Sister Kathy Northe gave the Columnist a tour of the Simon Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The monuments, billboard displays, Simon Temple Wall of Victory, plaques, old sanctuary, and pictures of the church’s new sanctuary building process strongly represented the Simon Temple’s rich history. Northe directed me to a door that led to the outside courtyard. It wasn’t a coincidence the Columnist spotted the huge silver steel bell. This antique bell was purchased in 1887 under the pastoral leadership of Rev. M. N. Levy. The bell is mounted in the courtyard today. It continues to symbolize the church’s preserved history. Northe shared collective memories ranging from her family’s strong roots to watching Bishop Brian R. Thompson and Missionary Supervisor Felica Thompson’s children growing up.
The distinguished pictures of previous pastors chronologically displayed on the wall stood out to the Columnist during the church tour. These pastors left their mark on the church, consisting of increased membership and structure improvement. They nurtured and watered the seed of the church’s growing success. The church now has approximately 3,000 members and counting.
Simon Temple AME Zion Church is celebrating 150 years of Christian ministry from August 26th to August 27th. As one of the oldest churches in Fayetteville,, Simon Temple will celebrate with a cookout and many fun activities. Sunday Worship Service will start at 10:00 a.m., acknowledging the occasion, special presentations and recognitions, congratulatory videos from pastoral leaders, and greetings and proclamations from local community dignitaries. An evening concert featuring National Gospel Recording Artist, Jekalyn Carr will start at 5 p.m.
HISTORY OF SIMON TEMPLE AME ZION CHURCH
One hundred and fifty years is a testimony of survival and development through the dimension of time. Previous pastoral leaders gave to the church and community through structure improvements, spiritual growth, and various church ministries and programs.
Simon Temple’s original name was Beaver Creek AME Zion Church, founded in 1873. Its name originated from the creek, located on Yadkin Road. Beavers lived under the small bridge over the creek. Thus, the name of the church and community was derived. “After all these years of construction and improvement on the road structure, the creek still exists. It runs behind the Cottonade community into Fort Liberty”, stated Northe. Northe noted that a sign on Fort Liberty acknowledges Beaver Creek, the body of water.
Beaver Creek Church started as a circuit church with New Bethel AME Zion Church before becoming a stational church in 1930. “Beaver Creek was a close-knit community of families, relatives, distant cousins, and friends,” stated Northe. Still existing on Horseshoe Road, off Yadkin Road, Beaver Creek Community continues to thrive.
Northe shared that Reverend Howell sought to create a newness along with the name change in which he also led the members of Beaver Creek in constructing a new sanctuary in conjunction with the wing of the Educational Building, which was also remolded with brick. With its new name and its new sanctuary, on Sunday, August 21, 1977, Simon Temple held its Ecumenical-Dedication Service.
Pastoral leaders after Rev. Howell continued to carry the torch supporting the growing congregation. Bishop Brian R. Thompson Sr. led Simon Temple into its existing sanctuary today. Under his pastoral leadership, this 1.5 million dollars edifice was built.
LEADERSHIP OF DR. KEITH TILLETT
Reverend Dr. Keith D. Tillett is ecstatic to be at the forefront of this milestone homecoming celebration. After serving 21 years as the Senior Pastor at St. Paul AME Zion Church in New Jersey, he received his pastoral assignment as the new pastor of Simon Temple A. M. E. Zion Church in November 2021. “The people are warm, welcoming, and kindhearted. I feel as if I’ve been pastoring here for a long time because of the positive relationship,” stated Tillett.
Tillett sees himself as a servant leader who enjoys impacting the lives of others. He’s at his best space when ministering and interacting with people through love and sharing God’s word.
“We love our First Family. He adds new revelation of scriptures the congregation had never expounded upon. The Holy Spirit uses him, as he uses wisdom through the word of God. Not only does he preach, but he teaches as he preaches. He makes sure his sermons are understood and connect to our spiritual growth, which amazes the congregation. His preaching is cultivating us to grow spiritually,” said Northe.
Tillett, who hails from San Diego, previously lived in North Carolina, where he attended Livingstone College and served as the Senior Pastor for Rhyne Tabernacle and Zion Wesley AME Zion Church in the Charlotte area. While living in NC, he would visit relatives in Fayetteville during the holidays. He would have never thought God would lead him to live here long term.
The transition to Fayetteville was a God move for him. It was challenging to uproot himself and his family from their home in New Jersey to come to Simon Temple and continue in the great ministries of this church. Tillett says, “The Spirit of the Lord said it’s time. There was no turning back once the Holy Spirit confirmed my move.”
Tillett focuses on reaching the community and surrounding areas through his ministries and the word of God. “I am a servant that’s here to serve. I want people to see us making a difference in the lives of God’s people,” said Tillett.
VISION OF SIMON TEMPLE
Dr. Tillett is humbled to represent the many pastoral leaders who have gone before him who made their impactful mark in ministry. It’s all about spiritual cultivation for Tillett, who wants people to grow to become more like Christ in everything they do. He wants to see the members serving and operating more in their areas of spiritual giftedness.
Dr. Tillett envisions a Family Life Center that will create a space for recreation for people of all ages, provide after-school programs, offer life skills classes, etc. Tillett also sees the campus growing by building space to accommodate ministries that will continue to serve and meet the community’s needs.
“It’s imperative to remember them because we’re standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. If it had not been for them, Simon Temple wouldn’t be what it is today,” said Northe.
Tillett hopes to preserve the church’s history while spiritually molding the younger generation so they can maintain its history. Simon Temple’s growth in its various ministries inside the church and outreach ministries, community connection, and membership growth is a testament to the sacrifice of its pastors and congregations. They knew the sacrifices they made would help to cultivate and grow their ministries through the power of God to create a long-lasting future.
Visit Simon Temple AME Zion Church website for more information on the church and homecoming celebration.