In the Beginning
Adversity and struggle have marked the history of Reid Temple since its inception over a century ago. The church’s origins can be traced to the former Bladensburg (Maryland) Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest Methodist churches in America. This church, located on Water Street location just north of the Peace Cross, a local monument to World War I soldiers, was ahead of its time in that its white congregants allowed black worshippers to participate with them in worship services from the church balcony. This practice was in bold defiance of the state’s prevailing segregationist laws. As the number of black worshipers grew, the white members felt the need to move to a larger facility, which they did in 1900. The African American members opted to remain and establish a separate congregation. They pooled their resources and purchased the church building for five hundred dollars. They rededicated the church, naming it Dent Chapel after its first pastor, Reverend Abraham Dent, who served there for 15 years until he was reassigned to another church.
The new church persevered, largely due to the faith and effort of a small band of dedicated members, including Reverend Henry Fleming and his wife Edna, Walter and Gertrude Fleming, Gladys Jefferson, Eloise Chase, Elizabeth Day, Viola Green, Frances Green, Helen Chase, and Carrie Smith Jewell. However, it was a church without a full-time minister from 1915 until 1922, when Reverend Edward Waters was assigned by the A.M.E. Church to take its helm. Waters and his congregation suffered many hardships, including repeated flooding of the chapel building and the threat of condemnation of the deteriorating structure by the town council. Still, the tiny congregation persisted, refurbishing the church in the early 1900s. They established several committees and organizations through the church and were active participants in the life and growth of the African American community in Bladensburg.
Other A.M.E. congregations supported the efforts of Dent Chapel by donating chairs, Bibles, and hymnals to replace those destroyed by the floodwaters. From the proceeds of a concert sponsored in conjunction with the choirs of neighboring Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church, the church purchased its first altar Bible, which it used in its services for many years.
Struggles and Triumph
After a devastating flood washed away an entire side of the church’s foundation, the dutiful members of Dent Chapel struggled to prevent the forces of nature from destroying their place of worship. In the face of misfortune, a new dream surfaced: they would relocate and build anew. The congregation sold its Bladensburg parsonage and property for $20,000, and bought some land on Michigan Avenue in northeast Washington, D.C., for $12,000. Its sister A.M.E. churches in the District, Embry and St. Paul, provided the new residents with worship space until the new Dent Chapel sanctuary could be completed.
Upon observing the faith and determination of the members of Dent Chapel as they struggled to put down roots in their new location, Bishop Frank Reid, Sr., the presiding Bishop of the A.M.E. Church’s Seventh Episcopal District, offered his assistance and secured architects, construction companies, and other builders, plumbers, electricians, and contractors to assist with the building project. The members were so appreciative of his support that they decided to name their new church, located at 1335 Michigan Avenue, NE, in his honor.
In 1963, Reverend Kenneth White was named the church’s first pastor, and on October 4, 1964, Reid Temple opened its doors for its first worship service. Among the happiest of all the worshippers were the few remaining elders of Dent Chapel. For them, the day was a joyous reward after so many years of struggle.
The fledgling Reid Temple, with its small but spirited congregation, faced a number of earthly challenges. Among these were frequent leadership changes and lapses: Reverend White was reassigned after just three years, followed three years later by Reverend Leon G. Lipscombe in 1966. Reverend Edgar L. James succeeded Reverend Lipscombe in 1970. He was followed for a brief time by Reverend Napoleon Hines, who continued the work of expanding the church and laying plans for the future.
Throughout these difficult early years, the members of Reid Temple worked hard to “grow their church” in its new environment, adding several new ministries and activities. Through successful membership and fundraising drives, they were able to pay off the second mortgage on the church building and retire all of the church’s other outstanding indebtedness. Along the way, they purchased new heating and air conditioning units for the church, along with a new roof, new carpeting, many other physical improvements, and an organ.
