On Saturday, September 30, Good Shepherd celebrated its annual homecoming, a tradition since the founding of the Homework Center in 1995, by unveiling three historic markers that tell the story of both the chapel and the centers of learning that once graced our location in Eastside Tryon. Our priest, Reverend Aloha Smith, opened the program in the chapel with words of welcome and words for reflection that were echoed in Spanish by our priest associate, Reverend Tim Hoyt.
Our senior warden, Ben Ellington, as well as Dr. Warren Carson, the chairman of the Board of Deacons of our neighboring church, Garrison Chapel Baptist, and the orchestrator of the summer program RISE for children at Roseland Community Center, spoke of the importance of history, “History is a good thing, and we need to keep it intact and get it right, especially in these times. As I told my congregation last Sunday, ‘we need to tell it loudly and proudly, and everywhere we go.'” Myral Shields, whose mother began the Reading is Fundamental program for the children of Polk County, and who is a long-time congregant of Good Shepherd, delivered tributes to those who made a difference, using the refrain, “Good Shepherd exists because someone cared.” To show our congregation’s devotion to the community of Eastside, Ben Ellington gave Dr. Warren Carson a check from Good Shepherd Church to help further his work at the Roseland Community Center.
The remarks by members of Good Shepherd, and by our neighbors were punctuated with a recitation of Langston Hughes’s poem “I, Too,” by Ivan Williams, as well as by musical interludes: a solo performance of Deep River by Constance Green, formerly of the Metropolitan Opera; a performance of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Chile played by Reverend Aloha Smith and sung by soloist Sherami Harris, a frequent performer in the Upstate; and a gospel musical rendition of Hold On by some of the participants in Roseland’s summer program, accompanied by Bernard Brown and led by Latisha Miller. In addition, the program featured sing-alongs like Swing Low Sweet Chariot, to keep us mindful of those who built our pews and stained glass windows, and led our services and taught our classes, and served in any number of ways, but who are no longer with us, and also Wade in the Water, featuring Sherami Harris as the lead voice.
The program in the chapel was followed by the unveiling and blessing of the markers, by the opening of an art exhibit featuring work by Julia Booker Miller, a former congregant, and art teacher/artist whose work is in the collection of the New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art, and who has been featured in many exhibits in the New York/New Jersey area where she led much of her professional life before returning to her home of Tryon. Julia donated the funds that allowed Good Shepherd to obtain the three historic markers. Alongside Julia’s work, we featured art works and crafts from varied countries in Africa given to or purchased by various congregants, particularly works by Hammadi Ben Saad, arguably Tunisia’s most famous contemporary artists, and the subject of a 2023 documentary, and also works by contemporary Tunisian artists Souad Chehibi and Olfa Jegham. We felt including work by Tunisians in the Homework Center was warranted because it is Tunisia’s name during the Phoenician era – Ifrika – that gave its name to the entire continent of Africa.
The program concluded with a much-appreciated luncheon of barbecue and sides, and fellowship, all this coordinated by Nancy Pemberton and Carol Greata, who lead the Hospitality Committee that provides weekly Sunday lunches after our services.