RELIGION
06/02/2014 11:10 am ET Updated Jun 02, 2014

100 Years Of Glorious History From The Hampton University Ministers' Conference (PHOTOS)

Hampton University's annual Ministers' Conference is one of the oldest gatherings of black clergy in America, and this year it celebrates 100 years of influencing the American spiritual landscape and social well-being with the theme, "Honoring Our Past, Anticipating Our Future."

The summer gathering has grown enormously since its inception in 1914, when just forty ministers attended. Last year, over 7,000 ministers from various backgrounds and Christian traditions gathered in fellowship for the week long conference.

The Reverend Debra Lynn Haggins, Hampton University Chaplain and the Ministers’ Conference Executive Director and Treasurer, commented, "In this centennial year, we stand at the foot of history and at the pinnacle of a promise given to a few local educators and clergymen. Their vision was to see an interdenominational model of cooperation. In this centennial year, the vision, the mission, and the objectives have not changed; for Hampton University, and its Ministers' Conference, the best is yet to come!"

To highlight its continuing impact, we are sharing fifteen historic moments from the Hampton University Ministers' conference's long history.

  • c/o Hampton University
    The Hampton University Ministers’ Conference began in 1914 when the Negro Organizational Society, the Conference for Education Board in the South, the Southern Education Board, and the Cooperative Education Board sought to address the growing concerns of the African American church and its relationship to the community. Its first home was on the campus’ chapel with only forty ministers from four different denominations. Shown is Hampton University’s chapel, also known as Memorial Church, in 1914.
  • c/o Hampton University
    In 1928, the conference celebrated fourteen years of having more than 800 ministers attend, who represented nineteen different denominations and twenty-three different states.
  • c/o Hampton University
    In 1934, the Annual Choir Directors’ and Organists’ Guild joined the annual conference following the successful visit by the Westminster Choir School the previous year.
  • c/o Hampton University
    In its early years, the conference faced some opposition from various groups that questioned its significance and the need for another gathering of ministers. There were already several Baptist meetings and conferences being held in Virginia. However, the conference continued to grow and the number of attendees forced the conference to move from the campus’ chapel, to Ogden Hall, to now the Convocation Center with nearly 10,000 attendees. This group shot was taken in 1936. The nondenominational conference is one of the oldest continuous gatherings of black clergy. Today, the Ministers’ Conference takes place at Hampton University’s Convocation Center.
  • c/o Hampton University
    In 1959, Dr. James R. Moore, minister of Amity Baptist Church in Jamaica, New York was re-elected president of the conference.
  • c/o Hampton University
    During the Civil Rights Movement, the conference’s president, the Reverend Thomas W. Logan, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in organizational and fundraising efforts in Philadelphia to support civil rights strategies.
  • c/o Hampton University
    In 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared words of hope and inspiration at the 48th Ministers’ Conference. This is the conference program in 1962 when he spoke.
  • c/o Hampton University
    Bishop Michael Battle, Sr. was inaugurated as the first black chaplain of the conference in 1976.
  • c/o Hampton University
    Dr. J. Jasper Freeman of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia was the first local pastor to speak in the history of the Ministers’ Conference.
  • c/o Hampton University
    Dr. Suzan Johnson-Cook (Dr. Sujay) was the first woman to be elected president of the Ministers’ Conference in 2002.
  • c/o Hampton University
    Bishop T.D. Jakes was a conference presenter in 2002, and he’ll again headline the conference for the 100th Anniversary in 2014. Here, he shakes hands with Hampton University’s President Dr. William R. Harvey.
  • c/o Greg Adams
    Coretta Scott King, popularly known as one of the first ladies of the Civil Rights Movement and wife to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the 89th Ministers’ Conference. "You have sent a clarion message that women do indeed have a leadership role to play in religious life.”
  • c/o Greg Adams
    It was a proud moment for the Ministers’ Conference to have then-senator Barack Obama share words that still carry strong in the conference’s legacy in 2007.
  • c/o Hampton University
    The Reverend Debra L. Haggins was named university chaplain and pastor of the historic Memorial Church at Hampton University in 2008, as well as the Ministers’ Conference’s Executive Director and Treasurer— the first female to hold this position in the history of the university and conference.
  • c/o Greg Adams
    Other notable figures that have participated in the conference include Bishop Vashti McKenzie, Dorothy Height, the Reverend Al Sharpton, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the Reverend Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, Carol Moseley Braun, Arne Duncan, and Kathleen Sebelius. Here ,Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie spoke at the 93rd Annual Ministers’ Conference.

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