Religion and African American Episcopal (AME) Church
Over the years the term religion has been ambiguous to define and therefore referred to in a variety of ways. While some sources tend to use formalistic and doctrinal definition, others emphasize on emotive, intuitive, evaluation and ethical factors. The most widely used definition is given by anthropologists who indicate that it is a set of beliefs, symbols, stories and practices, that often have a supernatural aspect in it, and which give meaning to the particular practitioner life line experiences to an ultimate reality or power. Most often, it is expressed through meditation, prayer, arts or rituals (Vincent, 2008). The focus may also be directed towards metaphysical, ethics, supernatural realities that yields extended laws on religion, particular lifestyle and ethics. To add to that, the definition has been extended to include cultural traditions, mythologies as well as religious experiences and personal faith (Jon et al, 2008).
Though the term religion is mostly used interchangeably with belief system, it entails particular behaviors and thus more socially defined than individualized convictions. Its definition has also taken greatly from the historical development and origins of the psychological and social roots. According to the western patriarchal thought, it presents a common communal system which divides the world into sacred and profane domains with moral codes, practices, institutions, values and scriptures that have traditional association with main beliefs that mostly overlap with principles of secular belief (Peter, 2008).
Following the increase in slaves’ trade and slavery and hostility in US by the whites especially on the black people of the African origin, there was general discontent by the rising levels of brutality that was supported by the white masters who were also religious leaders. African American Episcopal (AME) Church is the church that was established by the black people in US as a response of the major suffering they were getting from their white masters during the colonial era. It was founded by Richard Allen together with other Methodist sprinter groups in 1816 as a main force to advocate for their rights, enhance their unity and give them a source of fraternity and empowerment in the highly oppressive land. This church was therefore established along the major Methodists ideologies and beliefs; however it was sociologically driven as opposed to theological normality of majority of the other churches. The church grew with major support from the slaves in the south and from the north and therefore acted as the main force that bound them together in the later batters that were not just enormous but controversial (Organization of American Historians, 2008).
As indicated earlier African-American Methodist (AME) Church was a direct sprinter group that deviated from the Methodist church because of its leadership. However, they did not disregard the major doctrines that were being taught in the church which they established in the new church and continued to follow (Jon et al, 2008). The main church mission was to advocate for the black people’s rights which they were greatly denied by their slavery masters. The church was therefore particular about its main objective of ministering to the intellectual and spiritual needs of the oppressed people. To add to that, it aimed at ensuring that the emotional and environmental demands of the black people were met through spreading the liberating Christ’s gospel by words and actions too. It was clear that the mission was people driven as the church vowed to move all over to ensure that it spread the gospel, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, housed the homeless, and cheered the fallen and provided jobs to the jobless in all their places of operation (Organization of American Historians, 2008).
As a result the church established major centers especially in the regions where the needs of those who were sick and imprisoned could be addressed. To add to that it embarked on an important mission of empowering the black people economically with major encouragement to enhance shift from the slavery. As indicated earlier, the mission was more socially driven that theologically derived and motivated from inception and increasingly in application and struggle with the oppressors (Vincent, 2008).
Church name origin.
All the different groups that linked to form African-American Episcopal (AME) were sprinter groups from Methodist church in St. George Methodist church in Georgia. Therefore, the sprinter groups shared a lot of similarities from their modes of beliefs and worship (Jon et al, 2008). With Episcopal Church of St. Thomas under Absalom Jones and Richard Allen leading Bethel Episcopal Church, they adopted the doctrines of Methodist Episcopal Church from its government. To add to that, they shared similarities in the major problems that confronted them during the period lasting from mid 18th century to 1916 when they joined to form the African-American Episcopal (AME) Church. The term AFRICA refers to the people who formed the church as being of African origin but was meant for all the people including the whites and all the other races. Methodist term refer to the doctrines that the church uses in relation to the major foundations and guidelines that were fully of the Methodist Church of St. George Methodist Church in Georgia. Episcopal underscores the mode of governance for the church which used bishops as their leaders (Peter, 2008).
