An image of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., (above) the third pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, in stain glass inside the church.
Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

The pews inside historic Ebenezer Baptist Church were filling fast as the rain fell outside Friday, Jan. 12. The crowd assembled inside was there for the 3 p.m. “Church Talk,” a discussion about the history of the church and the men and women that helped build it.

Hosting that afternoon’s talk was National Park Service park ranger Doug Coyle. Having worked there for the past 21 years Coyle was well versed in the history of the church, which is part of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site.

During the talk, which ended with guests asking questions and taking photos, Coyle told stories about the pastors of Ebenezer, including the first two pastoral leaders of the church, reverends John A. Parker and A.D. Williams.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first preached a trial sermon at this pulpit inside Ebenezer Baptist Church at the age of 17.
Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice
(Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

A chronological history of the church includes the installation of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., who’s image is forever part of the church by way of a stain glass window. King, Sr., the father of Civil Rights era icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., allowed a 17-year-old Martin to deliver a trial sermon from the very pulpit inside the church today. Upon learning this fact many of the people inside for the “Church Talk” whipped out their phones to get pictures of the wooden pulpit with the tithe box in front (as seen below). The news that Dr. King, the younger, had never been senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and was solely a co-pastor, elicited looks of wonder from a couple of the people in the pews. King was well on his way to becoming a national figure for his work as the first president of the Student Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) while his brother A.D. Williams King was co-pastoring alongside their father.

“Dr. King did not just happen in a vacuum, history just builds and builds upon itself,” said Coyle while explaining the King family lineage within the church.

Asked why he enjoys giving these talks the past two decades, Coyle said, “Because people need to know history. You know what they say about history. If you don’t know you are doomed to repeat it.”

Ebenezer was finished being built in 1922 and was the church home for many Atlantans for 76 years until the new church was built across the street in 1999. The new building seats 1,700, nearly three times as much as the original.

Looking around at the crowd following his talk, Coyle quipped, “This is as close as we get to a service these days.”

The “Church Talks” were free and are a part of the tours given throughout the year at the King Center.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...