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The Daily Tar Heel

Church Blends Politics With Praise

Invoking a history of black struggle and achievement, Ben Ruffin, chairman of the UNC-system Board of Governors, delivered an anniversary message of "Good News from the 'Hood."

An enthusiastic audience of church members and visitors, including local and state public officials, received Ruffin's message, which was delivered in an atmosphere of jubilant choral and gospel music, prayer and invocation.

"Who would have thought that folks who made little money or no money could put their dimes together, and 136 years later we would have this good news from the 'hood?" Ruffin asked, referring to achievements of the church's founders.

Ruffin exhorted church members to continue the traditions of the founders and take the good news to the poor and homeless beyond the confines of St. Paul's AME. Ruffin also encouraged the congregation to take the spirit of St. Paul's AME to the ballot box Nov. 7.

"We must go back home and call 10 friends, and then they must call 10 more," Ruffin said, telling his listeners to spread the word of the importance of the upcoming elections to the black community.

Ruffin also urged his listeners to get behind the $3.1 billion higher education bond, which he said would support "five of the best historically black educational institutions in the world."

But politics were not the only things on the program at St. Paul's on Sunday.

Visitors entering the church found a table of photo albums and individual photographs showing off the church family. Also highlighted was one black-and-white photograph depicting some of the church's founders.

"Actually, we need a museum for our photographs," said Frances Hargraves, a lifetime church member of 86 years.

Hargraves and many others at St. Paul's AME are descendants of church founders and, for them, the history of the church is also family history.

"It really has remained a family church," said steward Velma Perry, also a lifetime member. "The grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren are still in the church and holding up the banner."

But the history and identity of St. Paul's AME takes time to understand, cautioned Angela Lee, co-chairwoman of the anniversary celebration.

"I think it's difficult to show what our church is in one service," she said. "However, what is apparent is that we have a nurturing, aware congregation with an active ministry that is in tune with current issues and concerns."

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