Researched and Documented
by William Joseph Barber Sr.
Sister Addie Clark
Mother Mary Frances Hill (2006)
The Black Disciple Assemblies of the Eastern Seaboard area of the United States of America, with their origin in Eastern North Carolina, comprises the largest and one of the oldest black Disciple of Christ Groups in the United States of America. There are six of these assembly groups. The three largest groups, the Goldsboro-Raleigh District Assembly, the Washington- Norfolk District Assembly, and the Northeastern Assembly are fraternally linked through a biennial assembly known presently as the General Assembly Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and Incorporated.
The Washington-Norfolk District Assembly was formed prior to 1870, perhaps between the years of 1867-1870. It was originally called the Martin County Convention. Some of its congregations date as early as 1854. During the year of 1886, a coalition between the Goldsboro-Raleigh District Assembly and the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly took place, and the General (Annual Assembly) was formed. Because of certain differences, the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly and the Goldsboro-Raleigh District Assembly decided to hold separate annual district assembly sessions, but to meet every four years in the General Quadrennial Assembly, which started in 1914.
The old Martin County Convention (Disciples of Christ), which is the true nucleus of the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly, began in 1869 and was a vital organization by 1870. At least one congregation in the Washington-Norfolk District dates from 1854 as a black or minority church. This church, the Uniontown (or Free Union) Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, was known as the “mother church.” Prior to 1854, it existed as a “mixed” congregation (free blacks, Indians, slaves, and whites) and was known as Welche’s Creek. Prior to 1830, it was a Free Will Baptist congregation. It became a Church of Christ in 1830 as a result of dropping the Free Will Baptist designation. As early as 1867, some of the old pioneers preached around Pantego, Leachville, and Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and throughout the Eastern section of North Carolina.
The location of the fourteen oldest churches were recorded as: the first raised by Elder R.E. Green, in Roanoke Island, one each in Leachville (St. Paul), Pantego, Elizabeth City, Currituck, Fairfield, Oriental, located thirty minutes from Newbern and Perth(Pilgrim Rest). There were four in Beaufort County; Jack Creel, Haven Dam, Bayview Bath and Old Fort, two in Hyde County, Juniper Bay and Engelhard.
In past years this Assembly has had many outstanding pioneers, leaders who dedicated their lives to the cause of Christ and were successful in moving the Assembly forward. These included Elder W. A. James, who served as chief from 1914-1923; Elder John Spencer, acted as chief until W.R. Steely was elected and served until 1943. After his death, Elder W. H. Peele served as chief. In 1955, Elder Sir Walter Raleigh Keyes was elected.
The Washington-Norfolk District Assembly was incorporated on July 29, 1969 in Roper, North Carolina under the leadership of the late Sir Walter Raleigh Keyes, Elder Allen Edward Brooks (Council Board), and Elder Wilber Keyes (Statistician). Elder Keyes held the position of bishop until 1978. In 1979, Elder Otis T. Nixon (deceased) became bishop of the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly. Elder Booker T. Boomer, became the vice bishop. Under the administration of Bishop Nixon, land was purchased and a ground breaking service was held for the present edifice. Upon the death of Vice Bishop Boomer, Elder Joseph A. Daniels became the Vice Bishop. In 1996, Bishop Daniels became presiding bishop with Elder Robert D. Ross, as vice bishop. Our headquarters’ building was erected under the leadership of Bishop Joseph Daniels. Bishop Daniels served until 1998, upon his death. At the annual assembly in 1998, Bishop Robert D Ross became our presiding bishop with Elder Melvin Scott becoming vice bishop. In 2004, Elder Charlie Butler became vice bishop. Again in 2006, Bishop Robert D Ross was re-elected and Bishop Charlie Butler, appointed vice bishop. In 2010, Bishop Cleveon Bryant was elected the presiding prelate and Bishop Mack Freshwater, vice bishop.
Under the capable leadership of Bishop Robert D Ross, several ministries were organized and/or reorganized. They were:
*the Minister’s Spouses & Widows Ministry
*Convention Choir merged with the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly Choir
*A new church in South Carolina became affiliated with the WNDA
*Missionary Work was established. The missionary work has established close ties with Dr. Sefah of South Africa, where several churches has been established.
In 2008, new office equipment was purchased and updated. A new kitchen staff was hired. Three additional members were added to the Council Board under the leadership of Bishop Robert D Ross, on October 18th.
In 2008, a major event took place that reconnected the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly with the General Assembly Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and Incorporated. This was a significant event because the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly is the “Mother” assembly of the Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ. This reconnection of mother with her offspring is pleasing to God. Moreover it strengthens and brings new vitality to the Church of Christ internationally.
On Saturday, April 18, 2009, Vice Bishop Charlie Butler and Bishop Anthony Terrell were consecrated with Bishop Robert D Ross, the Presiding Prelate of Washington-Norfolk District Assembly.
Bishop Robert D Ross, DMin. served as Bishop of the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly for twelve years, 1998-2010. Serving as Vice Bishop with him were Bishop Melvin Scott and Bishop Charlie Butler.
On Saturday, October 9, 2010, Elder Cleveon Bryant was elected as Bishop of the Washington-Norfolk District Assembly, and Elder Mack Freshwater was elected as Vice Bishop.
Elder Cleveon Bryant and Elder Mack Freshwater were consecrated on Saturday, February 24, 2011 as Bishops at the Goldsboro-Raleigh District Assembly Headquarters’ Building in Goldsboro, NC with General Bishop Alton A. Smith, Chief Consecrator and General Vice Bishop Malcolm S. Johnson, Co-Consecrator.
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