It may have been Saturday evening, but the Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church was filled with people dressed in their Sunday best.
Leaders from the African Methodist Episcopal and local churchgoers alike gathered in at the Old Town church on Saturday for a banquet and mortgage-burning ceremony after a “guardian angel” gave the church a generous gift.
In May, an anonymous benefactor donated the Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Old Town Bluffton over half a million dollars, effectively paying off the mortgage of the church.
“This friend has given this church an opportunity to do something special,” said Charles Young, Sr., presiding elder at the church, in his speech at the banquet.
Church members cheered as AME leaders burned the mortgage document with a lighter.
“That magnanimous giver was a blessing to this church,” said Bishop Green Samuel Green, Sr., who traveled to Bluffton for the event, to clapping and shouts of “amen!” from the churchgoers.
The white-paneled church, which was dedicated in 2004, cost about $1.4 million to build.
Church administrators had hoped to pay the mortgage off by 2020. But after the anonymous donor wired the $511,386.99, the congregation will focus on other missions.
One of those goals: refurbishing the congregation’s historic chapel, which was built in 1853 and sold to freed slaves in the 1870s.
State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed along with eight parishioners at the the historic Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, once preached as the senior pastor at Campbell Chapel AME.
“We’re not only restoring the building,” said the Rev. Jon. R. Black, pastor of Campbell Chapel, in a video created for the event. “We’re restoring our culture, and we’re restoring our heritage.”