Torch run marks bicentennial of AME Church

Photos: Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The African Methodist Episcopal Church began celebrations of its 200th year Saturday with a torch run from Dover to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Eighty runners were expected to make the trek which spans approximately 90 miles over a 24 hour period. Starting at the Richard Allen historical marker on the corner of Loockerman and Federal streets in Dover and ending at Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, runners will have passed through Dover, Smyrna, Townsend, Middletown, New Castle, St. George, Wilmington and Claymont along U.S. 13.

For the first time, the American Cancer Society partnered with a faith-based organization to help bring awareness to the work of ACS. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is delighted that the world’s largest voluntary health organization fighting cancer will serve as a co-sponsor of the event.

Richard Allen, the founder of African Methodism, was sold as a slave to a planter named Stokeley near Dover. It was in Delaware that Mr. Allen was converted under the preaching of Freeborn Garretson, an itinerant preacher of the Methodist Church.

Later, Mr. Allen worked for the Continental Army and purchased his freedom. “In so many ways, he was the first national leader for black people in this nation and was a tireless worker for the well-being of all persons,” said the Rev. Ellis B. Louden, pastor of Mount Zion AME Church in Dover. Mr. Allen advanced the cause of the abolition of slavery and the quality of life for free African-Americans.

Other events planned for the Bicentennial Celebration include the unveiling of the Richard Allen statue and Memorial Courtyard at Mother Bethel AME Church, 419 S. 6th Street, Philadelphia, today at 3 p.m.

The six-foot bronze statue is the first of an African American in Philadelphia. Also, on Monday, at 3 p.m., an unveiling and dedication ceremony of the Richard and Sarah Allen, his wife, mural will happen at the First District Headquarters of the AME Church, 3801 Market St., Philadelphia.

In conjunction with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, a colorful painting wraps around the First Episcopal District Headquarters transforming the exterior of the building into a masterful work of contemporary art. AME Church leaders found it most appropriate for the dedication of the permanent installation be on the day Americans commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, whose promised freedoms Bishop Allen fought to make sure African Americans enjoyed along with all other Americans.

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