Denver -- A Denver church with humble beginnings is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
Dr. Timothy Tyler, the pastor at Shorter Community AME Church, said that in addition to celebrating the past, and looking forward to the future, they are also reaching out to the Jewish community to offer encouragement, following a fatal attack on a Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Dr. Tyler said that community reached out to them following a racially motivated mass shooting at a sister AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
The Pastor of that church, South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, was Tyler’s friend.
He and 8 other people died when a white supremacist entered the church and opened fire.
“I thank God,” Tyler said. “Though this is a sad thing, I am grateful that on our 150th celebration, God will allow us to pay it forward, in terms of how we encourage our community, as our community encouraged us during that dark time.”
Shorter AME church was founded in 1868.
Tyler told Denver7 that two women, who were both named Mary, collected money from gamblers for the first building, which was built along the banks of the South Platte.
“I often tell people we are the descendants of gamblers and casino goers,” he said.
Over time, the church expanded, both in size of the congregation and in its mission.
Social Justice DNA
Tyler said Shorter Community AME has developed social justice in its DNA.
“We have an identity of defending the community,” he said, “of being the voice of the voiceless.”
The Denver church has been attacked in the past, with fire.
Parishioners believe the Ku Klux Klan was behind a blaze that gutted their building at 23rd and Cleveland Place, in April of 1925.
In 1963, several members traveled to Washington DC, to take part in the March on Washington.
“This church made it possible for Dr. Martin Luther King to make his first visit to Denver in 1964,” Dr. Tyler said.
The church has a long list of distinguished parishioners and former parishioners.
The late Madame CJ Walker attended the church.
“She married Mr. Walker here,” Pastor Tyler said, “the first black millionaire.”
He rattled off the names of Omar Blair, Rachel B. Noel, Elvin Caldwell and Don Cheadle.
The late Dr. Blair was the first African-American to serve as superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
The late Rachel B. Noel was an educator, civil rights leader and politician.
The late Elvin Caldwell was the first African-American elected to Denver City Council.
And Don Cheadle is actor, film producer, director and writer.
Dr. Blair’s widow, Jeweldine Blair, is still a parishioner at Shorter AME.
“I’ve seen lots of beautiful people come and go” she said.
Steve Shepard is also a parishioner.
He dressed up in a period costume for the 150th anniversary celebration last night.
"I learned that I had a talent I didn't realize I had, until I attended church here," he said, talking about an ability to sing.
While the church celebrates its 150th anniversary, one of its parishioners is getting ready to celebrate her 106th birthday, next month.
“I’m grateful for the legacy of the church,” the pastor said, “it’s greater than any personality.”