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St. Thomas Episcopal Church And Mother Bethel AME Celebrate History With Joint Mass

Philadelphia (CBS) – The two churches that started what has become known as the Black Church Movement in America united for a historic worship service Sunday morning at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Lancaster Avenue.

When discrimination caused Richard Allen and Absalom Jones to walk out of Saint George's United Methodist Church in 1787, they had no idea their act of defiance would start a religious movement. Jones started St. Thomas in 1792, the country's first African American Episcopal Church. Two years later, Allen started Mother Bethel AME Church in South Philadelphia.

Sunday marked St. Thomas' 219th anniversary and the first time ever the two congregations have united for a joint service.

"One of the issues that Absalom Jones and Richard Allen had all the time with folks in Philadelphia was over the issue of authority. Who told you that you could start a free African society to bury your own dead? So what we won't bury them, who said that you could? Who said you could put your money together and save it and do what you want to?"

Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor at Mother Bethel gave the sermon- his theme, "stop waiting for superman." He encouraged parishioners to be more like Allen and Jones and to take the future in their own hands.

"You have got the power, not because anything has changed in you, but because you've got authority," he preached.

Father Martini Shaw, pastor at St. Thomas, hosted the service. It was a part of the 15th Annual Liberation Sunday Celebration.

Historic service at The Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
Father Martini Shaw (Credit: Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio)

Reported By Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio

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