for opportunities that traditionally had been denied for our people.
We give thanks to God for His wonderful blessings and pray, we will continue to grow in grace day by day, and do that which is pleasing in His sight.