Williams Memorial C.M.E. Church (Originally named St. Matthews C.M.E. Church) had its humble beginning in 1926 at the home of Mr. Willie and Mrs. Hattie Boulware under the leadership of Rev. Leland and Presiding Elder W. D. Miller. A few people who had moved to this area were led to begin a church when they could not find a familiar religious tradition in the area. On that day about eight persons met to discuss the organization of a new C.M.E. Church. The charter members of the new congregation were Mr. and Mrs. Boss Love, Mr. Willie Boulware, Mr. Judge Gainer, Mr. Fred Sawyer, Mrs. Geneva Love Spencer and the Brandon family.
In order to have a place to worship, the newly formed congregation rented a building on Moon Street and worshiped there for approximately 5 years. In 1930, under the direction of Rev. Leland, the members purchased a lot on the corner of Leonard and Hay Streets and erected a building that had the architectural design of “sway back”. The only way one could tell that it was a church was that it had a sign on the front. The church was nicknamed in the community as “The Old Field Church”. The mortgage for that building was paid off and burned around 1938.
The membership continued to increase, and there was a need to expand the building to accommodate this growth. In 1944, under the leadership of Rev. H.C. Wright, a church building was erected that replaced the old structure. There are “fond memories” of the pews, which were made of two slats for the back and one wide slat for the seat. The church was heated by an old pot bellied stove that used wood and coal, and of course there was no air conditioning. There were no restroom facilities at that time, and the members had to go to the parsonage, which was directly in the rear of the church. This frame structure did have a steeple and through a donation from Brother Boss Love, a bell was placed in the steeple. The bell was used to signal the time for the Sunday school, worship service and funerals. This bell now sits on the front lawn of the present church structure.
Many changes were made to the 1944 structure. Under the pastorate of Rev. G. F. Judd, new pews, carpet and a furnace were purchased. In 1960, under the leadership of Rev. W. N. Williams the old parsonage was torn down and on that site was built an educational building, which also included a kitchen and dining facilities. Rev. Williams, who had expertise in the construction business, built the educational building with the help of some of his members. During construction a fire destroyed a part of the building, but this did not discourage the workers. They kept on working until the structure was completed. Not only was a new educational facility erected, but the sanctuary was expanded and bricked in as well. In 1992, under the leadership of Rev. Robert J. Williams, Jr., the old sanctuary was torn down and a new 300-seat sanctuary and administrative wing were constructed.
One of the important missions of the church is that of serving the community. Service to our fellowman is one criterion on which man will be judged. Many pastors have been assigned during the life of this church, and each has contributed something unique further development of the congregation and our ministries. The pastors who have led this church are as follows: Rev. Leland, Rev. J. F. Meredith, Rev. W. A. Walker, Rev. C. Sinclair, Rev. J. A. Joyner, Rev. H. C. Wright, Rev. Judd, Rev. W. P. Williams, Rev. M. D. Clark, Rev. C. E. Carr, Rev. W. N. Williams (twice), Rev. H. C. Wilkes, Rev. James Ledbetter, Rev. R. L. Brown, and our present Pastor, Rev. Robert J. Williams. This legacy of leadership was acknowledged when the first name of the church changed in 1970 under the leadership of Rev. James Ledbetter. The name was changed from St. Matthews to Williams Memorial C.M.E. Church in memory of Rev. W. N. Williams because of his leadership and his love for this congregation.
God led our current leader and visionary, Rev. Robert J. Williams, Jr. to Williams Memorial in July 1977. Pastor Williams believes his purpose for coming to Williams Memorial was to teach the congregation how to love and be loved. With this purpose in the forefront, we have seen tremendous growth to over 1000 members, and we continue to grow. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit has been evident as we see lives changed and new converts.
As we continued to experience our tremendous growth, Rev. Williams received a God-given vision to construct a new edifice which would expand our resources to serve our community. In alignment with this vision, our congregation wrote a vision to revive and expand our ministries and to embark on the building of a “Cathedral”. In 1998, 22 acres of land were purchased at 3400 Triangle Lake Road for that purpose, and the construction of the New Cathedral was completed in November 2004. This edifice features a 1000+ seat sanctuary with the ability to be expanded to seat 1500+ in future construction phases, state of the art audio/visual equipment, 16 large classrooms, a 500+ capacity fellowship hall featuring a stage and a professionally equipped kitchen facility, a very resourceful library and media room, a computer lab, a first aid room, and facilities for a future nursery. Our last service at 1309 Leonard Street, High Point was on Sunday, November 28, 2004 and on the same day we processed over to our first service in the Cathedral. Our Grand Opening Consecraton and Dedication Services were held on December 19, 2004, at 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. The theme was “Celebrating the Vision”. Oh the joy that filled the souls of Pastor Robert Williams and our church family.
As we continue to carry out the vision given to our pastor, we are continuing in the process of expanding our facilities and our ministries. We have also recently purchased the Old Brentwood elementary school in September 2007 and are in planning phases of converting this to a community center featuring a dance studio, computer lab, non-profit & small business incubator, banquet facility, and additional office space. In addition, we continue to plan and raise funds for the second phase of the cathedral project, which will include a family life center, education building, and an amphitheater.
The expansion of our facilities and ministries has led to a new focus shift in which all members are encouraged to understand his or her spiritual gifts, personality style, abilities, passions, and experience (PLACE) and to use this knowledge to get involved in an appropriate ministry. We are aware that the body of Christ can only function effectively when all members are using their God- given gifts towards the building of God’s kingdom. We pray that God continues to bless this congregation as we continue to be obedient to His Word and fulfill His vision for our congregation and surrounding community. We thank God for this church and for the founding fathers who allowed God to use them. We thank God for His love and presence as we embark on another 80+ years of ministry. We will continue to praise His Name!
Robert J. Williams, Jr., since has been the presiding pastor of Williams Memorial CME Church since July 1977. Come meet him.