The oldest Methodist church in the U.S. in continuous use, a Philadelphia landmark, gets a close-up in two new, compelling videos produced online by UM Communications (UMCom). Historic St. George’s, built before the Revolutionary War and today the site of a museum and annual conference archives, welcomed two video production crews in April and August this year.
The first crew, from the EPA Conference, came in April to video record scenes of a unique historical dramatization hosted periodically by St. George’s, titled The Time Traveler. They also featured a youth tour group that came to view it and then gathered in a classroom to learn more about the racial oppression that led early black members of St. George’s to leave and form their own churches.
The second crew came from UMCom in August to showcase the venerable church as one of many significant sites every United Methodist should try to visit. The unusual result of the two visits is two separate but related short videos, both viewable on the UMC’s official Web site.
‘It’s a treasure that you can touch and feel’
Featured in one video are images and precious artifacts of Methodist clergy forbears such as John Wesley, Francis Asbury and Joseph Pilmore, and also the distinctive St. George’s early colonial-style sanctuary and pulpit. “Being in this place where they sat and where so much happened, you can feel it. It’s tangible. It’s a treasure that you can touch and feel,” says current pastor, the Rev. Maridel Whitmore.
In the other video actors dramatically portray the historic moment in 1787 when black clergy leaders Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were interrupted in prayer and told to move because of the church’s racially discriminatory policies. They left the church in protest with their followers to start their own independent congregations, one of which was Bethel, which in 1816 organized the first black denomination in America, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“Looking back, we don’t always go in the right direction,” says Donna Miller, St. George’s museum archivist, in the video. “But it’s important to keep asking the questions and to keep looking for the right way.”
Scenes for that video were shot for free and donated by professional videographer Chris Foster, a member of Hopewell UMC. The two videos together are linked to a feature story published recently by UMCom, titled Sites Every United Methodist Should See.
Tindley Temple and African Zoar UMCs to be featured next
The UMCom crew in August also shot scenes and interviews at Tindley Temple and African Zoar UM churches, at the request and with the assistance of EPA Conference Communications Director John Coleman.
Zoar was founded in 1796 by African Americans who also left St. George’s Church but were determined to remain a part of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, now the UMC. John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church was birthed from “Mother Zoar” and later became Tindley Temple. These two historic churches will be featured in a separate UMCom video to be produced online for viewing in time for Black History Month in February 2015.
By John Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Director
Photo: UMCom producer Fran Coode Walsh (left) interviews Historic St. George’s UMC’s new pastor, the Rev. Maridel Whitmore, recorded by a videographer as museum archivist Donna Miller works in the background. John Coleman photo
The two UMCom videos can be viewed online at