FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- An iconic Black church in Fayetteville makes a triumphant return to its historic building after being pushed out by Hurricane Florence. The congregation has been displaced from its church home for going on five years.
Evans Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church has been at the building since 1893, and its founding goes back even further to 1796, thanks to a free Black man named Henry Evans.
"He was concerned about those who were enslaved here and wanted to preach the gospel to them. And so he was deadset and committed to that task, even after being chased out of town about three times," said Nicholle Young an archive technician for Fayetteville State University and a member of the church.
But Evans pushed through, winning over the freed and the enslaved, as well as people of all races as he opened his church. Centuries later, Evans Metropolitan has made history for being the oldest church in Fayetteville and the birthplace of Fayetteville State University. All of that rich history almost got washed away when Hurricane Florence severely damaged the building in September 2018.
"The church was basically gutted," said the Rev. Selvyn Lindo. "Pews were gone. No carpet on the floor. No ceiling within the sanctuary itself. And to walk and see something like that, that's like taking something from someone that they've had for many years."
Lindo is optimistic his aging church members will come back stronger than ever.
"These people have been worshipping in this building for all those years, some of them birthed right here and to see that devastation in 2018, it has caused many to regress. Some are just too old to get out and to come out. But coming back to the church, I believe, they will find a way."
Evans Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church plans to reopen later this month.