With the church motto being “God, our father, Christ our redeemer, man our brother”, their basic foundation was the apples creed. The church was strongly based on the teachings of the bible as outlined in the articles of religion that gave them the morale to push on even when things were hard (Peter, 2008). Article 8 and 10 gave the early revolutionaries in the church strength to quest for the common good of their brothers as they understood that the call for noble good was not from any man and would be rewarded by God himself. As the church set to move in all the sections advocating for the rights of the oppressed in the region, article 3 and 4 ensured that the main aim was strongly rooted in divine deliverance through Christ who was sent to die for the human race. Besides, the sending of his holly spirit to stay and comfort them was the most vital aspect even when they were short of focus and power.
With increasing popularity among the slaves especially in South America, African-American Episcopal (AME) Church gained fast recognition from the political arena for the increasing influence with the vast numbers. With calls for support to help the suffering people in the land of slavery, the church soon gained international backup that increased its capacity to negotiate politically and socially on behalf of the oppressed people. In 1884 the church activists won a major case against the whites where the court ruled in favor of the blacks by accepting their calls for desegregation of the different races in education. After the major struggle for voting rights from 1850 to 1900, major leaders ascended to high positions of power which formed a major turning point that anchored their liberation in the later years (Peter, 2008).
AME difference with other denominations.
Vincent (2008) argues that, since inception AME has been very different in approach to religion aspects as it was initially socially incepted under the religious doctrines to help the people in slavery and other major sufferings from the whites in the foreign land. Unlike the Methodist Episcopal Church, AME was open to all the people from the different races who felt that they shared the common goal with them. Majority of the denomination doctrines have persisted to the current date and it is more people oriented with emphasis on the holiness and helping one another. Modern formed churches however lack originality and practice new concepts that are recently derived. They lack a clear history into the past while others have turned too commercial in their approach to the preaching of the gospel to the people (Jon et al, 2008).
I have learned that strong faith in God, sound determination as taught by the apples creed and the articles of religion forms the most important aspect of conquering problems, progressing, acting as an example to others and reaping Gods blessings in abundance. I was introduced to AME church at an early age by my mother. She was a member of the local AME church and encouraged me to attend Sunday school most of the time. During this period, I rarely understood many concepts that were taught as they were hard to me while the teachers did no allow us to question what they were teaching. However, major concepts about the apples creed are still clear in my mind. Later, I participated in the major recitals that actually assisted in molding my later life in a great way. After going to high school, I got involved in sports and other activities that made me to concentrate less with the church activities.
However, my history lessons topics on religion in school touched on some concepts that I had grasped in church. This made it very interesting and I explored more about the history of religion and how it was brought to US and articulated by the colonial masters. However, more controversies started arising in me as I started questioning the ability of the different people to interpret the bible in different formats yet it was the same book. My teacher insisted that I had to read more in order to understand all the major concepts that were aligned with the onset of the different religious beliefs. My mother however insisted that I had to be careful as I could misunderstand different sections of the bible teachings easily especially when with different peers from other denominations.
After my high school, I went to university where my curiosity on different subjects relating to religion was sinking to my understanding. Learning to read my bible and follow the manuals guidelines given in church I have come to understand more about the history and connection of an individual with God. Later, I returned to my local church on a regular basis and served as a member of the trustee board and currently serving on the USHER board as a member of the Stewart board. In the church, I understood that like an organization operates, one should understand majority of the biblical teachings as people rely on you to guide and direct them on religious issues.
How religion and AME church has affected my life.
From early years of my Sunday school, religious life through high school and my later service in the AME church, I have obtained strong values that have shaped and defined my life. Through religion I have come to appreciate why some things happen in life with human beings even have the most modern and recent technology not being able to control. As a result my previous aggressive approach to different aspects have softened and faded away. From the definition of religion that is not very clear and the moving and heart consoling lifestyles of the bible icons such as Abraham, Lot, David, Joseph and the Gospel on Jesus Christ, I have also understood that religion has its own philosophy that fully applies just like the other philosophies.
