By TIM KELLY
Tabernacle Baptist Church, one of the oldest congregations in Ocean City, will mark its “re-boot” Sunday with an old-fashioned outdoor tent service.
All community members and visitors are invited to the event, a joint service with neighboring Shiloh Baptist Church, to take place from 4 to 5 p.m. on the grounds of Tabernacle Baptist, 760 West Ave.
“We are calling this a service of encouragement, during these unusual times,” said Shari Thompson, one of the organizers.
“We invite all to come out and to be encouraged by all the wonderful things happening here,” she said. “You’re going to see our doors open here a lot in the future.”
First Baptist, one of South Jersey’s oldest African-American churches, had paused operations for a time “to re-organize its leadership,” according to Loretta Thompson-Harris, a local historian and congregant.
“We’re open under new leadership,” she said. “It’s exciting. Our family runs three generations deep in this church.”
Leadership isn’t the only thing that’s new. Tabernacle Baptist, the oldest surviving church structure in the city, sports a new coat of white paint, a complete interior renovation, a new HVAC system including central air, and other upgrades.
The building dates back to 1890. The cornerstone displays the year 1908, which actually marks the date the building was physically moved from Central Avenue and placed on its “new” foundation, now 112 years old.
With COVID-19 precautions in place, it was decided an outdoor tent service would serve as a reminder of Tabernacle Baptist’s great history, while still making every effort to keep attendees safe using social distancing techniques and encouraging masks to be worn.
“We hope to see many friends, old and new,” Harris said.