Civil rights icon Rev. Wendell P. C. Taylor inspired an architectural design for the upliftment of his Jackson community

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Founded in 1890, Central United Methodist Church is situated in the heart of the Farish Street Historic District, known as the Jackson’s Black Mecca during the civil rights era. Through the years, Central has been at the forefront of religious, social, and civic affairs. In the 1920’s, the church’s sports programs were widely known. During the Depression, the church’s food and clothing programs served many and continue to do so today. The church is located at 500 N. Farish Street. The vision of then pastor, Rev. Wendell P. C. Taylor led to the sanctuary’s architectural design by Godfrey, Bassett and Pitts to resemble an inverted Noah’s Ark, a safe haven for God’s children. Joe Collins, a member of Central at the time, served as contractor on the project. 

Rev. Taylor had a long history of community involvement and social and civic responsibility. He was a leader in the civil rights movement and he utilized Central United Methodist Church as a regular meeting place. He was the first president of the Mississippi Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was the leading force behind the action to restore Gulfside Methodist Assembly after Hurricane Camille and served as director during much of the rebuilding and repair. He served on the Gulfside Assembly Board of Directors for eight years. Taylor transitioned in 2006 at the age of 91.

The contributions of Central UMC are never ending. Among its many good works to improve the quality of life of inner city youth was giving birth to the Bethlehem Center, formally known as the William Johnson Center in March, 1937. In 1989, Central proclaimed that it was “Celebrating a Century of Methodism in Jackson.” In 1997, Central acquired the Marion-Jones Branch of the YWCA to use as its Family Life Center. Today it houses Central’s Scouting Ministry, Food and Clothing Distribution, and Summer Enrichment Programs. Central recently received a $200,000 restoration grant from The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund for needed improvements to the exterior of the building.

“Black churches have been at the forefront of meaningful democratic reform since this nation’s founding. They’re a living testament to the resilience of our ancestors in the face of unimaginably daunting challenges,” said Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., historian and advisor to the Action Fund. “The heart of our spiritual world is the Black church. These places of worship, these sacred cultural centers, must exist for future generations to understand who we were as a people.”

With over $95 million in funding, the Action Fund is the largest U.S. resource dedicated to preserving historic African American places. Since launching the Preserving Black Churches in 2022, the Action Fund has provided over $9.8 million in grants to over 80 historic churches. 

Republish This Story

Copy and Paste the below text.

Civil rights icon Rev. Wendell P. C. Taylor inspired an architectural design for the upliftment of his Jackson community

By Jackson Advocate News Service
February 26, 2024