Many churches and organizations honor their senior members but for a church to be able to honor 15 members who are all over 90 is remarkable. On Feb. 12 at the Churchill Valley Country Club, the Steward Board of the historic St. James AME Church held their eighth Annual Richard Allen Founder’s Day Recognition Luncheon.

Richard Allen was one of the first African-American religious and civil rights leaders in the United States. Allen discovered religion after hearing a wandering Methodist preacher at a secret gathering of slaves in Delaware. He drove a salt wagon during the Revolutionary War and purchased his freedom in 1780.

SURROUNDED BY FAMILY—Seated William Harris, is surrounded by family Jerome and Sheila Turner, Roberta Davis and Margaret Harris, also seated.

In 1786, he traveled to Philadelphia to preach to the Black congregation at St. George’s Methodist Church. After separating from St. George’s in 1794, Allen helped found the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and then went on to found his own Methodist congregation which he called Bethel Church.

Allen became the first Black deacon of the Methodist Church and eventually, after 30 years of struggle with the White Methodist congregation at St. George’s, founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Allen became the AME’s first bishop and was recognized as one of the leading voices in the free Black community of the early 19th century. Allen’s birthday was Feb. 14, 1760.

The St. James AME honorees, all more than 90 years of age, included: Sarah Bullock, Alma Burgess, Mary Forshay, Madelyn Giddens, William Harris, Rosa Houston, Rev. Allie Mae Johnson, Yola Kemp, Kathryn King, Evelyn Kiser, Alma Pryor, Menona Roberts, Ethel White, Oscar Worthy and Dorothy Young.

With sadness Rev. James Murray announced that Young passed away on the morning of the luncheon. Nearly 200 enjoyed a beautiful program that included scripture and musical selections from the Robertson family. Edward Gainey brought greetings from the City of Pittsburgh and Carolyn Byrd delivered a dynamic keynote speech and let the audience know that “as long as you can talk the Lord can use you.”

Program participants included: Robert Gleaves, Rev. Regina Ragin, Juanita Arterberry, Carol Thurman, Czerna Benton, Andre Nelson, Rev. Rose Thompson, Hazel Jackson and Allan Bullock.

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