Besides, I have come to appreciate and configure that religion is like politics in formation and administration. From the early years of religion, all the churches including the AME church have structures that require involvement finances distribution in order of preferences and decision making like the way politics is carried out. As a result it is possible to make serious mistakes that can have possible repercussions to the people in different regions of the country and world (Vincent, 2008). To add to that I have also appreciated to understand the bible from different perspectives of life demand in order to assist the people with different needs. All the teachings in religion are greatly ambiguous and controversial leaving a lot of sentiments from the people as they understand them differently. This has not only affected the mode of my association with people, but also increased my caution on their stands as they can take positions that are highly destructive to my faith and lifestyle.
AME church audience
Just like when I was young and growing up at AME church, the audience is punctual and consistent at major meetings and more so on Sunday services. With the fascinating past that the church had, all the people get emotional at the major days of remembering the founders of the church. However, the audience is able to control its emotions at all times for the services to proceed. Over the last five years, the new leadership in the church has embarked on an aggressive mission of educating the audience on the major religious facts that have enhanced the audience ability to comprehend varying aspects of the church with depth. This resulted after increasing demands by the members for church history. Besides, the audience has increasingly been using the local church library as a major source of information alongside other major websites that have the materials pasted there by the church management.
AME Contribution to the society.
Since inception the mission of AME was clearly outlined with major service to the community being very distinct. To begin with, it has been a strong supporter of education since inception. By the year 2000, AME had the largest number of colleges, seminaries and universities that were associated with it. The colleges and universities include western university in Kansas, Kittrell College in North Carolina, Allen University in Columbia and Wilberforce University in Wilberforce. Since the beginning and post cold war period in the world and particularly in US, the role of education has been attributed to be the main cause of high industrial and economic growth and development (Vincent, 2008). The current church thrives in professionalism emphasis which is seen as the major icon of people’s progress and therefore increased ability to support others as indicated in the Holy Scriptures.
As indicated in article 10 of the articles of religion, there is a strong call to serve the community through voluntary work that ensures participants are blessed abundantly. As a result, the church has been engaging different nonprofit organizations in assisting the people in the line of health and environmental conservation both in local areas and major towns. Besides, there have been major charities organized by the church for assisting the needy in US while the church leadership was directly involved in calling for food stumps establishment. Besides, cooperation has been the main call for the church organization in addressing varying problems that affects the people. As a result, the church partners with other organizations in ensuring that community services are well spread through out the world (Peter, 2008).
From the humble history to the massive rise since inception the church was based on nonviolent means of questing for justice to its people. It had its loud calls ensuring that the message of the gospel was well understood. As a result non violent measures were used by mighty leaders like Martin Luther King Junior who served to define the progress of the black people and ensure that the people used adopted alternative means to achieve their objectives. Besides, it has also been advocating for ceasefires in majority of the cases that fights have risen between US and other states especially in the Middle East. It calls for respect of human rights at all times as people are God created and thus sacred and holy according to religious teachings and must be kept holy under all circumstances (Organization of American Historians, 2008).
As indicated from the beginning of this essay, it is clear that religion as a way of life has far reaching effects that shape and dictates individual’s intrinsic virtues and external characters that make him have the ability to live cohesively and harmoniously with others. Acting as the center post in mentoring my life, AME church ensured that from my young tender age, I assimilated the most important aspects that not only related to the church ideologies, but integrated me with the facts of life necessary for addressing majority of the life recurrent problems. As a result, staying in AME has been the best resolution as it helps one to focus on the future with past experiences that are based on understandable episodes that have happened in the church history.
AME church has been clearly structured with a strong derivative mission that is people and divinely carved. It has sound and principled alignment with the apostles creed and the articles of religion that has indicated the ability to turn what is wrong into opportunities that have far reaching positive effects to the people’s political and social economic lifestyles. Through religion, servitude was focused by the salves with black preachers who interpreted the Holy Scriptures ushering liberation as a tool of empowerment. Cooperation and strong faith can move mountains that otherwise may appear as immovable due to the extent of oppressiveness from the masters or oppresses.
Jon, B., Grant, W., Randall, B. & Randall, H. B. (2008). Religion in American Life: A Short History. Oxford: Oxford University press.
Organization of American Historians. (2008). America on the World Stage: A Global Approach to US History. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Peter, W. W. (2008). America’s Religions: From Their Origins to the Twenty-First Century. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Vincent, N. P. (2008). Diversity in America. New York: Pine Forge press.