Archive for the ‘Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’ Tag

Feast of William Henry Heard (June 25)   1 comment

Above:  William Henry Heard

Image in the Public Domain

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WILLIAM HENRY HEARD (CIRCA JUNE 25, 1850-SEPTEMBER 12, 1937)

African Methodist Episcopal Missionary and Bishop

Bishop William Henry Heard comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via a few sources.  The main source is Ray Chandler, “Up from Slave Row:  The Making of Bishop William Henry Heard” (Georgia Backroads, Autumn 2018), 44-49.  This post also depends directly on Bishop Heard’s autobiography, From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church (1924), available at Documenting the American South.  I also rely on the website of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  Furthermore, I cite a one of my deceased fellow parishioners and a fine local historian in Athens, Georgia.  Al Hester’s Enduring Legacy:  Clarke County, Georgia’s Ex-Slave Legislators:  Madison Davis and Alfred Richardson (2010) provides a little information about Heard.  And measuringworth.com is an invaluable tool for adjusting monetary amounts for inflation.  This post also draws minor details from various historical works and congregations’ websites.

Our saint, born a slave, rose to become the senior bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (hereafter the A.M.E. Church).  He, born in Longstreet community, about ten miles from Elberton, Georgia, or or about June 25, 1850, was a son of slaves.  His mother was Parthenia, whose main duties were to bear and raise children.  The future bishop, originally called William Harrison Heard, was one of five children she bore.  Parthenia died of typhoid fever in 1859.  Our saint’s father was George Heard, a blacksmith and a wheelwright on a neighboring plantation.  George Heard was probably a son of planter (and his owner), Thomas Jefferson Heard, a son Stephen Heard (1740-1815), whose public offices in Georgia included a term (1780-1781) as governor.  The future bishop grew up in conditions one would generously describe as primitive.  In the slave cabin, waking up to find a snake in his bed was not unusual.  He also remembered the two times he and family members were on the auction block.  Our saint, a field hand on the plantation of John Trenchard, headmaster of Elberton Academy during the Civil War, received his freedom in May 1865.  He was nearly 15 years at the time.

William Harrison Heard went to live with his father, who had opened a blacksmith and wheelwright business near Elberton.  Not surprisingly, there were no schools for African Americans in the area in 1865 and 1866.  In 1867, the Reverend William Jefferson White, a Baptist minister from Augusta, Georgia, visited Elberton.  He, an agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau, came to encourage African-American education.  White, of Caucasian, Muskogee, and African ancestry, impressed the future bishop by speaking the King’s English.  White was the first African-American Heard had met who was so well educated and articulate.

Our saint had some education already.  During the Civil War, he had learned the Bible and the catechism at Elberton Methodist Episcopal Church, South (now First United Methodist Church).  He remained unable to read and write, though.  Through his father’s intervention, William Harrison Heard obtained tutoring using Noah Webster‘s Blue Back Speller.  Our saint took his new name from William Henry Heard, a farmer for whom he worked and who taught him at home from late 1865 to June 1866.  Then our saint returned to his father’s house.  After the African-American school opened, the future bishop attended it.  Then he passed the test to become a teacher in 1867.  Heard earned in excess of $300 (about $5,400 in 2020 currency) in three months of teaching in Elberton.  Meanwhile, our saint continued his studies and kept teaching.

Above:  Henry McNeal Turner

Image in the Public Domain

Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) influenced Heard’s life greatly.  Turner, a minister in the A.M.E. Church, was active in post-Civil War politics in Georgia.  He was an organizer of the state Republican Party (when the Republican Party was to the left of the Democratic Party, especially in the former Confederacy) in the state, eventually a member of the General Assembly, and an activist in the movement to encourage former slaves to immigrate to Liberia.  In 1867, Turner spoke in Augusta.  Heard attended the speech and went away inspired.  Turner became one of Heard’s mentors and patrons, in time.

Above:  Amos Tappan Akerman

Image in the Public Domain

Heard, back in Elberton, joined the local Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (perhaps Rock Springs C.M.E. Church, founded in 1868) and became involved in politics.  The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was in the process of spinning off the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (founded in 1870), called the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church since 1954.  Our saint became his congregation’s secretary.  He also collaborated with another mentor and patron, Amos Tappan Akerman (1821-1880).  Akerman, a former slaveholder and a Confederate veteran, had become a “scalawag,” as resentful neighbors called white Southerners, such as Akerman, who supported civil rights and joined the Republican Party.  Akerman, a staunch opponent of the first Ku Klux Klan (racially-motivated domestic terrorists), was so zealous in the prosecution of the Klan that, less than a year after becoming the Attorney General of the United States, President Ulysses S. Grant fired him in late 1871.  Heard, whom Akerman mentored in politics, ran for a seat in the General Assembly in 1872.  He lost, probably because of election-related fraud.

