After 12 years as a congregation and six years of accumulating a building fund, Mount Moriah Community African Methodist Episcopal Church broke ground for a sanctuary of its own Saturday morning.
Officially recognized as AME in 2007 under its founding pastor, the Rev. Sheriolyn Curry Lasley, the congregation has been meeting in the Maricopa Veterans Center since 2013 with the Rev. Arnold Jackson as pastor.
The opportunity to acquire a piece of land for a new church came about shortly after Mount Moriah started its building-fund campaign that same year. The property, however, appeared to be a weed patch in the middle of nowhere off Honeycutt Road.
Jackson first saw it in the pouring rain when Gunsmoke Road was pure mud and the lot was a lake. He was not impressed.
“You can’t tell me you like this,” he told real estate consultant Judy Berry that day.
“I love it,” she responded.
Berry saw the tedious purchase process ahead but saw all the benefits of the property given Mount Moriah’s financial situation. “The church had extremely limited funds and little if any credit.”
Jackson still wasn’t sold on the 1.25 acres at 19275 N. Gunsmoke Road tucked between the Arizona Storage Company and what is now the campus of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church. But the unexpected was in store.
“They wanted $5,000 down, and we had $3,000 in the building fund at that time,” Jackson said. “An individual was here, and he didn’t know this was going on … and he said, ‘I just got a big commission check, and the Lord has led me to tithe $5,000 to present to your church.’”
Mount Moriah leased to own until it was able to purchase the lot, which included a mobile home. The building fund eventually accumulated $370,000. The church brought in Gilliam Architecture and Schifferer Built to start planning construction. That’s all part of the official history.
But founding member Barbara Hatcher said there’s more to the story. “What’s not in the history is that Mount Moriah’s congregation marched around this land, from Gunsmoke to Santi to White and Parker to Honeycutt and back to this property, all the while offering prayers of hope, prayers of promise, prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of praise.”
The congregation adopted as its building theme Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Dean Schifferer of Schifferer Built said he would like to see the Mount Moriah congregation hold another service at the site in a couple of months when the first slab is poured for the new building.