Posted by: morgan1965 | January 6, 2010

An Epiphany at Old St. George’s UMC

I heard a quip the other day that was very funny to me. It was so funny that I want to share it with you. Before I tell you the quip, let me paint the context for the poignant one word exclamation that came forth from Denise, who is my niece.

On Sunday, October 25, 2009, Old St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, PA, was the venue where the members of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church joined in a combined worship service with the members of Old St. George’s UMC. This was an historic moment because the first members of Mother Bethel had walked out of St. George’s more than two centuries ago to protest a segregated main sanctuary.

In the 1780’s Richard Allen and Absalom Jones became the first lay preachers of African-American descent at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. They were licensed by Francis Asbury, the first Methodist bishop in America. Subsequently, an increasing number of African-Americans were brought into the fold by these two lay preachers. A balcony was added to the sanctuary to accommodate the people in 1792. This balcony provided segregated seating.

During a Sunday morning worship service, Absalom Jones was forcibly moved by a church trustee from the place where he was kneeling in prayer. Rather than sit in a segregated balcony, Richard Allen and Jones led the African-Americans in walking out. Allen then started Mother Bethel Church.

Now let’s fast forward to that Sunday morning in October 2009. My niece arrived a little late. A Mother Bethel usher told her that since there were no more seats on the main level; she would have to go up to the balcony.

Denise exclaimed: “Again!?”

A St. George’s usher immediately said, wait. She wanted to find a seat for her; but, Denise decided to sit in the balcony, because the sanctuary was full.

Her quip was ironically funny.

Suzy Day in her article [UMNS, 10/27/2009] about the service reported that Bethel pastor, Rev. Alfred Day, said, “in church and community there are still people pushed into balconies or as far to the edges as we can push them.”

There is still work to do to overcome racism, discrimination and division in our churches and in our society.We are yet following the Star!

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