Junaluska's Impact on the Mennonite Church

Boone Mennonite Brethren Church Choir, Circa 1979

Choir members of Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, circa 1979. In the first row are: Louise H. Goins, Catherine H. Tester, Maria Wilson, Lynn J. Patterson, and Kelly White. In the second row are: Monia H. Williams, Tonia B. Coles, Sandra Hagler, and Theresa W. Horton.

Creator

Meals at Church, Circa 1979

Food being served and eaten in what appears to be the basement of the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, circa 1979.

Meals at Church, Circa 1979

Food being prepared in what appears to be the basement of the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, circa 1979.

The Boone Mennonite Brethren Church is one of only seven congregations with a majority of African American members and is cited as being the largest of these seven. The Boone church is noted as being different from other Mennonite churches, largely due to the cultural fusion that the African American members provide. The Boone church has adopted Black cultural traditions into the worship through music and interactive worship (call-and-response preaching). [1] The church has a gospel choir (the Junaluska Gospel Choir) that has a preference for gospel and contemporary worship music rather than Mennonite hymnals. [2

Some of the other differences between the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church and other Mennonite churches are noted in Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community (2020). Keefe references the ways that traditional Mennonite practices have been altered to fit the community: “Baptism is now done in an indoor baptismal pool rather than outside in a local river, and whereas food used to be prohibited in the church, dinners are now served regularly in the basement fellowship hall. [...] the fellowship hall began to serve as the only public gathering space for the community once its segregated school closed in 1965.” [3]

Church Community, Circa 1979

Church-goers stand together outside of the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, circa 1979. Identified are: Stephanie Hagler, Cecil Jackson Jr., Sharron Grimes, Cathy H.Tester, Micheal J. Jackson, Aaron Whittington, Theresa W. Horton, Sadie W. Pettiford, and Magnolia W. Grimes.

During World War II, the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church aided families of soldiers who were fighting. From the 1930s on, the church became the epicenter of Junaluska activity. It hosted church services, pageants, clubs, and choir practice. This reflects the overall sense of support that is a large part of Junaluska. Many accounts in Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community recall the ways that the community offered food and care for one another, such as Gene Ray stating, “No one in the community went hungry. If one family raised food and they knew that another family might need something, they would give them part of what they canned.” This is just another way that the church’s ideals and community practices are ingrained in one another. [4]

Residents of Junaluska have woven their culture into the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, and in turn, the church became the beating heart for the community. It acts as a place of worship, a community hub, and a support system. Junaluska has blurred the lines between the traditional Mennonite space of worship and that of a community center, creating an individualized space that better serves the community it rests in. [5]

Young Female Church Members, Circa 1979

A group of young girls stand at the front of the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, circa 1979. Identified are: Lori Y. Woods, Kelly White, Lena H. Cooper, Maria Wilson, Cathy H. Tester, Diandra J. Patterson, Tonia B. Coles, and Morris Hatton.

Doug Stewart at Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, Circa 1979

Doug Stewart stands at the front of the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, circa 1979.

[1] Ostwalt, C. (1994) African-Americans in North Carolina: A Symbiotic Relationship. https://boonembchurch.com/african-americans-in-north-carolina/

[2] Keefe, S. E. (Ed.). (2020). Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community. McFarland & Company, Inc.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.