Heard, spent 1872-1877 in South Carolina.  He taught at Mount Carmel (in the county on the other side of the Savannah River), earning $40 (about $872 in 2020 currency) per month.  Meanwhile, our saint continued his education.  He taught at Mount Carmel for four years then studied classics at the University of South Carolina (1876-1877) on scholarship.  The end of Congressional Reconstruction terminated his education at that university.  The end of Congressional Reconstruction also terminated Heard’s political career in South Carolina.  He had won a seat in the state legislature in 1876.  However, our saint’s effort to guarantee the integrity of the electoral system nearly caused his death.  He also survived an abduction.

Heard, back in Georgia, settled in Athens in 1877.  The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in downtown Athens (now First United Methodist Church) spawned Pierce Chapel in 1866.  Henry McNeal Turner brought Pierce Chapel (now First A.M.E. Church) into the A.M.E. Church in 1867.  Our saint joined Pierce Chapel in 1877 and founded the school in the church’s basement.  He taught in that school for years.  Heard also took classes at Clark University (one term) and Atlanta University (one year) in Atlanta.  Furthermore, our saint became the editor and one of the publishers of the local African-American newspaper, the Athens Blade.  Henry McNeal Turner preached a revival at Pierce Chapel in 1879.  At that revival, Heard had a conversion experience.  In 1880, our saint became a federal employee; he was a railway postal clerk.  One route ran between Macon and Atlanta, Georgia.  The other route ran between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta.  The salary was $1150 (about $30,000 in 2020 currency) a year.  And, in 1882, he was a finalist for postmaster of Athens.

Heard turned to the ministry in 1879.  In June of that year, the A.M.E. Church licensed him as an exhorter.  He progressed to local preacher after three months then joined the North Georgia Annual Conference in January 1880.  Our saint became a deacon in 1881 then an elder the following year.  The A.M.E. Church transferred out saint frequently, according to Methodist custom.  He always left a congregation better off in terms of attendance, membership, and finances.

Heard’s first stage of ordained ministry spanned 1880-1895.

  1. He served in Johntown, Dawson County, Georgia, for two years (1880-1882), while continuing to work as a railway postal clerk.  When he arrived, the A.M.E. Church had a mission.  Two years later, the denomination had a circuit.
  2. Heard transferred to Markham Street Mission, Atlanta, where he served for about two months.
  3. He married his second wife, Josephine Henderson, in Athens, in 1882.  (His first wife had been Amanda.)
  4. Heard resigned his postal job to accept a post in Aiken, South Carolina.  His financial compensation was $650 (about $16, 930 in 2020 currency) the first year then about $930 (about $24, 223 in 2020 currency) the second year.
  5. Next, the future bishop served at Mount Zion Church, South Carolina (1885-1888), followed by a year (1888-1889) at Allen Chapel Church (now Allen Church), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  6. After a year as the Presiding Elder of the Lancaster District, Heard spent two years as pastor of Mother Bethel Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1890-1892.)
  7. While in Philadelphia, our saint studied at Reformed Episcopal Seminary.
  8. Heard was the pastor of Bethel Church, Wilmington, Delaware (1892-1894).
  9. Then he served at the A.M.E. congregation that, at the time, occupied a building on State Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Above:  Eliza Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church, Monrovia, Liberia

Image in the Public Domain

Heard went to Liberia next.  Henry McNeal Turner, a bishop since 1880, arranged for President Grover Cleveland to appoint our saint the U.S. Minister Resident and Consul General and doubled as a missionary.  He transferred to the A.M.E. Church’s Liberia Conference and doubled as a missionary.  He founded and led Eliza Turner Memorial Church, Monrovia.  (Eliza Turner had been Bishop Turner’s first wife.)

Heard’s third stage of ministry spanned 1899-1909.

  1. He spent a year (1899-1900) at Zion Mission, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, followed by another year (1900-1901) as the Presiding Elder of the Long Island District.  Then he spent several months at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
  2. Bishop Turner arranged for the appointment of Heard to the pulpit of Allen Temple Church, Atlanta, Georgia, in August 1901, after the death of the previous pastor.  Heard left that pulpit in 1904.
  3. His next position was Secretary-Treasurer of the A.M.E. Church’s Connectional Preacher’s Aid and Mutual Relief Society.  Then, in 1908, he became a bishop.

Heard had three assignments as a bishop.  He returned to West Africa (Liberia, especially) in 1909.  From 1917 to 1920, our saint presided over the Eighth Episcopal District (Mississippi and Louisiana).  His final assignment (1920-death) was the First Episcopal District (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and New England).

Heard, aged 87 years, died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 12, 1937.

Heard found his niche, excelled in it, and glorified God in doing so.  May we, by grace, live so that others, speaking and writing about us, may truthfully and accurately describe our lives in those words or in words to that effect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JUNIA AND ANDRONICUS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant William Henry Heard,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace grow into the full stature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 38

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