Celebrating years of service
St Paul AME Church celebrated its 146th anniversary of continuous worship in Bermuda last Sunday. The theme was “Moving Forward in Faith and Witness”.
Pastor Nicholas Tweed led the congregation in a highly spirited service and delivered an eloquent and impactful sermon. The essence and style of worship was reflective of, and rooted in the historical religious traditions, as so prevalent in every AME church.
The AME church is the second largest denomination in Bermuda and St Paul, in particular, is considered the Cathedral of African Methodism.
The church has played a pivotal role in the spiritual development and awareness of all Bermudians. Over the past 55 years, St Paul has conducted a radio ministry and live broadcast of its Sunday morning worship service. Initially broadcast over the former ZFB radio, it's now heard on Magic 102.7FM.
The origins of St Paul date back to 1870 when the cornerstone of the church was laid as a British Methodist Episcopal Church. The church merged with the AME churches in 1885. The latter grew from the establishment of the historic Free African Society established in 1787 in Philadelphia by freed slaves.
Since inception, St Paul AME Church has played a vital role in the political, economic, social and academic development of black Bermudians.
The church established the Collegiate Institute in 1892 and played a decisive role in the formation of the Berkeley Institute in 1897.
Many of its former pastors left an indelible mark as advocates of Universal Adult Suffrage and the wholesale dismantling of social and economic segregation in Bermuda.
Albert Johnson, who later became a Bishop of the AME church, was among them. Another pastor who was instrumental in community outreach was Vernon Bird, who was also appointed a Bishop. He served from 1959-1966 and received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth. Another pastor of local vintage, and a champion of civil rights in Bermuda, was Wilbur Lowe Jr. He was the first Bermudian to be appointed pastor of St Paul, in 1976; he served for ten years.
He also served as a Member of Parliament, winning a seat in St George's for the Progressive Labour Party in the historic 1998 General Election.
Under his leadership, the church membership grew significantly. He was also instrumental in spearheading the construction of Centennial Hall and purchase of the Stone Hall property.
Rev Tweed is the 33rd pastor of St Paul, appointed in January 2013. He is the son of Kingsley Tweed, one of the progenitors of the Civil Rights Movement in Bermuda in the 1950s who also helped to organise the 1959 boycott of movie theatres here.
Rev Tweed is one of the principal founders of the People's Campaign for Equality, Jobs and Justice. It is an advocacy group that was instrumental in political engagement and the advancement of social justice and human rights for Bermudians.
In fulfilment of their Christian endeavour, the mission statement of St Paul in part is: “To Proclaim the Kingdom of God through the liberating and reconciling Word of God.”