Church Seeks to Open Nevada's First Black Cultural Center

A church has announced plans to convert its new Reno building into Nevada's first black cultural center.

A grand opening is expected in the fall for Reno's African-American Cultural Center in the new Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church building on Bell Street.

The plans were announced Thursday during the unveiling of the new building.

"I hope this center educates the community," the Rev. George Mayes, assistant pastor at Bethel A.M.E., told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "This has been a place of refuge for all people."

The 3,000-square-foot building also will be used for community meetings, plays, readings and recitals.

The new building replaces the old church, which was destroyed by
fire in 2004 and placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2001.

The Rev. Terry McCray-Hill, pastor at Bethel A.M.E. and executive director of the cultural center, said the church now is focusing on interior design.

"The stained glass windows will depict African-American culture and life," Hill said. "Through bricks and mortar and ash and burn, love can be generated."

Church member Shirley Trowell said she was impressed after touring the new building.

"It's just breathtaking," she said. "I'm so glad to be a part of this. They did a beautiful job."

Bethel A.M.E. opened at the Reno site in 1910 but the congregation moved to Sparks in 1993. The older church was sold to a non-profit group and served as a shelter for homeless veterans.

The church later bought the building back, and it was boarded shut in 2003 before the fire.

Rebuilding costs were estimated at $1.2 million. Fundraising efforts continue on behalf of the cultural center.
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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-15-08 1254EST


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