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Jarena Lee is the First African-American woman to Preach at the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Jarena Lee, was born to a free Black family in 1783. Her family were free but they were also very poor. As Lee began to age, she found a love for the God and listening to the Gospel. She soon felt she had a calling on her life to spread the word of God, and to inspire other people. Most churches and Pastors during Lee’s time did not approve of women preaching. So, Lee went to Bishop Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E) to get permission to preach. Allen, did not approve of her preaching at the time.

Although, Lee was not approved by the Allen to preach, she would like so many other people continue to tell others about the love of God. By 1819 Richard Allen did approve Lee to preach, making her the first African-American woman preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Lee began her official preaching in 1820 and traveled from her home state New Jersey, to other states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia and even Canada.


According to Brekus, an associate Professor of the History of Christianity University, “Richard Allen became one of Jarena Lee’s greatest admirers. And he often arranged preaching appointments for her. He took her to Methodist conferences with him. He also took care of her son for two years, while she was in Philadelphia, preaching. So their lives were very closely intertwined; they became very close friends. Allen protected Lee, and made sure she had places to preach. He also made sure she always traveled with enough money. After he died in 1831, she found it was much more difficult for her to find places to preach. She no longer had his protection.”

Lee considered slavery a sin—she believed that it was one sin that God would one day punish. Many slaves would sneak off their plantation and walk over 30 miles to hear Lee speak. Many of these slaves had to be back on the plantation in their quarters before the next morning. Although, people looked up to Lee and wanted to hear what she had to say, she still faced hostility to her ministry because she was black and a woman. In one year alone, it is believed that she traveled two thousand three hundred and twenty-five miles, and preached one hundred and seventy-eight sermons.” There seems to be bits and pieces of the Jarena Lee’s life scattered about, however, what is known is that she was truly a remarkable and preaching woman of her time.


Written by PH

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