Moving toward Christian excellence in service was the theme of the 143rd session of the Allegheny Scranton District Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The 23 churches from Pittsburgh and other communities converged on Clairton, the City of Prayer, to convene and worship together.

DIGNITARIES—Clairton dignitaries surround Elder Eric L. Brown and Rev. Dr. Judith Moore, pastor of First AME Church in Clairton, fourth and fifth from the left. First AME was the host church for the conference.

“It was a time of learning and to find out what AME worship is all about,” said Rev. Dr. Judith C. Moore, pastor of First AME Church in Clairton where the three-day event was held. The conference had not been held at First AME in more than 20 years, according to Moore.

The welcome services included workshops on “Planning the Year in the Local Church” and “Evangelism: How to Catch Fish and Clean Them.” The Ecumenical Worship Celebration was complete with the First AME Conference Choir and a dinner.

“We wanted the community to come and worship with us,” said Rev. Moore who has pastored the church for three years.

Many of Clairton’s dignitaries accepted her invitation and attended the welcome dinner as a show of solidarity and support for the conference and ultimately the city of Clairton.

“I respect Rev. Moore and Clairton is a big family and we all come to each other’s events and we show support to everyone in town,” said Clairton City School Board President Richard Livingston.

Mayor Richard Lattanzi agreed with Livingston.

“The dinner was a good idea. It will give exposure to the city of Clairton and help us bring ideas together. You also get to meet new people. It’s definitely a positive thing,” Lattanzi said.

The second day events included two workshops: Is Ministry a Calling or a Career? and Where Do Our Conference Claims Go? It also included a musical extravaganza by The Allegheny Scranton District Choir. The event ended on Saturday with the third annual Sons of Allen Breakfast Meeting, a business session taught by Presiding Elder Eric L. Brown and a closing communion worship celebration.

“Our goals for the conference is to give pastors and delegates the skills to enhance their ministries. It is for them to sharpen their skills and increase our numbers through evangelism and other innovative ministries. We also want to have an impact on the community so we asked each church to bring a non-perishable good for the community,” said six-year Presiding Elder Eric L. Brown, pastor of St. James Church in Pittsburgh. Brown was the person who chose to hold this year’s conference at First AME.

“I couldn’t be happier about the conference being held here,” Brown said. “First AME hosted our Sunday school convention two years ago and the entire church family is very welcoming. It was chosen because the congregation has a lot of enthusiasm. About five years ago the church had a low ebb and since Rev. Moore has been here the church has a more excited congregation.”

And that excitement was evident in First AME members who attended the conference.

Lifelong AME church member Lowell Owens has attended the Allegheny Scranton Conference for more than 20 years. This year she helped register the churches and the delegates.

“I’ve seen the church grow tremendously. They reach out to help the community here and afar,” Owens said. “I am excited about the way we’ve grown closer together and how we share things with one another and that’s through the blood of Jesus and the pastors who teach us.”

That’s why Clairton-based Kingdom Come Ministry Senior Pastor Jonathan Robinson and Co-Pastor Sharon Robinson decided to attend the conference.

“It was nice to be invited and to meet with different denominations in the name of the same Lord and Savior. It is good to get out and fellowship and cross that barrier because there is only one body in Christ,” the Robinson’s said.

The AME mission is to minister the spiritual, intellectual, ecological, physical, and educational needs of all people by spreading Christ’s liberating gospel by thought, word and deed.

The AME Church was started in 1789 by Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and others. It received its incorporation in 1816.

The Allegheny/Scranton District includes Clairton, Pittsburgh, Duquesne, Wilkinsburg, Aliquippa, New Brighton, Farrell, Scranton, Tarentum, New Castle, Wilkes-Barre, Lewistown, Bridegwater, New Brighton, Meadville, Milton, Mt. Union, West Mifflin, Huntington, Williamsport, Altoona, Bellefonte and Clearfield.

When asked what goals he has set for the church in 2010, he was quick to answer: more involvement in the community and helping youths.

“The church must affect the community and capture it because people are looking for a way out of poverty and under-education. The spiritual way is the only way out. Through God all things are possible,” Brown said.

Reverend P. Robert Tate, president of the Presiding Elder Council over Western PA and Ohio, felt First AME members were very hospitable.

“They planned an excellent hosting for the conference they have been very gracious and accommodating,” Tate said. “As presiding elder, one of our things is to give support and show a sense of togetherness because in togetherness is strength.”

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