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Mt Olive A.M.E. Church History

1870 – 2009

There are no records available explaining why a group of religious people from the communities of Bestgate and Camp Parole, Maryland met at the residence of the father of the late Reverend John H. Harris in the year 1870. It is assumed that they felt the need to have a place to worship that would encompass the surrounding community. This was the beginning of the mission church that later became known as the “Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church.” In 1873, ground was purchased in Camp Parole to which the old Macedonia Church building from Franklin Street was moved and renovated in 1874. Rev. Hamilton was appointed as the first full-time pastor. In 1906, Reverend Powers was appointed pastor. During his pastorate, the church building was condemned and a piece of land was purchased form Mr. Louis Holscluth and Mr. James Hicks on which to build a new church. In 1909, the cornerstone for the new church was laid and Mr. Charles Carter donated the church bell. Mr. Charles Queen, along with members of the . changed the name from “Mission Church” to Mt. Olive, referring to the Mount of Olives to which the disciples adjourned after the Last Supper. In 1928, Reverend J.W. Armstrong built the parsonage adjacent to the church. In 1938, Reverend Claudius C. Brown was appointed. During his pastorate, the increase in membership presented the need for a new and larger sanctuary. The mortgage was paid on the sanctuary and the first building fund rally was held. During this administration, Reverend Robert C. Lane was the first member of Mt. Olive to enter the ministry. He was ordained an Itinerate Elder and served as assistant to the pastor. Reverend A.E. Allen succeeded Reverend Brown in 1949. He also had a vision to build and began a campaign of individual and organizational pledges that raised $3,700. Sadly, his activities were curtailed by illness, but so great was his interest in building a new church that he bequeathed $550.00 to the church from his sick bed. Reverend John T. Chambers was ordained Itinerate Elder during this period and served as assistant to the pastor. Reverend Allen went on to his final reward March 22, 1952. Rev. John T. Chambers served as interim pastor until Reverend Joseph S. Grant was appointed as pastor. Continuing in the vision of the former pastors, he secured a loan for the building of a new church. In 1953, Sister Emma Levy donated the cornerstone. Mrs. Grant, First Lady of Mt. Olive, organized a group of young people to serve as ushers. She named them “Usherettes.” She renamed the Junior Choir “The Vesper Choir.” Reverend Lucille Donnell was ordained as Local Deacon in 1952, under this administration. In May 1959, Reverend John W. Duckette was appointed pastor. Under his administration, many clubs and activities were initiated. The church purchased a CONN concert organ, a new church bus, and paid off the outstanding balance on the church mortgage. During Rev. Duckette’s tenure, Reverend Sarah K. Smith and Blanche Price were ordained as Local Deacons and Reverend Ulysses Brooks was ordained a Itinerant Elder. They served as assistants to the pastor.


Reverend Edgar L. James succeeded Reverend Duckette in 1975. Mt Olive continued to grow under Reverend James, and additional land was purchased. The loan on the church van was paid in full, and the Men’s Club was organized to assist the youth within and outside of the church. Reverends Charles T. Sembly and Dana A. Swann were ordained Itinerate Elders during this administration. In 1983 Reverend James R. Gibson was appointed pastor. With years of Christian experience, Reverend Gibson was very involved in the church and community. His church develop program included formation of a “Mother-Daughter” club, two additional Usher Boards, a Pastor’s Aide Club, the Sun Beam Choir and increased youth involvement. Reverend Ricky Spain was appointed to Mt. Olive in 1987. A new parsonage was purchased and furnished for the first family. The old parsonage was named in honor of France and Gwendolyn Pindells’s lifetime membership and work within the church. The Pindell Multipurpose Building is still in use to provide community services, house the church administration personnel, and host many community meetings. Another van was purchase under this administration, the Class Leader system was activated, and the Voices of Praised, was organized. Lastly, a baby grand piano was purchased and new pew cushions were installed. In 1993, Reverend Levi Brown was appointed pastor. Under Reverend Brown’s leadership, monthly Love Feast services were instituted, and weekly worship services were conducted at the US. Naval Academy. The Mt Olive family traveled to the Holy Land in 1993 and 1994. In 1996, the mortgage on the new church parsonage was paid in full. Our current pastor, Reverend Johnny R. Calhoun was appointed in June 1999, by Bishop Vinton Randolph Anderson. He came to Mount Olive from St. Stephen A.M.E., Wilmington, North Carolina. Accompanying him were his wife, Reverend Patricia Riley Calhoun and their three children, Nile, Nia, and Nubia. Reverend Calhoun came to Mount Olive with a great vision for the church and community growth and development. Shortly after his arrival, a new parsonage and church van were purchased. A line of credit for $100,000 was secured to begin a renovation and construction project in the church. A ramp and other improvements were made to the Pindell Multi-Purpose Center, along with establishing a new community computer resource center called “Cyber City” to be used by the After School Program. His community involvement has lead to a tripling of funding of the After School Program in his first two years as pastor. During Reverend Calhoun’s pastorate, the membership as grown, necessitating the need for a second worship service, thus the 8:00 A.M. service was added. New annual days have been added to our worship experience, including an outdoor worship service, church-wide Family & Friends Day, and Jazz Vesper. The Mount Olive Praise Dancers, Women’s Ministry, Manhood Development Program, Youth Adult Ushers, MO’Men Men’s Forum, and Moments with the Children wre started thus far during his tenure. Also, Board of Commissions, The DRUM Newsletter, Weekly Hilltop Beacon, and the Mount Olive Community Development Corporation were established. Reverend Calhoun raised significant funds to help the Georgianna Boston Missionary Society to renovate substandard housing in the Parole community, and to help victims of the September 11, 2001 attack. He also was one of the founders of the Anne Arundel County Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness. Though his vision of blessings from God for the Mount Olive Church family, Reverend Calhoun recently kicked off the Capital Campaign Effort to build a new 550 seating capacity church. Additionally, he has led the church in purchasing several investment properties in the Parole community. With an emphasis on worship and the Word of God, three adult bible studies were established and the music ministry was expanded. Also, a bereavement, sick and shut-in, and nursing home ministry were established. A gateway to the Parole Community was erected, which included new signage and a memorial garden, that was dedicated in memory of Carroll Chambers and all of the many pastors, ministers, members, community partners, and friends who came up on the hill.


During his tenure, grants to the church have increased exponentially and a new community development corporation was established to position the church to obtain significant funding to increase its outreach and community support. Through a paralleled faith based/public private partnership, a $3M community life center was completed (without debt) in August 2008, to provide community space, an entrepreneurial institute, small business incubator, office space, banquet room, restaurant quality shared kitchen, job training, afterschool program and senior care, as well as several youth oriented programs. Rev. Calhoun has completed a $1.5M building project. The new addition and elevator were completed and the Dedication Service was October 11, 2009. Today at Mount Olive, we are ever reminded that we’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy word, He’s never failed us yet. A great work that begun by Reverend John Harris, one hundred thirty nine years ago continues to be a source of strength and inspiration to the members of Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church and the greater Parole community.


MtO Church History