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Film to preserve history

Annie and Calvin Johnson speak of their memories at Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church while Marsha Millsaps documents the interview. Millsaps is making a documentary of the church. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo

The sagging ceilings and weathered walls of Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church hold many memories for Marsha Millsaps.
The Lincolnton native was baptized and married in the local church that is now headed for demolition. She reviews video tapes of family events held in the church’s sanctuary and basement — her sister’s wedding, parents’ anniversary.
She finds the prospect of losing the building disheartening.
“I really love the church. It was really such a big part of my history,” she says.
Millsaps doesn’t plan on losing this piece of family heritage. She is in the beginning stages of preserving the building’s history in a documentary.
The amateur filmmaker is conducting interviews with church members and historians, including Leroy Magness and her mother, Annie Johnson. Due to an aging congregation, Millsaps thinks the road ahead may be tough.
“There’s not a lot of people to get that knowledge from now,” she says.
With help from members of the congregation and the public, she hopes to record memories of family events and milestones in the church’s history. Millsaps is also seeking old photographs, newspaper clippings and documentation of life events.
She feels her film will provide a service to the church and community.
“People need something to remember the past,” she says.
Annie Johnson’s living room displays the importance of Moore’s Chapel in her life. Pictures on the mantel and walls show her children’s marriages with the church providing the backdrop. Plaques from her church family recognizing her for her dedication are nailed to the wall.
Her 25th anniversary photo sits on a table with the tattered basement walls of Moore’s Chapel showing. Neither Johnson nor Millsaps even remember the structural problems when reflecting on that day, approximately two years ago.
But both remember when the doors to the church closed, and the congregation had to be relocated to Oaklawn Center.
Johnson recalls participating in a yard sale about a year ago. Stepping foot into the church she once embraced was now frightening. Members of the congregation were told the building was unsafe.
“I went in the sanctuary, but I stayed close to the door because I didn’t want anything to happen,” she says.
Millsaps’ project has just begun. When the film is complete, she hopes to share it with the public.
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To provide materials for the documentary, call Marsha Millsaps at 704-527-1500 or 704-724-5474.by Diane Turbyfill

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