The church’s mortgage was completely retired during the pastorship of Reverend Kearney Watson, who came to Reid Temple in 1974. His successor was Reverend Charles Bourne, whose tenure at Reid spurred the growth of its building fund and exploration of the idea of building a much-needed annex to the Washington, D.C., sanctuary.
To accommodate the church’s steadily growing membership and programs, Bourne’s successor, Reverend Willis Wilson, oversaw the completion of architectural drawings for the proposed annex, the groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of construction, and the construction of the annex’s outer shell. Under Reverend Dr. Lee P. Washington, Reid Temple’s present Senior Pastor, who was assigned to Reid Temple in 1982, that long-awaited structure was completed. It was named the Wallace-Smith Annex in honor of two stalwart, long-time members of the church, Israel Wallace and Albert Smith, who were called to be with God before the building became a reality. The tenacious spirits of these two men exemplified the Reid Temple ethic of faith and determination against all odds.
A New Vision Emerges
Under the dynamic, faith-driven leadership of Pastor Washington, Reid Temple’s Washington, D.C.-based house of worship kept going, glowing, and growing for Christ. Several new ministries were established or expanded, including a ministry to provide food and clothing to the homeless, a tape ministry, a men's ministry, and a singles ministry, along with a new members club and a welcome club. Numerous task forces and church committees were also created. The Henry Fleming and Reid Temple mass choirs were formed. The church's financial records were computerized, and Reid Temple entered the “high-tech” world. The spirit of the church grew exponentially as its body grew numerically.
By the late 1980s, under Pastor Washington’s energetic leadership, Reid Temple had outgrown its Michigan Avenue location. The vision of a larger sanctuary became an increasingly important, and necessary, goal. Expansion at the Michigan Avenue sites was not an option. Relocation would require challenging struggles and much prayer, but God was in the plan. The Washington, D.C., congregation of nearly 300 members relocated to an existing sanctuary on Good Luck Road in Lanham, Maryland, in January 1990. But God wasn’t through with Reid Temple, then or now.
The church continued its robust spiritual and physical growth. Several new members joined the congregation each week, swelling its numbers. Sunday worship services were expanded from one to four to accommodate the increased membership. The church’s choirs and ministries grew and expanded as well.
It was Pastor Washington who introduced Reid Temple’s Stewardship Development Plan, which boldly directed the congregation to pursue the “Five E’s” of Evangelism, Education, Empowerment, Economics, and Expansion to fulfill a powerful and dynamic vision for the church. Following this plan, Reid Temple has enhanced the stewardship of its members five-fold through their increased giving of Temple (commitment to ministry), Time (working in ministry), Treasure (Investing in ministry), and Talents (developing ministry). The ever-rising levels of dedication and commitment resulting from these activities led to phenomenal growth at a rapid pace. It was no surprise then, when, not long after embarking on the Five E’s path, Reid Temple was forced to seek an even larger facility to accommodate its increasing attendance and membership.
Out of intensive prayer and planning, the vision of a new, larger Reid Temple was born. In 1999, the church bought a 17-acre parcel of land in Glenn Dale, Maryland, for $2 million. It purchased an additional 15 acres adjacent to the site in 2001, as Pastor Washington led the congregation into and through a massive building project, which resulted in the creation of the current, $28 million worship-and-education complex that houses our church and much, much more.
The Glenn Dale campus features a spacious, beautifully appointed 3,000-seat sanctuary designed to support a very energetic worship style—including a 150-member choir and a full gospel orchestra—and a 1,000-seat fellowship hall. The main sanctuary features carefully designed acoustics with built-in sound and video projection systems. The building’s administrative wing is the site of the Pastor’s office as well as the offices of the church’s other ministers and staff.
The Reid Temple Christian Academy is also located on the Glenn Dale campus, currently serving children and youth in grades pre-K through 8. The 130,000-square-foot Glenn Dale facility also hosts a state-of-the-art recording studio, which is used by many leading gospel artists to record their latest releases. Additionally the building features over 15 meeting rooms for use by the church’s 80-plus ministries, and provides ample space for the church’s credit union, bookstore, and banquet hall.
