100 Years of Love and Diversity – Riverside Avenue Christian Church – The Resident Community News Group, Inc.

Riverside Avenue Christian Church circa 1950

This year, Riverside Avenue Christian Church (RACC) celebrates a century of sharing love and respect for diversity.

Every Sunday morning, Reverend Erin Dicky offers a blessing with these words: “Go and remember that you are a beloved child of God. This attitude began with Dr. Charles W. Ross who founded the church in 1921 – in a tent – at the corner of Post and King streets.

In 1922, worshipers gathered in a bungalow, the first building on Riverside and Cherry Streets with 116 founding members. Historian Patricia Knowles, who grew up in the church and whose mother joined the church in 1934, can guide you through the history of the church that covers several walls of the century-old establishment that has influenced the community in the past and continues to shape the future.

Knowles' 40s
Knowles’ 40s

The 1942 wedding photo of Swan and Melvin Knowles, Patricia’s parents, is on display as part of the “A Decade at a Time” exhibition. By the time they were married, the number of congregation members had grown to nearly 600. In a display case near this photo is a silk banner made by the hands of the faithful as a tribute to the men and women who have served in the armed forces. There are other photos too – one of each pastor who has served over the years, notable Jacksonville founding families, newspaper articles, and other interesting artifacts and acknowledgments from the many organizations the church has worked with. has been associated over the past 10 decades. .

The inauguration of the current structure began on March 11, 1957, and the RACC exchanged shrines, parking lots, and other spaces with the Ahavath Chesed Jewish congregation on Riverside Avenue during each of the different construction phases of the two churches.

After some demolitions and reconstructions in the 1990s, the Charlie Bennett Playground was established and named in honor of longtime member of Congress Charles E. Bennett of the United States House of Representatives. Open to everyone in the neighborhood, the playground often serves as a catalyst for people to join the church community. This was especially the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, when residents would take their children to play and then stay for the outdoor sermon service.

In 2000, the church became a recognized, open and affirming ministry that welcomes everyone. They celebrate the love of God and the diversity of humanity. This inherited church promotes the teachings of Christ by “witnessing, loving and serving our gates to the ends of the earth,” as their website proclaims, repeating the biblical commandment of Acts 1: 8. It is RACC’s mission to let people know, “God loves you – no exceptions! “

RACC affiliations and outreach crosses all aspects of the community, including Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Downtown Ecumenical Service Council food collections, the Super Bowl of Caring, the Justice Coalition, the Stephen Ministry, enrichment for the children of West Riverside, the Children’s Art Center, missionary journeys. , the end of year celebrations and participation in the Gay Pride Parade. Janet Novick, administrator and director of children’s ministries, noted that the Keep Open Minds Book Club offers scripture-based dialogues on a variety of issues, including race, to “keep the conversation alive.” RACC continues to move forward and use its programs “to lighten somebody’s burden,” to be a place where everyone can feel safe, to celebrate God’s love and love. diversity of humanity.

Novick indicated that upcoming RACC events include a science festival on July 11 with fun family activities starting at 12:15 p.m. and the 100th anniversary celebration on November 14. The community is invited to join in the festivities. Former members or people with memories or photos can email them to [email protected] More information on upcoming centenary events is available at www.jaxdisciples.com.

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
News from the resident community

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