Wicomico County’s Seventh Tabernacle

Seventh Tabernacle Salisbury signSalisbury and Glass Hill, Maryland, share a little-known religious history — that of the Seventh Tabernacle of the Church of God and Saints of Christ, founded in the area near Parsonsburg known as Glass Hill.

I took this photo a couple of years ago of the Seventh Tabernacle’s church in Salisbury, so I do not know if the congregation is still active.  But I do remember first learning about this church, or tabernacle, a couple of decades ago.

The history of Salisbury’s Seventh Tabernacle began with John Elzey Parker who came to the area near Parsonsburg in 1921 to visit his sister, Jennie Parker.  Traveling to Belleville, Virginia, Parker requested and was granted permission to establish the tabernacle in Parsonsburg.  According to church history, first services were held homes in the Glass Hill area near Parsonsburg, but also at the old one-room schoolhouse available for their use.  That schoolhouse no longer exists at the site but was moved to Pittsville.

The congregation moved their church services to Salisbury, first to space rented on West Road, but then to Seminole Blvd.  The property was purchased and the mortgage burning ceremony was held in 1995.  I had been told that there was some church and family connection to Maulana Karenge, the well-known founder of Kwanzaa who was known as Ronald Everett when he grew up in Wicomico County.  I have never asked but often wondered if and how the Seventh Tabernacle might have influenced Karenge.

Wikipedia describes the Church of God and Saints of Christ.  The following is excerpts from Wikipedia; visit that website for a more expanded description:

The Church of God and Saints of Christ is a Hebrew Israelite religious group established in Lawrence, Kansas, by William Saunders Crowdy in 1896.  William Crowdy began congregations in several cities in the Midwestern ad Eastern United States, and sent an emissary to organize locations in at least six African countries.  The congregation later established locations in Cuba and West Indies.

The Church of God and Saints of Christ describes itself as “the oldest African-American congregation in the United States that adheres to the tenets of Judaism.

The group established its headquarters in Philadelphia in 1899, and William S. Crowdy later relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1903.  In 1906, Crowdy named Joseph Wesley Crowdy, William Henry Plummer and Calvin Samuel Skinner as leaders of the congregation.  In 1921, William Henry Plummer moved the organization’s headquarters to its permanent location in Belleville (City of Suffolk), Virginia, which was purchased by William S. Crowdy in 1903 as the intended headquarters for the organization.

Since 2001, the Church of God and Saints of Christ has been led by Rabbi Jehu A. Crowdy, Jr., a great-grandson of William Saunders Crowdy.

Below is a roughly two-year old photo of the church on Seminole Blvd. in Salisbury and an old photograph of the one-room schoolhouse when it was located at Glass Hill.

–Linda Duyer


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