CLEVELAND (WJW) – A Cleveland church with strong connections to the rights movement is receiving a significant federal investment with the goal of making repairs to one of the city’s most historic African American churches.

“This is perhaps the largest church, perhaps the most architecturally significant church in the Glenville neighborhood,” said Kathleen Crowther, President of the Cleveland Restoration Society.

The brick exterior of Cory United Methodist Church, one of the oldest African American churches in Cleveland located on East 105th, shows signs of wear and tear.

A timeline for restoration is not clear, but the church pastor hopes for work to begin this summer.

Crowther said the organization received a $500,000 grant from the National Parks Service to work on stabilizing the exterior of the church.

“The church is extremely well built but over the course of 100 years there are things that need to be fastened on more tightly,” said Crowther.

In December, the church received an Ohio historical marker as part of the ever-evolving African American Civil Rights Trail created by the Cleveland Restoration Society. 

Crowther said the church embodies the heritage of the community and deserves financial support.

“Cory was the largest African American congregation. Thousands of people came to this facility to hear Martin Luther King and Malcolm X,” said Crowther.

It’s history not lost on Pastor Gregory Kendrick Jr., who said the church was a force for change due to the power of its congregation and commitment to social justice.

“The congregation had a commitment to seeing the rights of people advance,” said Kendrick. “It became the spot that everyone from W.E.B. Du Bois to Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and others found this space to be a place for them to come. Whether it was fair and equitable pay, voting rights, all of it was around empowerment of Black communities’ empowerment of poor communities.”

They are issues the pastor said remain relevant today in the ongoing push for equity. He said he continues to work to learn from the legacy of civil rights icons that spoke at the church he now has the honor to lead.

“To hear not only from God but from what I believe is the wisdom of the ancestors, that is just soaking in some of these pews,” he said.