Kadesh Church on the Road to Restoration | Local


It is a miracle that has been brewing for almost 20 years.

The NC General Assembly recently allocated $ 2 million for the restoration and renovation of the historic Kadesh AME Zion Church in Edenton.

On November 21, State Representative Ed Goodwin (R-Chowan) and members of the Kadesh Restoration Committee of the Edenton Historical Commission (EHC) announced funding for the Kadesh congregation.

Stopping at the Kadesh congregation’s temporary worship center on Badham Road in Edenton, Representative Goodwin and others appeared at the end of the worship service with the revelation.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room for sure,” said Rep. Goodwin. “The look at their [congregation’s] faces was great.

Severely damaged in Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the church on East Gale Street has been the subject of numerous fundraisers, grant applications and donations over the past 20 years.

Built in 1897, the construction of Kadesh fell under the responsibility of Hannibal Badham Jr., who was a member of the famous Badham family of African-American carpenters from Edenton.

“East Gale Street is a testament to the work of the Badham family, including Kadesh,” said Grace Bean, member of the catering committee.

History is behind Bean’s statements as well, with the area around Kadesh once a thriving African-American corridor in Edenton.

Today the church exists in an economic empowerment zone designated by the city. Investments are being made throughout the neighborhood, with Kadesh at the center of it all.

Architecturally, the church itself is a vivid example of the Victorian adaptation of the Gothic Revival style, according to an analysis by late local historian Thomas Butchko.

At one point, before Isabel knocked, if anyone walked through the gates of Kadesh, they would be greeted by two towering Victorian chandeliers, magnificent Tiffany stained glass windows, Gothic arches, and a shrine pristine enough to hold 400.

The name “Kadesh” is unique among the entire African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination of Zion and is taken directly from the Hebrew Bible. Kadesh was the name of the oasis in the desert where the Israelites encamped during their Odyssey from Egypt to Canaan.

The Israelites had recently been released from bondage, which felt real to the newly liberated African-American congregation in Edenton. The congregation was formed in 1866, a first for African Americans in the city.

Long-time member of the Kadesh congregation Sadie Riddick is on the catering committee. She reflected on the moment she heard the news for the first time.

“I was shocked when I first saw [the funding]Riddick said. “I couldn’t believe it. My glasses fogged up. I called Grace.” [Bean] and she said ‘yes Sadie, that’s right!’ “

Riddick has been a member of Kadesh for 70 years.

“Kadesh has always been my heart. I have always loved singing in the choir since I was little. I wouldn’t give up my church for the world. There is so much love and compassion here, ”said Riddick.

Audrey Bond would agree. Bond is also a life member of Kadesh and the committee. She has since retired to Florida, but still remains active in restoration efforts.

“I’m glad help has arrived,” Bond said. “My great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother were all members and I have always been a member. This has been a mainstay in the community and is expected to return.

Bond says she intends to return to Edenton to celebrate the restoration of Kadesh.

Since Isabel, the congregation – numbering around 100 in 2016 – has taken up temporary residence on Badham Road. Yet their spiritual home remains on East Gale Street.

Preliminary plans envision Kadesh as a community, educational and cultural center that would rival some of the largest gathering spaces in Chowan County.

Sambo Dixon, a member of both the EHC and the Restoration Committee, was with Representative Goodwin when the news was shared with the congregation. Since then, he has barely been able to contain his enthusiasm for the project and its implications for the community of Edenton.

“Kadesh church matters to Edenton. In some ways, the fate of this historic structure is a symbol of the resilience and determination of the African American people and their ability to design and construct a building that is both enormous and classically beautiful, ”said Dixon.

Dixon continued, “The current campaign to save Kadesh by a diverse and broad cross section of the community is a symbol that in a divided America, people can still come together to do what is important, right, meaningful and lasting.”

In 2017, Kadesh received a grant of $ 250,000 from the National Sacred Places Fund to be devoted to restoration.

Dixon worked alongside fellow lawyer John Morehead to apply for the Sacred Places grant, which helped eventually fund the General Assembly.

“John has done so much to help with this project, including working many hours on the case brief and other fundraising materials,” Dixon said.

Representative Goodwin lobbied for funding for the General Assembly, which said it was the easiest push he has ever had in the legislature.

“I explained it to everyone, we had lawmakers and research assistants curious enough to come and review it,” said Representative Goodwin. “They helped come up with the $ 2 million figure. The figure I requested was lower than that. So we got more than we hoped for.

Representative Goodwin said he took over the funding proposed by the credit committee.

“I have answered all the questions everyone has on this subject,” said Representative Goodwin. “I was proud to represent the Legislature and the City of Edenton and to help this congregation. “

According to Representative Goodwin, the catering committee will begin to see new funding around March or April.

Members of the Kadesh Restoration Committee, as provided by EHC, are: Adrian Backus, Kaye Barker, Grace Bean, Audrey Bond, Reverend Haywood Dillahunt, Reverend Jay McNair, Sambo Dixon, Barbara Drew, Willy Drew, Sally Francis Kehayes, Anne-Marie Knighton, Elder Fondella Leigh, Cy Rich, Sadie Riddick, Dr Ben Speller, Vonna O’Neill, Teresa Leary, Emma and Chris O’Neill and Roger Coleman.

“We are grateful for every contribution to this effort … combined with this exceptional ownership of the North Carolina Legislature introduced by Representative Goodwin,” said Grace Bean. “It is an absolute privilege to work with the committee and the congregation to preserve the history that is so important to our community. “

Edenton City Manager Corey Gooden is excited about the funding and what it means for the city going forward.

“For over 120 years, Kadesh has been at the center of Edenton’s African American community and will finally return to its former glory,” said Gooden.

“Our church in Kadesh has always been an oasis,” said Sambo Dixon. “One of the first places in Edenton where African Americans could go to school safely, a place of tolerance and a place of love and respect. Kadesh should inspire us all to continue to look to our community for innovative projects that can make life in Edenton better for everyone.

Considering taking that first step into a restored Kadesh, recalling her time as a girl there, Sadie Riddick is hopeful.

“I pray that I will live long enough to see these doors open again,” she said. “I know I’m going.”

Thadd White is editor-in-chief of Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]


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