Gregg Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized under the leadership of Reverend Davenport in Brooks Elementary School. After the church was fully organized, it was named Dallas Chapel in honor of Brother Dallas Yates. Board members were Brothers Yates, Newstell Dowdell, Buster David, Frank Carlisle, and Sisters Ruth Yates and Rosa Florence. The First and Third Sunday in each month were accepted as Pastoral Sundays. Sunday School was held each Sunday Morning in the School Building. Prayer meeting was held each Tuesday night. Reverend Davenport went to the Annual Conference in October 1950 and the Bishop sent Reverend A. Yates to pastor the church. Brother Dallas Yates felt himself unworthy for a church to be named after him. The late Bishop John A. Gregg had asked that the church be named for him. This is where the church name originated.
Rev. A. Yates and his wife, Ruby Yates, worked hard selling dinners, sandwiches, and pies on the street corners to put money in the church treasury. In June 1951, groundbreaking was held under a bush arbor where the church now stands. Reverend Anthony, the minister from First Baptist, preached the groundbreaking sermon. With the help of the members of his congregation, $400.00 was raised during this event. Peace Baptist Church had completed their building and Reverend Fitchew and his members opened their doors to us. We joined forces and had our service in their church on the Second and Fourth Sundays. Joint prayer meetings were held every Wednesday night.
After continuous work on the church and the blocks had been laid high enough to put the top on, the storm came and blew one side down. The members were saddened, but did not give up. The construction was completed under the leadership of Rev. A. Yates. Construction phases continued under the leadership of Rev. G. Bellamy and later under Rev. G. E. Dixon. Gregg Chapel was able to open its doors to Peace Baptist while they were under construction. In the fall of 1962, Reverend Dixon was moved to another church and Presiding Elder J. W. Walker pastored for approximately three months. The Bishop then assigned Reverend B. O. Cawthon to pastor the church. Under Reverend Cawthon’s leadership, the church purchased a duplicating machine, a cornerstone was laid, and bricking the outside was begun. In 1970, Reverend T. C. Cotton was assigned Pastor, and under his leadership the annex was started.
In 1975, the Bishop sent Reverend David Rivers to pastor. Hard work was done to complete the annex. Hurricane Eloise struck the area and destroyed the many years of accomplishments. During Reverend River’s administration the facility was rebuilt. In 1977, the Bishop assigned Reverend Theodore Andrews. During Reverend Andrew’s administration changes in the city’s building code rendered the sanctuary and educational annex dangerous, but with the cooperation of members, friends, the City of Fort Walton Beach, and HUD, both facilities were renovated. Renovation to the church was started in 1979 and on Sunday, April 13, 1980, Dedicatory Services were held. Reverend C. E. Jenkins, Presiding Elder of the Pensacola District, was the guest speaker. Also in attendance were Mayor Pro Tem Baughman and other City Officials of Fort Walton Beach. The church continued to grow under the leadership of Reverend Andrews and expanded its work through active participation in the Pensacola District as well as the West Florida Conference.
In 1983 Bishop Morris assigned the very energetic, lively, spirit-filled, Reverend James Williams, to pastor Gregg Chapel. Under his leadership the church continued to prosper spiritually and financially. A new church van was purchased and the church parking lot was constructed. In 1985, at the Annual Conference, Reverend Calvin Griffin, Sr, was assigned to pastor the church. He continued to inspire church growth. A new air- conditioning unit was installed in the Fellowship Hall and the church purchased lots 8, 9 and 10, Block 8, and the Oakridge Addition, 118 McGriff Street, Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
In the fall of 1989, Reverend Doctor I. E. Cotton was assigned to pastor Gregg Chapel. Long and short-term goals were established and plans implemented to increase membership by at least ten per cent per year through the year 2000 and liquidate Trustee indebtedness. Under Pastor Cotton’s leadership many ministries developed: Young Adult Sunday School Class, Young Adult Bible Study, Women and Men’s Fellowship, Hidden Places Drama Club, Youth Movement and Junior Church. Three Laymen were called to the ministry. They were Sister Claudia King, Brothers James Robbins, II and Cecil B. Williams. Phase I, of a renovation project that consisted of five two-bedroom apartment units was completed and Kiddie Café, a project to feed needy youth was established.
Reverend Lawrence E. Gantt, Sr. was assigned to Gregg Chapel in October, 1998. The church grew spiritually and financially under his leadership. Using his creative ideas and foresight, one of the storage rooms at the church was converted into an audio and video studio. Gregg Chapel’s apartments were renovated and are currently being rented. The house was also completely renovated and served as the parsonage for the pastor and his family for a couple of years. All of this was done through a grant received through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP). The twenty-year HUD Loan obtained to renovate the church in 1979 was paid in full March 1999. A mortgage burning service and dedication for the apartments and parsonage was conducted on June 6, 1999 led by Bishop Frank Curtis Cummings. Additional properties at 60 Mallard and 10 Nicholson, Fort Walton Beach, Florida were purchased for parsonage and rental use. Renovations and improvements in the sanctuary during Rev. Gantt’s tenure included replacing the ceiling, installing new stain glassed windows, updating the sound system, reupholstering the pews, and replacing the altar rail. The library was converted into an Information Technology Laboratory complete with eight (8) computers all connected to the internet. In 2007, the church purchased new computers for the Information Technology Laboratory, several hardware and software computer programs, and a Digital Full Color Multifunctional office copier. During his tenure, Children’s Church, Women’s Ministry, Easter Sunrise Service in the park, Church without Walls, Marriage Ministry, Seniors Ministry and Singles Ministry were established. The 50th Anniversary of Gregg Chapel was celebrated on the third Sunday in June 2001. In 2006 the church was blessed to begin an early morning worship service and a Television Broadcast.
The Rev. Cecil Williams was assigned to Gregg Chapel December 1, 2007. The church is “Continuously Pursuing Perfection for the Coming of Christ” through numerous active and on-going ministries. Gregg Chapel strives to focus on “Intentional Ministry” where the challenge is to bless God’s people. Under Pastor Williams’ administration, the New Member Orientation has been modified to adapt to the changing times. Monthly Love Service was instituted, which allows us to bless other churches. Gregg Chapel has acquired additional real estate, purchased two additional vans for transportation, installed monitors in the sanctuary, upgraded office computers and computers in the Technology Center. The church website is continuously updated. Third Chance, Inc., a not for profit corporation, was established for community and economic development and other charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes was organized under the laws of the State of Florida and filed on October 27, 2008. A Child Care Center was approved and licensed to open October 1, 2012. August 6, 2014, Gregg Chapel purchased the Chester Pruitt Center from the City of Fort Walton Beach. The historical building has been renamed “The Life Center.” Many renovations and upgrades, including the restrooms, have been done with many more upgrades planned. We give God all the glory and praise for this Zion, Gregg Chapel.
Gregg Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church
34 Carson Drive Southeast, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548, United States
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