First Agape African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion) at Gibson Grove is on track to rebuild and expand. The church was destroyed by a major fire in 2004. With the passage of a Maryland Legislative Bond Initiative on April 2, 2021, preceded by multiple hearings and authorizations by the State of Maryland and Montgomery County, the Church is now able to start its long-awaited construction. Phase I, to begin in October, will include stabilization and preservation of Historic Gibson Grove.
A bond of $550,000 to stabilize and improve Historic Gibson Grove site was introduced by State Delegate Sarah N. Love (District 16), strongly supported by Delegate Marc Korman who serves on the Appropriations Committee. The Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Susan Lee (District 16). In addition to a worship center, the new facility will be used to house community services, including a Community Learning Center dedicated to the vision of Sarah Gibson. She first purchased the site and donated it in 1898 as a place where her people could worship and go to school.
The estimated cost of the rebuilding and expansion project is approximately $3.2 million. Over the past seventeen years, the Church has received about $305,000 in donations and used roughly $125,000 to cover design and site maintenance pre-construction costs. In the coming months the Agape Gibson Grove, Inc. will launch a fundraising campaign to support the construction budget.
In 1997 Reverend Edgar S. Bankhead Sr. (Commander Chaplain Corps, USN-RET) was assigned to First Agape AME Zion Church. Under his leadership, the congregation was moved to Gibson Grove in 2003 and completed extensive repairs and renovations. They worshiped at the Gibson Grove site until Ash Wednesday 2004. The Gibson Grove Church land and edifice were formally transferred to First Agape in 2007.
Pastor Bankhead and congregation are grateful for the Clara Barton community center, Cabin John community’s generous support, and the gracious offering of space at the nearby Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, where worship services continue at 7727 Persimmon Tree Lane in Bethesda. He called it “miraculous” that the Church was finally “cleared for restoration just days before Resurrection Sunday 2021.” The construction general manager is Bud Kuhn of Holland Construction.
Other partners for the Historic Gibson Grove Project are TJT Architects, Macris, Hendricks & Glascock, P.A., Miles & Stockbridge, and the Montgomery County MD Historic Preservation Commission. E.S. Bankhead Jr. is chairman of the Church Board of Trustees.
The First Agape AME Zion Church is in the Baltimore District of the Philidelphia-Baltimore Conference, led by Presiding Elder Reverend Dr. Evalina Huggins. Bishop W. Darin Moore is Presiding Prelate of the Mid Atlantic Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church.
The ground breaking ceremony took place on October 20, 2021 11am-noon at 7700 Seven Locks Road, Bethesda, MD, 20817
More images of the Church and Stabilization work