A History of Triad Native American Church

In 1989 I was asked to go to Southeastern Native American Summer Camp at Lake Junaluska.  At the camp I was to present a birthday gift to Rev Simeon Cummings of the Lumbee tribe. Rev. Cummings had been the first Executive Director of SEJANAM. I learned that he and Thomas Queen of the Cherokee tribe had worked together with the United Methodist Church to form SEJANAM. Rev. Cummings happened to be the uncle of Ruth Revels and I was to present the gift on her behalf. I would also meet the Rev. Robert Mangum who was the present Executive Director of SEJANAM and he and I would work together on projects in the UMC that was completely new to me.

Most of all I met Native Americans / Indians from all over the southeast. I heard hymns sung in five different languages. I experienced what it is like to be Native American and United Methodist and I realized that I would never look at denominational Christianity the same again. I would return to my home church Immanuel Baptist with a different perspective of what I wanted from of my home Church.  Rev. Mangum and Ruth Revels asked me if I would be interested in working with a group of people who wanted to start a Native American United Methodist Church in Greensboro, and I said yes.  Ruth & Lonnie Revels, Derek Lowry, Julius Locklear, Rev. Andrew Brown the District Superintendent, Rev. Chuck Wilson from WNCC, Sandra Hunt, Rev. Dr. Joseph Iron Eye Dudley, Thelma Huggins and several men from West Market Street UMC made up this committee. I learned from Rev. Bob Mangum that Thomas Queen had a dream for a Native American Church in Greensboro. We were told by the WNCC, that we should do a survey of un-churched Natives to see if they would attend a UMC. Sandra, Lonnie and I called a total of 40 families. We found that there were many un-churched families that really wanted a Native American Church.

SEJANAM had a board meeting in Greensboro and Rev Dudley and I interviewed the first candidate for pastor and he didn’t get the job. I had met Rev. Kenneth Locklear at Lumberton Hospital and at SEJANAM. His name was put forth and when he preached he got the job.

Rev. Locklear was a student at Duke Divinity. He and I met with a person in the city school system to see if we could use a school auditorium for our services. It was a hard meeting because a story had already been published in the Greensboro Record that stated we would be meeting at Ben L Smith School.  We assured the person that we didn’t know how that happened.  We were allowed to have services there for one month. Our first service was held on Easter Sunday 1993.

For three years I wrestled with leaving Immanuel Baptist Church. I assured the people there that I wasn’t going anywhere. Daniel my husband and Donna my daughter left Immanuel with no hesitation and God told me that he was the God of the UMC and the Baptist Church and I would go where He sent me. Donna would be our music director and Daniel and I would be Sunday school teachers.

Most of our meetings concerning the Church were held at Guilford Native American Center where Ruth Revels was Executive Director.   In a meeting at Rev. Locklear’s apartment Derek Lowery,  Pastor Ken and I  named the Church Triad Native American UMC, because people were coming from Winston Salem, High Point, and Greensboro thus Triad meaning three.

On the first Sunday, Rev. Joe Dudley preached on the Crucifixion and acted out the part of Christ carrying the cross. We took up an offering that met our goal for the whole year, there were 80 people present. Rev. Dudley preached for us until Rev. Locklear moved to Greensboro; he was our first full-time pastor.

We had to decide where we would hold our church meetings and Celia Phelps UMC offered their church, but there were some votes against us meeting there so we voted to have our services at a warehouse located behind Guilford Native American Association, (GNAA) offices. We also rented office space from GNAA.

We held our Founding Members Sunday Service and fifty people joined TNAM. During that time many grants were submitted to General Board of Global Ministries and Cynthia Kent GBGM Representative helped us secure monies for grants to serve our people.

We had a meeting with the Unitarian Universalism Church at 3010 Monterey Street and they invited us to worship in their building and they had a special place in their heart for us. Dirt on the property was dug and placed in plastic bags and given to members to fast and pray over.

We had to raise $75,000 and WNCC gave us $100,000. With much help from God we raised the remaining amount. The Unitarians wanted to sale us their Church. The value was $300,000 and they sold it to us for $250,000. For a period of time we worshiped, after they had their worship.

The Sunday the Church became ours we marched from the warehouse on Guilford Avenue to the Church at 3010 Monterey Street, a distance of about six miles. The Unitarians were beating drums of welcome when we arrived. What a wonderful place God had prepared for us. From the beginning we had more trained Laity than most Churches.  Celeste Handy, was a Triad member who worked with university students through InterVarsity Ministries in New Mexico. In 1996 and 1997, Daphine L. Strickland went on mission trips to Bolivia through Andean Rural Health. She received much help from SEJANAM and WNCC.

Rev. Locklear would stay with us for six years and then we got another student pastor, Rev. Herbert Lowry, who was attending Duke Divinity.  Donna Strickland Smith had been called into ministry and was a student at Duke also. Rev. Lowry was a wonderful pastor who helped us move into servant ministry like Habitat for Humanity, cooking meals at Urban Ministry and delivering food for Servant Center. Pastor Herbert stayed with us two years after finishing school.

Rev. Matthue B. Locklear would be our next pastor and he was also a student at Duke Divinity. His wife would be our music director and secretary. Pastor Matthue left us the month he graduated from Duke.

Rev. Delton Collins was appointed to us; he was ordained in the Assembly of God and was not ordained in the UMC, not that it mattered to Triad, but it did matter to him. Pastor Collins did not have much administrative skills, but he had lots of people skills. Within and outside of our District and with pastors of all denominations he worked hard and he had church folk working with him. We witnessed an example of his strength when an 18 month old Hispanic child died in the arms of the parents at Moses Cone Hospital. We cried and prayed with the family. Later in the week he went to their home and sat with them, even though he couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. He never left us to go back to the North Carolina Conference because God called him home December 7, 2007. It was a very sad time for us. We were in trouble financially before he came and during his time with us we had to stop paying our apportionments for the first time in the life of Triad Native American UMC.

We were appointed an interim Pastor Rev. George Coates from January 2008 to July 2008. We loved him and were sadden that the WNCC moved him. We loved him and our Church really didn’t need another change, but some in our church had asked for an Indian Pastor and the WNCC made sure we got one.

We were appointed a Pastor who had just graduated from Claremont School of Theology in California. Rev. Joel Garth Locklear came to us in July 2009.  He was very sick with diabetes and many other health issues. At that point and we had lost two pastors and it took the Church and Joel a long time to warm-up to one another. By the time we did we had lost many people to death and walking away.  We could not pay a full-time salary so he was appointed a two point charge.

Triad Native American Church was one of three Native Churches that opened in North Carolina in the 1990s. Two were started in the WNCC and one in the NC Conference, Triad Native American is alive and well today; the others are no more.

Pastor Joel was with us five years, there was much grumbling and the DS moved him to Bethlehem UMC Reidsville where they could pay him full time.

One good thing happened out of all of this, NCC no longer sends us pastors to train and then they take them back. Celeste Handy came back to North Carolina and is a student at Duke Divinity and she was appointed to a two point charge in the North Carolina Conference.

Today Rev. Stephanie B. Wilson is our pastor. Her appointment began in July 2014.  She has shaken things up and time will tell what kind of pastor she is.  She has a two-point charge in Triad and Vickery UMC. At Triad we are paying our apportionments. Most of all we are working on new ministries, rebuilding our church with prayer and fasting.