The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Northwest will celebrate its 180th anniversary this weekend, beginning with a forum to discuss the Black church’s role and relevancy in ongoing racial, socioeconomic and social justice issues and its future challenges and opportunities.
The Friday, July 13 forum, titled “Awake the Giant: A Trumpet Call to the Black Church,” is sponsored by the revived Bethel Literary Society, which originated at Metropolitan in 1881 as a forum for discussion and debate of issues that directly affected the Black community.
The event will address issues including congregants that no longer live near their churches, lack of addressing social issues, the gentrification of neighborhoods around churches, not attracting young people and dealing with intergenerational needs of its members.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. for fellowship and refreshments, followed by a memorial tribute to James Cone, father of Black Liberation Theology, given by one of his former students, Josiah Young of Wesley Theological Seminary.
After the tribute, there will be two panel sessions at the forum. The first panel discussion, “The Black Church: Relevant or Replaceable,” will be moderated the Rev. Tony Lee, pastor of the Community of Hope AME Church. The panelists will be Rev. William H. Lamar IV, pastor of Metropolitan AME, and Rev. Christine Wiley, pastor emeritus at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ.
The second panel session, “The Black Church: Liberated or Liability,” will be moderated by WAMU Radio producer Jonquilyn Hill and feature a panel of emerging ministerial leaders, including the Rev. Jazmine Brooks, an intern at Metropolitan AME; the Rev. Alphonso Campbell III, pastor of New Baptist Covenant; and Wasaba Sidibay, a student at Wesley Theological Seminary.
The panel will discuss how Black millennials view their relationship with the church.
The free event is open to the public, and vent organizers encourage attendees to share their thoughts and ideas for the future of the Black church.
The church will also host a fish fry on Saturday, July 14, with an anniversary service the following day featuring Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as the guest preacher.
Prominent speakers at the church throughout its history include Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jesse Jackson, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Frederick Douglass, the latter of whom often attended service at the church, where his funeral was also held in 1895. Former U.S. presidents who attended service at the church include Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.