Part One: In the Beginning
by Rev. Wanda Floyd, Founding Pastor
In 1995/96, Rev. Wanda Floyd was attending a district conference. In the midst of the music and the people, she heard a voice say “Look at my people. Come Sunday, they will not have anywhere to go to church so they know I love them unconditionally. Your work is not done in NC.”
Earlier in the year, she had attended a weekend retreat at what was then Cathedral of Hope MCC in Texas. During that time, the leader of the small group ministry shared she was returning to the corporate world and if Rev. Floyd wanted the position it, she could have it. Rev. Floyd had created, designed and implemented the small group ministry at St. John’s MCC where she served on staff with Rev. Wayne Lindsay. Rev. Floyd said she would think about it. Upon her return to NC, she received a call from a staff person of COH asking her about the position. Rev. Floyd told him to send information about the position and she would consider it.
God had other plans. Upon returning back home to NC after district conference, she called the staff person at COH and told to decline the position. He shared that after their call, he put together the packet to send and forgot to put it in the mail.
Also, during this time, Rev. Floyd was having weekly meetings with Rev. Lindsay. She told him of her encounter with God and that she felt called to start a church in Durham, NC about 30-45 minutes from Raleigh, NC.
During the course of a year, Rev. Floyd had 3 people tell her it was time to have something in Durham, NC. The people had no connection to each other and had no clue they had all spoken to her. As a result, in the Spring of 1997, plans began to create an MCC in Durham, NC.
Rev. Floyd, the late Rev. Carlton Rutherford, and two other people began meeting and making plans for a MCC in Durham. Bank accounts were opened, non-profit status was done with the IRS, a location to meet was being researched, and the word began to spread about the church. Rev. Rutherford also suggested a name for the church – Imani – meaning FAITH and is the seventh Kwanzaa principle. Given that this was a true walk of faith, Imani MCC was established.
In the summer of 1997, it was decided the church would open its doors the third weekend of November 1997 – the weekend before Thanksgiving 1997. The night before, Rev. Floyd and several others met in the location of the church to pray and bless the space. Imani MCC’s first service was standing room only with 100+ people in attendance. For a new MCC, this was amazing.
Rev. Wanda Floyd served as pastor of Imani MCC from November 1997 until October 2007. The church moved rental location only once during that time. Rev. Floyd stepped down officially as pastor January 2008. She felt she had done all she could for the church. Her resignation letter referenced her as Moses and God was getting ready to bring in Joshua.
Part Two: The Wander Years 2008-2012
by Rev. Phil Mathews and Jules Taylor
Sometime during the last half of 2007, the late Rev. Elder Arlene Ackerman contacted Rev. Phil Mathews and asked if he would be interested in serving as Interim Pastor for Imani MCC. Although he had not served in such a position before, he had begun the training to do interim pastoral work. A phone interview with Imani’s board of directors and a visit to Imani to preach and meet with the leadership set in motion for Rev. Mathews to be hired as interim pastor. He assumed this role on July 1, 2008.
In June 2009, Pastor Phil and Imani’s leadership established working groups with the congregation. The working groups were Mission Statement, Ministry, Building/Facilities, Community Outreach, Inclusivity and Stewardship. One result of these groups’ effort is the following: “A church where, through faith, all can experience and express God’s irresistible love through worship, word, oneness, wonder and witness,” which became the basis of the church’s weekly closing benediction.
Imani had been officing at 1419-A Broad Street and worshipping at Calvary United Methodist Church at 3:45 pm each Sunday. The church also had a storage unity at Colonial Storage. At the end of 2009, Imani had negotiated getting office and storage space in Calvary UMC. By March 2010, the church was completely housed in Calvary UMC. At the same time, Rev. Phil’s contract as interim pastor was extended for another year.
In June 2010, six folks from Imani, and other churches in the area, joined a group from MCC-DC to participate in a weeklong mission trip. Each team member raised $2,000 in order make this trip. During this experience the team planned and conducted a three-day Summer Bible School for 110 ICM School in El Tamarindo, DR.
