1. Twenty-five years ago, I was ordained a Local Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Today I worship in the Historic St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church located on Bute Street in downtown Norfolk Va. The Reverend John D. Burton is Senior Pastor. Because our church is The Mother Church of African Methodism in Virginia as also Mother Emanuel is in South Carolina, I feel urged to give a brief history of the AME Church Movement.
2.Our Name – AFRICAN means that the church was organized by people of African descent and heritage. It does not mean that the church was founded in Africa or that it is for people of African descent only. METHODIST – refers to the church’s membership in the family of Methodist churches, EPISCOPAL refers to the form of government under which the church operates. The chief executive and administrative officers are our bishops.
3.Our Beginning – In 1787, The Reverend Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and a band of followers were pulled up from their knees as they knelt to pray one Sunday morning outside of their segregated area in the white St. George’s Church in Philadelphia, Pa. The little band walked out and never went back. They began worshiping in a Blacksmith shop. They founded The Free African Society which was the beginning of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Unlike other denominations, the AME Church was not founded because of theological ideals but in protest of racial discrimination. The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Church defines its mission “to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and social needs of all people by spreading Jesus Christ’s liberating Gospel to all people. We are a world-wide Connectional Church. The slogan is “self-will, self-determination and self-help.” The logo is an anvil pierced with a cross.
4. Bishop Allen was an amazing man. Born a slave in 1760 in Philadelphia, Pa, He taught himself to read and write and learned a variety of skills. He was converted at age 17. He worked hard and his religious fervor was caught by his slave-owner who also was converted. After being born again, Mr. Stokely allowed Richard and his brother to buy their freedom. Although our worship is structured, it is highly spiritual and one may visit any AME Church in the world and know you are in an AME Church and you are home away from home.
5. You will observe our church motto, “God our Father – Christ our Redeemer – Man our Brother – Woman our Sister – Humankind our Family.”
6. When places of religious worship are assailed by haters do you think the heathen are asking the question, where is your God? Or do you think that maybe God is telling us something? Is God permitting such awful ,horrendous and terribly traumatic things to occur in our lives because we may need correction and discipline? The word discipline means to teach. Has America shifted away from our Father God who loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son for our redemption?
7. President Barack Hussein Obama in a trumpet eulogy of the slain pastor, Reverend Pinckney, on June 26,2015, summoned the nation to embrace a moral change from silence and business as usual after the party’s over and the cameras gone. He cautioned us “to not settle for symbolic gestures but to do the hard work of opening our minds and hearts, to give and express God’s grace, to find that reservoir of goodness, and finally to build roads to a better world for all people. “It appears to me that the President is calling our America to Repentance. This is expressly so, since President Barack Obama said he had been thinking about grace all week, and our beloved President sang “Amazing Grace “ and very well too, on national television. But now let the Prophets speak, for no one can speak after the Prophets speak but Jesus Himself, who is God Almighty.
…to be continued
Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.
The Reverend Dr. Rebecca R. Rivka, LPC is (ret.) Professor of Psychology, Norfolk State University. Local Elder, VA Annual Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Church, and a faithful member of the Historic St. John’s AME Church, Norfolk, VA The Reverend John D. Burton, Senior Pastor.