Originally created 05/29/99

Church continues a religious tradition for its youth



100 Women in White, 100 Men in Black are coming to Zion Field Baptist Church, Aiken, at 5 p.m. Sunday.

The 200 is a target figure -- which would fill the church, said the Rev. Leonard O. Griffin, pastor of the 45-member church. "Seeing the white dresses and black suits -- it makes such a beautiful picture," he said.

The event is a fund-raiser and part of a tradition apparently observed in black churches since slavery.

"Slaves had few times when they really dressed up for anything. Going to church was a big event," said the Rev. Griffin. The people saved their best clothes -- dark suits and white dresses -- for church.

The event is "a way of remembering the slaves' exuberance of going to church and passing it on to the young people," he said.

Each participant makes a donation. Sometimes it is a nominal amount, other times a set amount.

Zion Field is trying to raise $30,000 to retire debt on its fellowship hall. The hall was built in 1998, said Sheila B. Danforth, the church secretary.

The church typically holds the fund-raiser during the spring, but tradition says it was a harvest event. "We have modified it to fit our needs," said the Rev. Griffin.

The Rev. Sharon Gilmore, pastor of Aiken's Mount Anna Baptist Church, will be the featured speaker. The service will include singing and prayer.

Sharon Douglas of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church said some churches have separate Men's Days and Women's Days, but having men and women together cuts down on division and promotes unity. "I applaud that," she said.

A gathering

What: 100 Women in White, 100 Men in Black

Where: Zion Field Baptist Church, 406 Cooper Drive, Aiken

When: 5 p.m. Sunday

Phone: (803) 652-7663

Virginia Norton covers religion for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.