Rt. Rev. Peter Spencer
THE RIGHT REVEREND PETER SPENCER
Rejoicing triumphantly in the fervent compassionate loving kindness and the abundant grace of The Holy Father, God, The Holy Son, Jesus and The Holy Spirit, during this Founder’s Day commemoration of the devout Christian leader, The Right Reverend Peter Spencer, all of God’s children can shout “Let the Lord be Magnified!” in this historic observance on Sunday, August 27, 2006.
For the Lord is truly great and greatly to be praised. We love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of The Right Reverend Peter Spencer calling prayerfully “Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:134) Yes, Almighty God made His face to shine upon his servant Bishop Spencer for sixty-one years, as the founder of the First African American Methodist denomination on September 18, 1813 in Wilmington, Delaware.
It is significant to acknowledge that Father Peter Spencer contributed to the realization of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for African Americans and all God’s children. He maintained the struggle for human liberation.
Bishop Reese C. Scott of The African Union Methodist Protestant Church in 1966 recognized that the first Bishop, Peter Spencer protested for human equality and social justice before The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., did.
Indeed, Bishop Spencer was among the architects of The African American struggle, sharing honorable distinction with Bishop Richard Allen of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Bishop James Vaick of The African Methodist Zion Church, and countless others. Bishop Peter Spencer taught that African Americans could never be free and autonomous without quality education, leadership, economic stability, self-determination, respect, and unity of will, direction and purpose through Jesus Christ. He also stressed the need for African Americans to show pride in and love for their families, to properly train their children, and to avoid doing violence to one another.
Those same mentioned values and standards espoused by the Founding Father are still essential for today’s society and tomorrow’s communities to be truly democratic and free, as embodied in The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. In connection with this need for continuing struggle, Bishop Spencer demonstrated indomitable leadership as a champion of religious freedom.
He was a pioneer in bringing about African American religious freedom. Bishop Spencer was persuaded that African Americans could worship God without restriction, and that was why he was instrumental in founding The Union Church of Americans.
Let us review the highlights of Father Spencer’s life as recorded herein for He:
- was born in 1782 a slave in Kent County, Maryland;
- gained freedom upon the death of his master, and sometime during the 1790’s he relocated to Wilmington, Delaware;
- was educated in a private school, probably run by Quakers in Wilmington;
- joined the mostly white Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington;
- assumed roles as a teacher, as a preacher and pastor, and as a church and community organizer as well as being a mechanic;
- married Annes Spencer; *led forty Africans for religious freedom out of Asbury Methodist Episcopal Methodist, Wilmington, Delaware;
- built and dedicated the Ezion Methodist Episcopal Church in 1805;
- founded the Union Church of Africans in September 18, 1813;
- incorporated under the Delaware law of 1787 the Union Church of African Members which drew up
- Articles and Association” dated September 18, 1813;
- advocated black religious freedom and ecclesiastical independence;
- was “set apart on September 14, 1813 as a senior elder minister. The elder minister served in a manner similar to Methodist Episcopal Bishops exercising general superintendence over all congregations comprising The African Union Church, Inc.;
- maintained that women and laity should participate in religious freedom;
- became the first pastor of The Mother African Union Church in Wilmington for 30 years;
- inaugurated in 1814 The Big August Quarterly Festival as a symbol of black religious freedom and ecclesiastical independence;
- complied in 1833 and 1839 editions of THE AFRICAN UNION HYMN BOOK;
- established schools in congregations of 31 churches;
- was involved in Negro Free Masonry in America;
- regarded education as critical to the improvement of black people;
- believed that preachers should first be converted and divine “called” and then be aided by all the education possible; stressed family unity;
- taught the necessity of industry and economy as a means of attaining freedom, economic security, and self-determination; and
- died on July 25, 1843.
In memory of Bishop Peter Spencer, a hymn was sung for decades after his death as follows: Oh, where is Father Spencer I wonder where he’s gone?
The church is all in mourning,
And he cannot be found.
Oh, where is Father Spencer
I wonder where he’s gone?
The church is all in mourning,
And he cannot be found