Ernestine Cornelius honored for district leadership in Home Missions Department
By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — This time, Ernestine Avery Cornelius was queen for the day.
Friends and family gathered Aug. 23 at the Olive Garden to honor Cornelius, mostly for her successful work as Salisbury District president of the Home Missions Department in the Western N.C. Conference of the AME Zion Church.
The Home Missions Department aids churches in need of repair. Cornelius-inspired fund-raising efforts include the district’s Four Seasons Dinner, held each year at the Salisbury Civic Center.
The crowning of queens is one way the conference recognizes individual fund-raising efforts in a district.
Under Cornelius’ leadership, the Salisbury District has produced more queens (and a king) than any other district in the conference, including a queen crowned in all three categories in 2010, when $40,000 combined was raised.
The Western North Carolina Conference is composed of six districts, of which the 17-church Salisbury District is the smallest.
“As a result of Mrs. Cornelius’ innovative ideas and the hard work of 17 local presidents, many churches throughout the Western North Carolina Conference have been able to expand, repair or renovate their edifice,” said Marian W. Harris, Home Missions president for Sandy Ridge AME Zion Church in Landis.
“... Mrs. Cornelius is always busy working for the Lord.”
Harris and other dinner guests at the Olive Garden presented Cornelius with a trophy, tiara, 18 yellow roses and the dinner to make her feel like one of the many fund-raising queens who have been crowned during her service as district president.
Cornelius is busy in many other capacities for the Salisbury District, the Western North Carolina Conference and her church in Troutman.
At Zion Wesley AME Zion, where her husband of 39 years, Rudolph, is pastor, Cornelius is Christian education director, a deaconess and vice president of the Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society.
She teaches children and youth Sunday School, often decorates the fellowship hall at her own expense and designs and prints the church bulletins for Sundays and special events.
On the district level, besides her role with the Home Missions Department, she is director, financial secretary and devotional leader for the Christian Education Department.
On the conference level, Cornelius serves on the Financial Committee and formerly served on the Hospitality Committee.
She is originally from Cleveland in Rowan County.
“There are very few adults who were raised in the Cleveland community that can say they have not eaten at Mrs. Cornelius’ dinner table or spent a night or two on her floor,” Harris says. “She does not believe in seeing anyone hungry or homeless, regardless of age, gender or race.”
Cornelius works in the kitchen every Wednesday at the Rowan Helping Ministries shelter, preparing lunches for clients.
“Mrs. Cornelius firmly believes that if God has blessed you, then it is your duty to be a blessing to others,” Harris says.