I set out on my recent class journey to learn about the founders of the United Methodist denomination and the impact they had in early America as well as how they shaped who we are as a church today. I hoped and expected to return home more passionate about my denomination than when I left and that is true. Interestingly enough, who I found to be my favorite person of the history that we lived into and discussed during our time of learning was Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
If you are not familiar with the story of Richard Allen, he and other African Americans were asked to leave the balcony of St. George’s Church while on their knees praying. He and his friends chose to get off their knees and exit the church in a historic walk-out and later start their own denomination. It saddens me that the story of Allen’s walkout from St. George’s Church is such an identifying factor in the birth of the AMEC since it was a Methodist church they were asked to leave. However, history is shaped by moments such as these. Today both St. George’s and Mother Bethel (the birthplace of the AMEC) come together to heal from this past experience and celebrate together through worship and communion with one another. I appreciate the fact that this unfortunate event that altered the life of the Methodist denominations is not ignored but rather celebrated with Mother Bethel. The joint services among these churches and other symbols of connectionalism across denominational lines were refreshing to see take place among the churches. And, although we no longer are in the same denomination, our roots of Methodism are indeed the same.
It is interesting to think that history was shaped by famous AMEC members like Rosa Parks as mentioned by our museum docent at Mother Bethel. History was shaped not just in the church the day that Richard Allen and his friends got off their knees and walked out of that balcony at St. George’s church. For that, we can be thankful.
Whitney R. Simpson
• author • yoga & meditation teacher • spiritual director • creating soul care resources for exploring the gift of God's peace with breath, body & spirit •
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Whitney R. Simpson,
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