Expansion and Outreach
In 2006, Reid Temple became “One Church in Two Locations” with the opening of a second worship location in the cafeteria of Blair High School in Silver Spring (Montgomery County), Maryland. The expansion location was dubbed “Reid Temple-North,” but before the first service was assembled—indeed, before the new congregation’s members even ventured into their new territory—they engaged in much prayer and research. Montgomery County, they determined, was an ideal site for expansion, offering a strong and growing African American population base, and in great need of Christian witnessing and Kingdom building. The members of Reid Temple-North wanted to be a part of that!
The dedicated, energetic stewards of the Silver Spring congregation sought to replicate the models of ministry that were active at Reid Temple-Glenn Dale, while capitalizing on the many opportunities that were unique to the new location. Initially, membership growth was sporadic, but attendance at Sunday services soon began to spiral upward, to over 700 persons each week. The thriving congregation’s leaders realized that they were fast outgrowing the rented high school space, with its many limitations and restrictions. With assistance from Reid Temple-Glenn Dale, they launched a capital campaign in 2008 to raise funds to procure a permanent location in Montgomery County.
The current Reid Temple-North campus, conveniently located in an emerging commercial district off Colesville Road in Silver Spring, was formerly the site of a charter school. The congregation acquired a seven-year lease and began the work of renovating the building, meeting with multiple setbacks and challenges along the way. Still, they persevered, working and praying to move their vision to fruition.
Reid Temple-North opened its doors on Sunday, September 12, 2010. Like its Glenn Dale counterpart, the North Campus also serves its congregation’s multiple spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. Its sanctuary seats 1,100 persons. It also features a 65-seat choir loft, a baptismal pool, a nursery, multi-purpose rooms, a warming kitchen, classrooms, and meeting space for a growing number of ministries, and administrative office space. Reid Temple’s credit union and bookstore also have annexes on the North site. And the membership of the congregation is still growing!
Truly, God continues to bless Reid Temple, at both locations. With our combined congregations, we are today the largest A.M.E. church in the Second Episcopal District. Our total membership, on both campuses, currently exceeds 15,000 congregants.
None of this could have been accomplished, however, without the Lord on our side and the hard work, courage, and determination of a great number of people. The Rev. Dr. Lee P. Washington, our Senior Pastor, is a visionary and tireless worker for the Lord, who recently celebrated 29 years of service at Reid Temple and 32 years in the ministry. The members of our congregation, on both campuses, are diligent in their participation in vibrant Christian fellowship and ministry activities. On both sites, they engage in deeper study of the Word of God through enlightening church-wide projects such as Spiritual Boot Camp, the Membership to Discipleship education program, and the online Christian book club. At both locations, they host a variety of music and liturgical groups and a wide range of service and support ministries. All continue to demonstrate the unshakeable, unmistakable brand of faith that has moved our church to ever-greater heights and ever-deeper and more meaningful involvements in the communities we serve through Almighty God.
Come, Join Us!
The Reid Temple of today prospers because of its dedicated servant-leadership and combined, committed congregations. The spiritual and intellectual guidance of Pastor Washington constantly produces new ideas through Godly visions. Adherence to the Five E’s of Pastor Washington’s vision for our church enhances the lives of each member individually and the church as a whole. Above all, the congregation holds fast to a simple yet profound passage from the Holy Bible—HAVE FAITH IN GOD—as it continues to change lives by His Spirit and fulfill God’s plan.
Come worship with us, at either the Glenn Dale or Silver Spring location. Join us as we steward the powerful five-fold vision that God has so generously committed to our hands. Join us—we are truly “One Church in Two Locations”—dedicated to serving Him through Christ, our Lord and Savior.