WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Methodist leaders from across America will celebrate the rebirth of a retreat center at Gulfside Methodist Assembly.
Gulfside Methodist Assembly is historically significant to the Methodist Church.
In 1923, when segregation was the way of life, Robert E. Jones was named the first black Bishop of what was then Methodist Episcopal Church. Immediately after his appointment, he went to work on his dream to establish a religious resort for blacks in the South.
"Gulfside was established as the one and only place on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi where black people could gather and be at ease and engage in recreation leisure play and education," said Dr. William McClain, of the Methodist Assembly. "He was so light skinned many people didn't really know he was black. But he was very much black."
Bishop Jones raised $4,000 and bought land on the beach in Waveland that was previously owned by the son of former President Andrew Jackson. Many wondered how an African American man could purchase beach front property during the height of the Jim Crow days.
"Because at one time, we couldn't walk down Beach Boulevard. We had to come through the woods," explained Mollie Stewart, CEO of Gulfside Inc.
Gulfside became the place where hundreds of black religious leaders and youth gathered and held events, including the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Leaders say the dedication ceremony shows the will and determination of the church not to let the legacy of Gulfside wash away with Hurricane Katrina.
"It's almost like washing away a piece of history. So what we're doing is bringing back Gulfside. It's taken a long time and a lot of hard work, but Saturday we will dedicate the outdoor chapel.That's the beginning of a new generation having a connection to Gulfside," explained Joe Connelly, pastor of a United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge Louisiana.
The Bishop Kelly Open Air Chapel will be dedicated to the first black female Bishop named to the United Methodist Church, Bishop Leontine Kelly.
The dedication ceremony will be held Saturday Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. on the Gulfside Assembly grounds, located at 950 South Beach Boulevard in Waveland.