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July 14, 2014, 10:28 am

AME members inspired by conference

In honor of the “196th Session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference: Reach, Reclaim, Engage, Empower,” various African Methodist Episcopal churches gathered for the common cause to connect and inspire through empowering worship experiences.

With a lot of preparation and support from surrounding AME churches, the historic Mother Bethel AME Church in South Philadelphia hosted the conference this year.

“We partnered with people in the community and we worked with other churches,” said first lady of Mother Bethel Leslie Tyler. “We really worked our AME network; that’s where AME comes in handy because you never really do things by yourself — we just thank God we are not by ourselves.”

Mother Bethel worked with other churches to provide adequate parking space for guests and to supply the use of vans. In addition, they partnered with Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Food Café, to provide catering and to have guests eat at the restaurant.

The conference kicked off with a “Women in Ministry” event last Sunday, followed by the “Evangelism” event on Monday and a “missionaries” event on Tuesday where people gathered from New York, D.C. and other surrounding cities.

“We elected a new president, Connie Smith; … Florence Smith was the outstanding president,” Tyler said.

Wednesday was the official opening ceremony at Mother Bethel and Rev. Ronald Sparks from Monumental AME Church delivered the annual sermon.

“The turnout has exceeded expectations and the opening service was spirit filled,” Tyler said. “It was a very inspirational message that captured the frustrations and hopes of his peers and all of those gathered — it kind of sets the tone for the annual conference.”

The Rev. Edward M. Bailey from Lancaster and the Rev. Paul J. Thomas of Union AME Church located at 1614 Jefferson St., were enthused to participate in the annual conference and to attend the lay organization event held Thursday night at Mother Bethel.

The AME Church lay organization is a group consisting of members and community leaders, who inspire the youth, encourage financial support of the Church’s programs and share a common appreciation for the history and principles of African Methodism.

“It is also the night that we raise money for our colleges that belong to the AME Church,” Bailey said. “Each church will come together and give a donation towards a college fund for the African Methodist church.”

Thomas believes this conference is much needed in our community.

These conferences are important because it helps members know what the churches are doing and where they stand,” he said.

Following the lay organization event, Friday’s events were dedicated to Christian education along with Saturday, which was dedicated to the Young People’s Division (YPD). Former Gov. Ed Rendell stopped by the conference on Friday.

Sunday’s closing ceremonies located at First Episcopal District headquarters at

3801 Market St. consisted of the reading of resolutions, closing worships and the appointment of churches.

“Each year pastors are assigned to their church,” Tyler said. “Bishop Richard Franklin Norris appoints the pastor to a church.”

The conference is also an opportunity for vendors from all over to sell merchandise in what Mother Bethel names the “Blacksmith shop.”

The conference was an opportunity for people to reconnect, network and worship together.

“When you are working out there so often you think you’re all by yourself, it’s good to come and be reaffirmed that what you’re doing is what God called us to do,” Bailey said.