Around 1867, a few concerned forefathers built a brush arbor under which they held praise services. During that time, the area was surrounded by a grove of Chaney Berry trees and they agreed that the established church would be called “Chaney Grove”; Chaney Grove A.M.E. Zion Church was founded.
Some of the early founders were Mr. Simon Black (1825-1936), Mr. Lee Morrow, Mr. William Morrow, Mr. Thomas Wilson, Mr. Martin Hall, Mr. Lewis Morris, Mr. John Alexander, Mr. S. H. Howie, Mr. George Kirk, Mr. Charles Torrence, Mr. Joseph Ardrey, Mrs. Malinda Dunn and Mr. Reese Potts.
The initial records of the church were destroyed by fire in the home of one of the forefathers. It is impossible to reproduce all of the important historical facts of the church from its beginning. Much of the historical account was achieved from verbal accounts of those closely connected to the church.
As the church continued to organize and as the congregation grew, the members found it necessary and fitting to build a better structure. This structure was later relocated to the front, closer to its present location. At this time, the majority of the members voted to change the name of the church from Chaney Grove A.M.E. Zion to China Grove A.M.E. Zion because “China Grove” sounded much better. During this time, the Reverend Samuel Pharr served as the pastor.
As time passed, some of the other loyal and faithful members who served the church were Mr. Brady Cuthbertson, Mr. Oscar Patterson, Mrs. Mattie Patterson, Mr. Baxter Black, Mrs. Atha Black, Mr. Faith Wilson, Mrs. Laura Wilson, Mrs. Moriah Black, Mrs. Annie Patterson, Mr. Robert Morrow and Mr. John Ross.
Around 1925, Mr. James Meeks saw the need to beautify the church site by planting a row of seven water oaks to enhance the grounds and surrounding area. Mr. Meeks lived to be one of the oldest known living persons in Mecklenburg County; he lived to be 115 years old.
Mr. John Black, affectionately referred to as “Uncle John”, was an ardent leader in the church, a great choir leader and a class leader. He, too, lived a long life of 103 years.
China Grove has been blessed to have many other great leaders who made significant contributions to the church and other areas of service and achievements. Mr. William Trent of China Grove furthered his education at Livingstone College where he later became president and remained so until his health failed. Some other notable members were Rev. J.H. Lampkin, Rev. O.B. Smith, Rev. F.K. Boulware and Rev. Ell Price who were all ordained ministers.
Many of those who have passed served faithfully and dedicated most of their lives to the service of the church. Among them are Mr. Andy Johnson, Mrs. Sallie Johnson, Mr. Robert Taylor, Mrs. Lizzie Taylor, Mr John Bun Feaster, Mrs. Minnie Feaster, Mr. Ernest Wilson, Sr., Mr. Benjamin Long, Mr. Bannie Wilson, Mr. Wesley Morrow, Mr. John Albert Phillips, Sr., Mrs. Pearl Morrow, Mr. James Kirk, Mr. Samuel Meeks, Mr. Henry Nesbitt, Mr. Troy Nolley and Mrs. Annie Wilson, who incidentally became the first to be funeralized in the current church cemetery.
Bishops who have served since the establishment of the church include Bishops Warner, Shaw, Kyles, Walls and Jones. Presiding elders who have served include Elders Simmons, Watkins, Sampson, Hunter, Hamilton and Normant. Other pastors who served through the earlier years were Reverends Campbell, Wilson, Armas, Forney, Armstron and Kendall.
Rev. L. C. Siler served the church as pastor from 1933 until 1937. During his tenure, the church grew spiritually and increased in number. The Busy Bee Club, the oldest club in the church, was organized under his leadership with Mrs. Vallie Parker serving as president. Rev. J. M. Smith pastored the church in 1938. The following year, Rev. G. W. McMurray was his successor and served for two years. In 1941, under the pastorage of Dr. B. F. Gordon, members felt the need to remodel or build a new edifice. At this time, a building fund began. The country was experiencing significant financial hardships during this time as World War II was impacting the world. Dr. B. F. Gordon was succeeded by the following: Rev. I. B. Benson (one year), Rev. Newell (one year), Rev. B. A. Crawford (four years), Rev. F. J. Vorice (five years) and Rev. R. L. Newby (three years).
Dr. J. S. Nathaniel Tross was assigned to China Grove in 1956 and remained through 1963. During the pastoral change, Dr. Tross revived the Building Fund after a seventeen year standstill; he appointed a Building Fund Committee. During the process of reorganizing, he saw the need to centralize all monies in order to have a more successful Building Fund Program. Mrs. Lillian Smith was appointed and became the first treasurer of the church. Dr. Tross remained at China Grove for seven years and is remembered for organizing and updating the overall structure of the church functioning.
Another dedicated leader, Rev. B. S. Stinson followed. The church grew financially and spiritually. Rev. Stinson’s pastorage covered a period of six years until his retirement. Rev. Stinson’s successors were Rev. B. L. Morrow (two years) and Rev R. C. Jones (two years).
In 1973, China Grove A.M.E. Zion Church moved forward with more zeal and determination under Rev. Maxie. L. Houston, Sr. Under his pastorage, the church realized the long-time dream of the present edifice.
The following pastors succeeded Rev. Maxie L Houston, Sr:
Rev. William Conrad (1993-2000)
Rev. Carnell C. Thompson (2000-2015)
Rev. David S. Cunningham (2015-Present)