Anytime I travel, if I see a church, I’m always curious about what “kind” it is. What denomination (Baptist, Catholic, Non-Denominational, and of course – United Methodist)? I’m very much a geek in this way!
Thursday and Friday of this week, I had/have the chance to explore Philadelphia and the rich history and culture this place possesses.
Last night in the dark, I drove by the most majestic-looking church as I approached my hotel. Beautiful stone and large stained glass windows, and as I glanced at the name, I noticed the word “Methodist” in the title. I was excited to see that it was indeed a Methodist church, but not just “another” Methodist church; it was Mother Bethel African Episcopal Methodist Church.
The congregation, founded in 1794, is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal congregation in the nation. Its present church, completed in 1890, is the oldest church property in the United States to be continuously owned by African Americans. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972. (Wikipedia)
It has an underground tunnel that connected it to a nearby Quaker meetinghouse for the movement of fugitive slaves.
The founding pastor himself was a slave.
Another human being owned him.
We’ve all seen movies of slavery, but none of us have experienced being owned by another human because of the color of our skin.
I’ll be sharing with you more of his story on Sunday . . . because the impact that Christianity had on his life is revolutionary. That is why this church even exists. Because his slave owner allowed him to go “to church,” and once he experienced worship Richard Allen, who later became Bishop Richard Allen, said,
“all of a sudden, my dungeon shook, my chains flew off, and glory to God, I cried. My soul was filled. I cried, enough for me–the Saviour died.”
After this experience, he worked even harder on the plantation because he possessed this inward drive to be his absolute best. To give his best to all things, even being a slave.
Ultimately, he earned his freedom. He then used that freedom to start a church.
Last night when I drove by, I assumed it was a “closed” church and most likely some kind of landmark.
While it is a national historical landmark, it is also a vibrant worshiping community. They are engaged in local and global missions, serving those who have less than others, and they have in-person AND online worship! How’s that for the oldest AME Zion church in the nation????
Can you imagine the changes they’ve had to navigate to get from where they were in the early 1800s to now? Yet the changes they navigated did not deter them; they persevered.
As a culture, we’ve navigated SO MUCH CHANGE in the last decade. Too much to list. And as a society, we are exhausted. We walk around saying, “I’m fine,” when we are anything BUT fine.
We are tired. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.
Yet giving up is not an option.
For the next three weeks, we are going to explore “Burnout” . . . why it is a real thing, what we can do about it, our spiritual fathers who endured this phenomenon thousands of years ago, and how their faith enabled them to live through it.
Sunday is our 12th birthday.
Thank you for making this “new thing” that isn’t a “new thing” to help bring light and hope to a community/world that needs light, hope, and love!
You’ve helped people in 2010 and beyond be rid of their dungeons and chains and help them find their way to or back to God.