Cynthia King drove from her home in Stamford, Conn., for the ceremony at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church honoring the first day of the U.S. Postal Service’s Richard Allen forever stamp.
“This is a historic moment in time,” said King, 62, historiographer of the AME church’s first district, which includes the region from Boston to Philadelphia. “I had to be here.”
The stamp is being released in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the 1816 conference at which Allen called for other African American Methodist ministers to form an independent African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Tuesday’s noon ceremony included performances by choirs from Mother Bethel and the Postal Service, by mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, and by Bobby Hill, 14, who sang for Pope Francis last fall.
Joshua D. Colin, a Postal Service vice president, told the story of Allen’s life, then unveiled a huge image of the Allen stamp about 12:45 p.m. The crowd responded with a gentle roar of approval and a standing ovation.
The Postal Service choir then led the packed church in a spirited version of the pop song “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.
Bishops from AME churches around the country offered prayers and words of wisdom.
Businessman and civil-rights activist Vernon Jordan Jr., the master of ceremonies, quipped that he’d been asked to host because “I have standing, and I’m a lifelong member of the AME Church.”
Brenda Skinner of Freehold, N.J., left her home at 9 a.m. for the ceremony. After securing a seat in the second-floor sanctuary, she had time to buy several sheets of Richard Allen stamps in the first-floor Fellowship Hall.
“This is my first time at Mother Bethel,” said Skinner, adding that she was proud that the stamp honors Allen. “He stood for determination and endurance.”
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