African Methodist Episcopal Church Conference to Be Held In Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The Rev. Edward Bailey, left, works with pastor's administrator Helen Jackson in the office at Bethel AME Church. Bethel AME is making preparations to host the denomination's Philadelphia Conference in the First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church next week. (Blaine Shahan / Staff)
The Rev. Edward Bailey, left, works with pastor’s administrator Helen Jackson in the office at Bethel AME Church. Bethel AME is making preparations to host the denomination’s Philadelphia Conference in the First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church next week. (Blaine Shahan / Staff)

Members of the Philadelphia Conference in the First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church love coming to Lancaster.

“And Lancaster likes them,” says the Rev. Edward M. Bailey, pastor of Bethel AME and host pastor of the 198th session of the annual conference at the Lancaster Marriott Hotel and Convention Center Wednesday to Sunday, May 18.

“The last time the conference was here, there was a lot of conversation about all these black people dressed up. Many women will wear hats, and I dress formal every day. We think you should wear your best before God and when in fellowship with one another.”

Members of 160 central Pennsylvania churches in the conference — about 500 people a day — are expected to attend the conference on the theme of “First Things First,” from Matthew 6:33 — “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The conference, including “good worship services open to the public,” Bailey says, will include discussions, among pastors and lay members, on the spiritual and financial health of the church, its growth and the well-being of its pastors. For a complete schedule of events, go to http://www.2014philadelphiaconference.com.

Bailey will lead a discussion on youth and young adults.

“We’ll discuss how the churches are doing with young people, because if they are not developing youth, there will be no leadership to continue the church,” he says.

“If there is a youth problem, it is with the adults. Years ago, you could find 15 adults to work with youth. Now you’re lucky to find one or two. There are not that many adults who have a healthy interest in youth. It’s not happening. Even in churches. It’s difficult to get people who care enough to put their time on the line for young people. It’s sad that they are not making that investment in our community. It’s frightening. Who’s raising those children?”

Bethel, at 450 E. Strawberry St., was founded in 1816. Today it has about 500 members, with an average Sunday attendance of 150 worshippers and a healthy youth group, Bailey says.

The denomination was founded in Philadelphia in 1776 and is the oldest — and largest — African American denomination in the country, he adds.

“It developed because of enslavement and the inability for Africans to worship freely. They were always under observation, subjugation and intimidation,” he says. “The foundation of the AME is fellowship.”

The First Episcopal District is comprised of seven conferences, from Bermuda to New England. Members of churches in the district are expected to attend the opening of the conference on Wednesday.

“It will be the biggest day,” Bailey says.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Lancaster Online
Joan Kern

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