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ORIGIN OF THE AME CHURCH

 

The African Methodist Episcopal Church is an offspring of the Methodist, which was founded by John Wesley in England and America in the eighteenth century. The Methodist movement itself began in 1739 when John Wesley started within the Church of England, a movement to improve the spiritual life of his Church.    Many of the followers of the movement emigrated to America.  John Wesley, realizing the future for the spread of Methodism in the Colonies, ordained Dr. Thomas Coke, a priest, and sent him to organize the Church in America. Dr. Coke arrived and called a General Conference in Baltimore, Maryland in December 1784. At this "Christmas Conference, Richard Allen (founder of the American Methodist Episcopal Church), was present. 

 

Richard Allen was born a slave on February 14, 1760 on the Benjamin Chew estate, and was the founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Deeply religious from an early, age, Richard Allen was converted at the age of 17. He began preaching in 1780 and was ordained in 1799. Through thrift and industry, he and his brother worked at night to pay for their freedom.

 

Freedom Agreement from slave owner of Richard Allen

 

 

Despite his lack of formal medical training, Richard Allen was the equivalent of our present day surgeons. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a leading physician of that time, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, gave praise to Bishop Allen for his services during the Black Plague in 1793,  which took the lives of thousands of Philadelphians.

 

In 1791. Richard Allen established what was known as the Blacksmith Shop Meeting House when he purchased an abandoned blacksmith shop from a man named Sims and moved it to a plot of ground on 6th Street between Lombard and Pine. This building was dedicated as a church in 1794 by Bishop Francis A. Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

From July 1805.  Richard Allen conducted services in the "Roughcast Church". This had been the first brick church erected on American soil by people of color. The African Methodist Episcopal denomination was organized in Philadelphia in 1816.  On April 10, 1816, Richard Allen was consecrated as its first Bishop at the General Conference in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

In 1841 the red brick church was built to replace the old roughcast one, and remained in use until the present church, Mother Bethel A.M.E. (dedicated in 1890) was erected in its place on the original plot of ground.

 


Richard Allen was an organizer of the Free African Society, a group that fostered self-help and self-dependence. He established day and night schools, and was co-organizer of the first Masonic Lodge, African Lodge #459 in Philadelphia. 

 

Richard Allen died in 1831.