NASHVILLE, TN — Storytelling, in all its forms, is a hallmark of the African continent and diaspora. From griots and folk-tellers to poets and singers, the crafting and sharing of a story is part-and-parcel with the rich heritage of Blackness. This could not be more evident than in the crafting and execution of the new Publishing House of the African Methodist Episcopal Church which is slated to be dedicated this month in Nashville, Tennessee. The AME Publishing House (Sunday School Union) has been a leading force in sharing liberative stories and religious publications since the late-nineteenth century, one of the earliest institutions of its kind. This new accomplishment, constructed under the leadership of The Reverend Dr. Roderick D. Belin, president/publisher of the Publishing House, serves as a continuation of a legacy of “telling the story,” both in Nashville and beyond.
The AME Publishing House, now located at 900 13th Avenue South, boasts an extraordinary build – impressive both in terms of its stature and its design. The edifice stands at 38,000 square feet, including three stories of active working space for both the denomination and the community. From one’s entrance into the building by way of a picturesque two-story lobby, it is clear that only the finest materials and designs have been used in the structure, inclusive of even the smallest of details.
In addition to the construction of the building itself, the Publishing House features a curated collection of artistic expressions, accentuating its capacity of storytelling across borders. Various gallery spaces in the building feature artwork from Memphis-based visual artist and dedicated AME church member Terry Lynn, which will be part of the permanent art collection of the Publishing House. The space also features a series of quilts in the two-story lobby from fiber artist Dr. Judi Wortham, and a prominent portion of the exterior façade will showcase the work of Brandon “BMike” Odums, a New Orleans-based muralist. All aspects of the building have been designed through the guidance of Rev. Dr. Roderick D. Belin, known also in the city of Nashville for his similar leadership of the construction of a new edifice for Lee Chapel AME Church in 2015.
Serving both the connectional AME Church and the Nashville community, the new Publishing House is designed to be a combination of working office and gathering spaces, an impressive triumph fit for the evolving city. The Publishing House will remain as the publishing operation hub for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and it will house eight other departments for the denomination, including the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, Department of Research and Scholarship, The Christian Recorder – the oldest continuous periodical by persons of African descent in the country, departments of Church Growth and Development, Retirement Services, and Global Witness and Ministry, and it will house the resident Bishop and headquarters for the 13th Episcopal District. Each of these AME departments will be housed in individual office suites, and will benefit from shared and collaborative spaces such as high-tech conference rooms and a shared printing/copying center.
The broader Nashville community is also poised to benefit from the Publishing House and its new building. In addition to the offices and departments, the structure features spaces that the public are invited to enjoy and engage. “The Publishing House is poised to ‘minister’ with the community,” Publisher Belin states, “and thereby, work to establish genuine relationships with those who live in and who care for the community.” A permanent art collection will be on display in the building, and many works will be showcased in a dedicated gallery space on the first floor for persons to engage on a rotating basis. The lobby is designed to be a multi-functional space that is equipped to hold chapel services, chamber concerts, literary readings, community meetings, lectures, and even theatrical productions. When this space is not reserved, the lobby will remain open as a community reading room, fit with seating, ample outlets and charging devices, and Wi-Fi for those in the community to enjoy. The third floor of the building also offers a banquet space, designed for community receptions, galas, and celebrations – inclusive of a private balcony space that overlooks the sights of Nashville.
African Methodists will gather the weekend of May 20-22, 2022 for dedicatory services for the new Publishing House, which the Nashville community is invited to also share in celebration. A Service of Thanksgiving will be held on Friday, May 20, at 7:00 pm at Greater Bethel AME Church, 1300 South Street, featuring the preaching of Bishop David R. Daniels and musical selections from the First AME Church-Bethel Choir, Harlem, New York. The Building Dedication will be held Saturday, May 21, at 11:00 am at the site of the Publishing House, 900 13th Avenue South, followed by tours of the building for the community. And AME Church School, an internationally-broadcast weekly gathering, will be held live on Sunday, May 22, beginning at 7:30 am, and will feature a lesson from Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie in the lobby of the Publishing House.
For an evolving city, and for an evolving church, the AME Publishing House stands as a signal to what the future portends. The mission of the Publishing House is “to produce high-quality resources to empower Christian believers to spread Jesus Christ’s liberating Gospel, pursue justice, and enhance the social development of all people.” And for both Nashville and beyond, this new edifice marks a significant milestone in this mission and in this city.