THE METHODIST UNION
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, June 25, 1911 [p. 5]
The proposed union of the three larger branches of Methodism is the subject of a joint commission and is interesting the religious world. Several millions of people in the land are looking to a reunion of the Methodist churches, and in this District are the members of half a hundred churches under four conferences, one of them colored. It is likely the colored Methodists, embracing four divisions, will also unite.
Originally a compact organization, there have been from time to time separations from this joint body on questions other than the fundamental articles of religion, and there are a number of branches of the parent body.
Methodism originated in England before the middle of the eighteenth century, and was preached in the colonies before the revolutionary war. In this section of the country it had reached Georgetown as early as 1773, and it is believed that about the year 1780 there was a small society of the faith in that place, and that this was the nucleus of the present Dumbarton Avenue Church. It is known that there were a few families of the faith in Carrollsburg, at the foot of South Capitol street, when the site of the Capitol was being prepared for the government, and this was the beginning of the congregation now known as Trinity M.E. Church, at 5th and C streets southeast.
Conference Held in 1784
The congregations were of the white and colored races, who worshiped in the same buildings, in assigned portions, for many years, but the color question was long a difficult one to deal with, and it finally led to the great break in 1844. The sexes sat apart from each other and all dressed in the plainest style, eschewing all jewelry and ornamentation, and were as well known by their dress as by their conduct.
Soon after the organization of the church the question as to the powers of the bishop in appointing the preachers was raised, and in 1791 a resolution was offered providing that a minister who felt aggrieved by his appointment could appeal to the whole body, which should determine the question. The appointment of presiding elders by the bishop was also discussed but the bishop continued to exercise his authority uncontested.
Secede From Main Body
Though the first church in Georgetown dates its origin in 1780, a building was not erected by the congregation until 1800. April 17 of that year Anthony Holmead conveyed for the nominal sum of 5 shillings (66 cents) to Lloyd Beall, Richard Parrott, Samuel Williams, Isaac Owens, Richard Beck, George Collard and Peter Miller, trustees, lot 17, on Montgomery street, "for a place of worship for the use of members of the Methodist Episcopal Church." June 3, 1814, this congregation bought of William Morgan for the use of the colored members lot 78, Holmead's second addition, for $200. This lot was on North street, the title being given to Henry Foxall, Isaac Owens, Leonard Mackall, John Eleason, William Doughty and Joel Brown.
For several years there were members of this church living on the site of Washington, among them George Collard, a carpenter; Peter Miller, a baker, and others, who formed a class in the Twenty buildings, corner of South Capitol and N streets. This class and others moved to Carroll's tobacco barn, near New Jersey avenue and D street southeast, in 1807. The Episcopalians had worshipped in this barn many years, in that year moving to their present home, Christ Church, on G street between 6th and 7th streets southeast.
Erect House of Worship
The third church established here was the Foundry. During the war of 1812 the foundry property of Mr. Foxall, lying above Georgetown, was marked for destruction by the British. It was known that Mr. Foxall had furnished the government with cannon. Owing to a storm the detachment that was to destroy it was driven back, and Mr. Foxall regarded this as a providential escape of his property. Soon after the close of the war in 1815, Mr. Foxall erected a chapel at the northeast corner of 14th and G streets northwest and named it the Foundry, presenting it to a board of trustees for a church. The old site is now occupied by the Colorado building, and a splendid edifice on 16th and Church streets is the home of the Foundry organization.
Though the colored members found accommodations in the white churches, there were colored people in the neighborhood of the Ebenezer Church who organized a congregation as early as 1820. At that time the African M.E. Church had been formed in Philadelphia under the lead of the Rev. Richard Allen.
On Fourth street south of G street a society of colored people had a schoolhouse and employed a white teacher for their children. Here in 1820 was what is now known as Israel C.M.E. Church, 1st and B streets southwest. Its birthplace was called "The Chicken Coop," and later the congregation moved to Simms' "Rope Walk Corner" at 3d street and Pennsylvania avenue southeast. When the Presbyterians moved from the "Little White Chapel under the Hill," on South Capitol street, to the First Presbyterian Church, on John Marshall place, the Israel congregation purchased and occupied the chapel until its site was taken into the Capitol grounds, about forty years ago, and then built a fine brick church at 1st and B streets southwest.
Trouble Over Title
The sentiment for reform in the church was growing. Some of the preachers of the conference asked for a voice in the selection of the presiding elders. The local preachers wanted to participate in the conferences, and the membership asked to be represented by delegates. A paper was published in Philadelphia in the interests of these reforms, and in 1824 a paper was established in Baltimore in the same interests. This was called the Mutual Rights, and Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, who afterward was the editor of the National Era, an anti-slavery organ of this city, was the editor. A convention of the reformers was called by a union society of Baltimore to meet in November, 1828. This society was composed of expelled and suspended members of the M.E. Church. They formed the Associated Methodist Church. A convention of ministers and laymen was held in Baltimore in 1830, when the name Methodist Protestant was adopted.
Expelled for Favoring Reform
The reform members of Foundry Church, who were disciplined in 1832, formed the Tabernacle M.P. Church, on 12th street near H street northwest. In 1834 they erected a brick church on 9th street between E and F streets, which they occupied until 1888, then going to 12th and M streets for a few years, and the congregation is now in a fine building on Rhode Island avenue and 1st street northwest. There are now eight Methodist Protestant churches.
Foundry Church in 1828 started Wesley, and the following year the building was erected at 5th and F streets. Ten years afterward the colored members of the Foundry, who had worshiped in the galleries, were provided with a chapel at 11th and K streets, now known as Asbury, and early in the forties the Fourth Street Methodist Church provided its colored members with a chapel at 5th and F streets southeast, called “Little Ebenezer.”
Another Congregation Formed
To the parent church – the Methodist Episcopal – were added, before the war, Ryland, 10th and D streets southwest, 1845; McKendree, Massachusetts avenue between 9th and 10th streets northwest, and Union, 20th street near Pennsylvania avenue, 1846; Gorsuch, 4-1/2 and L street southwest, 1850; Waugh, 3d and A streets northeast, and Fletcher, 4th stet and New York avenue, 1853.
There are many which will be directly affected by the union of Methodism, as well as six colored churches, and indirectly about forty other colored congregations.