King’s Tabernacle church opens doors in Johnston, overcoming alleged racism

By Kirsten Glavin

kglavin@abc6.com 

@kirstenglavin

JOHNSTON, RI – Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena cut the ribbon and shook hands with the President of the Providence NAACP, followed by Pastor Chris Abhulime, officially opening the doors of Kings Tabernacle Church on Greenville Ave Friday afternoon.

Numerous other city officials stood by showing support of the primarily African American church; peacefully ending a long, contentious legal battle over racism.

"I feel euphoric being here today, from the support we have gotten from the community,” said Reverend Chris Abhulime.

"It’s a great day. I think that’s behind us now,” said Jim Vincent, President of the Providence NAACP. “I think the town has embraced the church and I think everybody is happy."

It was an afternoon of celebration for the dozens who came out.   Betty Kaye, 95, of Johnston had been going to church since she was two years old, when the building used to belong to Belknap Community Church. She sat in the crowd for the big opening.

"it’s still a church and it’s beautiful,” she told ABC6 News with a smile.

The long-awaited opening follows a lawsuit against the town of Johnston. Pastor purchased the building and was then denied permits from the building inspector. 

The building inspector, Bernard Nescenzi, was recorded in a phone conversation making highly offensive remarks about the pastor’s race.  He referred to Rev. Abhulime as the “f***ing black owner,” among other comments.

The lawsuit was eventually dropped when that official was suspended.
Both the church congregation and Mayor hope to move forward.

"This is a great town and as I said, this is a great church so we’re very excited to have them here,” Mayor Joseph Polisena told ABC6 News.