Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016
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Toledo's oldest AME church celebrating 165th anniversary

Congregation founded by escaping slaves heading north

  • Warren-AME-Church-established-a-Sabbath-school

    Warren AME Church established a Sabbath school in 1862 that provided former slaves with supplementary education. It moved to Norwood Avenue in 1950, then to 915 Collingwood Blvd. in 1993.

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Warren-AME-Church-established-a-Sabbath-school

Warren AME Church established a Sabbath school in 1862 that provided former slaves with supplementary education. It moved to Norwood Avenue in 1950, then to 915 Collingwood Blvd. in 1993.

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Elinor Allen has deep ties to the Warren AME Church. She has been a member for over 40 years, and her husband, Charles, is a descendant of one of the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination.

So as the Toledo church, which was founded in 1847 as the oldest African-American church in the city, holds its 165th anniversary this weekend, the occasion will be of special significance to Mrs. Allen.

"It means a lot because we've come so far," she said. "In 1847, our people were not free yet. It's important to acknowledge how far we've come and appreciate the progress we've been able to make."

Rev-Dr-Otis-J-Gordon-Jr

Rev. Dr. Otis J. Gordon, Jr.

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The culmination of the anniversary celebration will be a service on Sunday led by the Rev. P. Robert Tate, the presiding elder of the Youngstown AME District. The service is intended as a homecoming for former members of the church, said Rosie Payne, a spokesman for the church. A reception is scheduled afterward.

The church also holds special meaning for its senior pastor, the Rev. Otis J. Gordon, Jr., who was ordained in the church in 1969. His own pastor from childhood, he said, also presided over the church.

"For me to be the pastor, it's a great honor," he said.

The church was formed by escaped slaves heading north through Toledo and Cleveland on the Underground Railroad, Pastor Gordon said.

Pastor Gordon said that in 1862 the church opened a Sabbath school that provided former slaves with supplementary education.

When abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke in Toledo in 1864, some of his papers were preserved in wooden-box time capsule buried in the cornerstone of the church's new downtown location, according to the Aug. 2, 1864, edition of The Blade.

Pastor Gordon learned of the capsule in 2011, but he said the church has been unable to find it.

Warren AME moved in 1950 from the now-demolished downtown church to 749 Norwood Ave., occupying the space of the former Norwood Avenue Church of Christ. The church moved to its current site, 915 Collingwood Blvd., in 1993.

Among its events this weekend, the church has scheduled a community skating party from 3 to 6 p.m. today at Ohio Skate.

Thursday evening featured a revival service led by the Rev. Jermaine Covington, pastor at St. John AME Church in Worthington, Ohio.

Warren AME held a family night Friday .

Contact Casey Sumner at: csumner@theblade.com.

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