Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Churches Divided By Racism, Reunited 200 Years Later

During an unprecedented year filled with racial harmonics and historical firsts, two historical churches in Philadelphia are hoping to mend the broken pieces of a 200-year old schism that led Rev. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, the founding fathers of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, to walk out of St. George's United Methodist Church.

On Sunday, October 25, the parishioners of both congregations, Mother Bethel AME and St. George, united together at St. George during Sunday morning worship services. The bittersweet occasion proved to be a glorious moment of historical relevance as both congregations help to heal the wounds of the past.

"This balcony that's been a symbol of bad memories can also be something that stokes some hope and some positive memories moving into the future - that we can be together." Rev. Fred Day, pastor of St. George's, said to CBS 3.

According to news reports, the reunion idea was developed by both pastors, Rev. Day of St. George's and Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel, not long ago.

Day asked Tyler to preach as part of the 240th anniversary. "Why don't I bring Mother Bethel with me ?" Tyler asked Day. Tyler recalled the conversation in an interview last week.

He acknowledged that "a few persons in both congregations were wondering why this was necessary," Tyler said. "A few in our church didn't think going back could ever change anything. And there was some apprehension of us returning on the other side."

But no dissonance was ever expressed, and both congregations overwhelmingly approved the idea, said Tyler, who had been looking forward to his moment in St. George's pulpit.

"...It's a sense of rejoicing, moving beyond bitterness," said Tyler.
Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, was also the center of attention in 2008 when a presidential-hopeful Barack Obama delivered an important speech focusing on America's unresolved racial problems. The Constitution Center, the site of Obama's message, is just a few blocks away from St. George.

2009 marks the 240th anniversary of St. George. The congregations will meet once again: next time at Mother Bethel AME.

Philadelphia Congregations Break Down Barriers (Video) [CBS 3]
Blood is thicker than water [Tyler's AME History Notes]

1 comment:

Voltaire X said...
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