Black History: Trinity AME Zion Church enters its 181st year

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Throughout February, NewsChannel 34 is bringing you the stories of people and organizations that have made major contributions to Black History. 

As a Binghamton church enters its 181st year, our Dylan Kuhn takes a look back at its history and its impact on the local African American community…

As they have for nearly 2 centuries, parishioners of the Trinity AME Zion Church gathered for service on a recent Sunday.

The church’s first official meeting house in Binghamton was built in 1849 at the present day location of Columbus Park.

In 1957 the church was moved to its current location on the corner of Oak and Lydia Street. 

It’s history and impact in Greater Binghamton however, dates back to the early 19th century. 
“It actually has the name the freedom church, because many of our churches were used as stops on the underground railroad.”

Reverend Paul Gordon Carter has been the minister at the church in Binghamton since July of 2014. 

He came by way of Auburn New York where he is the director of the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park. 

Much of the research on the history of Binghamton’s Zion Church has been done by Brenda Brown the Broome County Black History Coordinator and a parishioner of the church since she moved to the area over 40 years ago. 

“This area in the church was like a mission station for the underground railroad.”

The mission station she referred to was a hut in 1829 located on Whitney Street then known as the Hawley tract in the Town of Binghamton. 

Brown says the church has always been more than a place to practice religion for African Americans. “Now I’m not saying that you don’t come for a religious spiritual experience, you do. But outside of that, church is the focal point for religion, spiritual healing, community based information and for bringing the community together.”

The Zion Church is affiliated with multiple community organizations focused on making a positive impact on people’s lives. 

The NAACP was founded in a Zion Church in New York City in 1909 and the church remains actively involved with it. 

Another organization affiliated with the church is the Apalachin Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.

Chapter President Angela Riley says the women’s group looks to provide students with opportunities they may not be aware of. “We are a picture for them to kind of develop a plan for their futures.We come from different backgrounds, we all work in different areas in the community. We give them a tool and guidance and support so they too can follow  a path that they may not have seen or heard of previously.”    

Delta Sigma Theta provides scholarships and programs that support literacy and well being. 

Outside of community outreach, Trinity has and continues to bring families together.Ruth Lewis has been a parishioner for over 70 years. In 1959 her wedding was the second ever at the church’s current location. As a child she went to Zion with her parents and now she passed that tradition onto her grandkids. “I can’t even imagine not having Trinity and not coming to Church every Sunday.”

Trinity AME Zion’s storied history, its goal of helping members of the community and bringing people together is what has made it a staple in the Greater Binghamton African American community. 
“They made us feel so comfortable and so welcome. That no matter what happens, Trinity is a Church I will always support.”

“We’re here for the long haul. We’re not here just to give you a good feeling. We’re here to give your strength and hope in the midst of your despair. In the world we’re living in right now with so much going on around us that just seems to be in chaos, we’re here as a place where you can find some sense of order.”

The legacy of Trinity continues to grow in the community, and there is no end in sight.

In Binghamton, Dylan Kuhn, NewsChannel 34…

The Apalachin Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta is seeking applicants for its scholarships. The deadline to apply is March 1st. Any student can apply, however first preference for recipients is given to students of African American descent. To apply, visit ApalachinAlumnae.com

NewsChannel 34 will air a half hour Hidden History special featuring stories from across the country and here at home. Showtimes are this Saturday at 6 P-M on WIVT NewsChannel 34 and Saturday at 7 P-M on WBGH NBC 5. You can also catch other individual stories on the Hidden History page.

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