An Open Letter: Thank You…
A Thank You Letter to Bishop Richard Allen and the Torchbearers.
Written by Florcy Morisset
Dear Glorious Spirit,
As we mourn the loss of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille and the five police officers in Dallas, I’d like to share a moment of thanks, triumph and send a call to action. I had the honor of curating “The Extraordinary History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church,” on the backdrop of the AME Church’s Bicentennial Celebration. This moment was special because I am AME and a proud member of Mother Bethel AME Church, the first AME Church founded by Richard Allen in 1787.
Over 20,000 visitors have traveled near and far to partake in the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of the AME Church. We celebrate 200 years of service to our community, our nation and to the Lord.
There is a special message from the late Mary Still that I would like to share with you given the tragedies of the last few days. But before I do that I would like to acknowledge and thank those that have made this exhibition and celebration possible. As we honor the legacy of Bishop Richard Allen, we thank Bishop John R. Bryant, the Senior Bishop of the AME Church; Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram, Presiding Prelate of the First Episcopal District; Reverend Dr. Mark K. Tyler, the host Pastor (Mother Bethel AME Church) and exhibition advisor; the Chairs of the Bicentennial Celebration, and the Council of Bishops for their vision, leadership and execution of this momentous occasion.
As we applaud these men for their hard work and dedication, we cannot overlook the contributions made by the women, the Soul of the Church. I worked very closely with Reverend Jessica Kendall Ingram, and I must say she is the epitome of grace, excellence, and virtue. I thank her for the inspiration and encouragement that she has bestowed upon me. She is one of many women in the Church, who continues to pave the way for other women and others to ascend and fulfill their true calling. The work began with Minister Jarena Lee, who became the first female granted permission to preach in the Church in 1820. Though she was never ordained, her perseverance and persistence laid the foundation for Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, who became the first female elected Bishop of the AME Church in 2000. But the history of women goes back much further.
In the exhibition, “The Extraordinary History of the AME Church” you will see the diligent records of Sarah Allen’s (wife of Bishop Richard Allen) rent book [a log of every transaction regarding her husband’s estate after his passing], the china dish collection that the Allen’s used when entertaining guests at their home; and the worship program used in meetings by the Ministers’ Wives Alliance. These few examples personify the devotion of women in the Church to strengthen and care for the community.
The most poignant example is that of the tenacious Mary Still. You may be familiar with her brother, William Still, an acclaimed activist, abolitionist and conductor in the underground railroad. I imagine that she lived in the shadow of her brother, however, Mary Still never wavered from taking on the most audacious tasks, such as calling on the women of the AME Church. She continuously pushed for women to be more involved in Church matters and assume the primary role of educators of black youth. Her “Appeal to the Females of the A.M.E. Church,” was a call to action, urging women to generate support and funds to save the Christian Recorder, the Church’s newspaper. Her efforts proved fruitful as to this day, the Christian Recorder is still in print, providing the Church with the means to continue telling our story, in our voice.
This passion and spirit of love from the AME Church extends to the women of the Black Lives Matter movement and has been graciously sustained by Reverend Jessica Kendall Ingram, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and many more women who mobilize to keep the Black community thriving and protected. We know that history is written by the victors. As we watch the narrative in the media around police brutality, gun control, and Black community organizing unfold in front of our eyes, we know that we need to be a part of the story and take action to change the narrative and our future. For those that feel voiceless, know that we all have the power to answer the call to take action by utilizing social media, marching, protesting, and calling our governing officials to demand change in our legislature as it stands. I call on you to follow in the footsteps of our glorious ancestors and current torchbearers. The AME Church has kept the torch burning for 200 years, here’s to another 200 years of fighting for peace, justice and equality.
A Tribute to Women in the AME Church and Their Legacy
“Appeal of the Females of the AME” Written by Mary Still
Daughters of Bethel
“Awake ye daughters of Bethel,
No longer in idleness repose,
Gird on the armor of holy resolution,
And go forth to meet your foes.
Why sleep ye daughters of Jerusalem,
The promise to you is given,
Through patience, hope and perseverance,
We’ll gain the port of Heaven.
Go forth with holy zeal,
With lamp and pitcher in your hand,
War with ignorance and superstition,
Until you gain the desired end.
Go forth with courage bold,
Nor fear the opponents [sic] power,
The star that shone o’er Judea’s plain,
Will guide you in that hour.
Your path through deserts, dark and dreary,
And clouds beset the way,
Yet by faith and perseverance,
We’ll hail an opening day.
Be not discouraged or dismayed,
In truth and righteousness the promise stands,
Princes shall come out of Egypt,
And Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand.
Some tell us we would better tarry,
There’s danger in the way.
But the stronger we will rally,
To hail a rising day.”