Late summer of this year the church began exploring a change in its worship time and space. After moving the office to Calvary UMC, the church determined that it would like to begin offering worship services at 10 am Sunday mornings. Following negotiations with Calvary’s leadership, Imani held its first morning worship service on November 21st in the chapel at Calvary UMC.
Finding a Home of Our Own
Because Imani MCC had established a relationship with Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship, which had purchased a building of their own in Winston-Salem, NC in 2008, Rev. Phil reached out to him to find out how they had searched for, and found, their property. Rev. Roger Hayes, their pastor, was very helpful in giving helpful pointers in this process.
In August of 2010, Alana Maffessanti and Jules Taylor made the Board of Directors aware of a church building and 1.4-acre tract of land that would be going to auction. Due diligence was conducted to determine the feasibility of purchasing and renovating this property to use as a new worship space. After much prayer and discussion, a decision was made to submit an offer to purchase the property located at 3602 C-View Street in Durham. On September 10th, the letter of intent to purchase the property for $40,000 was signed and submitted to Suntrust Bank. A negotiation process ensued, resulting in a final price of $42,000, and on October 14, 2010, Imani MCC became the owner of the current worship location.
Throughout the remainder of 2010 and into early 2011, plans were developed, bids were received, and demolition of the space began. The permitting and construction process continued throughout the rest of 2011, including adding piers and reconstructing a new foundation for the building. Walls were framed, roof trusses were set, windows were replaced, and shingles and siding were installed. As we moved into 2012, paint, carpet and lighting allowed us to fully see the realization of a dream that began more than a decade prior. In September, Rev. Phil signed the contract to serve as Imani MCC’s second pastor.
During the time of completing the rehab of the C-View property, someone in the congregation saw an ad where a large Baptist church in Raleigh was giving away meeting chairs. Rev. Phil and a group of members went with trucks and did what we chose to call “dumpster dove for Jesus” to acquire the chairs you’re now sitting on!
The last worship service at CUMC was a joint worship service on March 4th at 11 am. The first worship service on C-View Street was the following Sunday.
A weekend of Church Dedication was held April 26-29, 2012. The invitation is below.
In August of 2012 Rev. Phil made the board aware of his intention to resign at the end of the year.
Part Three: This Far by Faith
by Pastor Marilyn Bowens
Pastor Marilyn attended the second worship service held at Imani. It was the fourth Sunday in November 1997. Imani was the first church she joined after a period of several years away from church. Her path eventually led her away, and she understands the Divine “why” of it all. She had places to go, experiences to have and things to learn before that day at the end of 2012, when she was, literally, awakened by the Lord telling her to “Call Lillie Brock.” Lillie Brock was the Elder that Pastor Marilyn been instructed to call about being placed in a new pastorate after her work at MCC-New Haven was done. Pastor Marilyn didn’t know Elder Brock, and she had been putting off calling her. But that morning she knew it was time.
Rev. Elder Brock was shocked to receive her call right then, and she shocked Pastor Marilyn by telling her that she (Elder Brock) had just been informed that Imani MCC’s pulpit would be vacant in a very short time. Returning to NC was Pastor Marilyn’s first choice over anywhere else she might have gone. Rev. Elder Brock arranged the introduction to Imani’s leadership and Pastor Marilyn was invited to spend a weekend, talking and preaching, as they all were discerning whether she was to be Imani’s next pastor.
It turned out that she was. She came to Imani as a provisional pastor in March of 2013 and was installed as its third pastor in November of that year. She has said that the mix of joys and challenges; advances and setbacks; the changing seasons that comprise our journey together leave nothing lacking in her vocational fulfillment.
Pastor Marilyn believes that Imani’s defining experience during her pastoral tenure, so far, is underway as we speak. She states, “The experience of the pandemic, with the closure of our church for over two years, has impacted us in ways that have yet to fully reveal themselves. What we know, at this point, is that God is doing a new thing, here at Imani. And, as always, since God called this church into existence, God has a remnant in place who are able to perceive it.
Under Pastor Marilyn’s leadership, Imani has adopted a wholistic model of being the church, built on the pillars of worship, self-care, and community service. We may not know all that is to be manifested here as this new thing evolves. But we absolutely and completely trust our future to the One who has brought us this far, by faith!