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A Brief History of "First" Israel AME Church

Founded in 1828, Israel AME Church has served the Albany, New York
African-American community through spiritual, religious, community and educational programs and projects for over 175 years. Israel AME Church opens its doors to promote its Christian beliefs through church and community service.

Richard Allen, founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church embraced the Methodist denomination with its precise ways of operating and because of John Wesley’s dual religious doctrines of equality and evangelism while Allen was still a slave. The voluntary separation of Black people from the Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia led to a long court battle.

The new AME Church, however, maintained the Doctrine and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The history of Israel AME Church parallels that of the National AME Church. People of African descent were attending the Methodist Episcopal Church on State Street in Albany, NY when they were asked to pay pew taxes. They left the Church and formed the Free African Society that evolved into Israel AME Church.

Israel AME Church served as a station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Harriet Tubman slept on the east wall of the basement. Several areas in the church have labeled as hiding places for slaves. Abolitionists, including Frederick Douglas visited Israel Church.

The present Church was designed and built in 1854 by Reverend Thomas Jackson.

Israel AME Church of today is closely connected to its historical past through its belief in God, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit and translating that belief into the brotherhood of mankind through community and church services. Today, the goals and objectives of the programs at the Church are enriched by that historical background; and still based on the need for freedom of expression, religion, the dignified treatment of human beings and the right to own and operate a religious establishment.

Israel AME Church, has always been active in the community. The Albany Chapter of the NAACP was founded at the Church. In 1989 the Church became a part of an urban church cluster ministering to the inner city. These five churches (Emmanuel Baptist, First Presbyterian, Israel AME, Trinity United Methodist, & Westminster Presbyterian) comprise the FOCUS churches. These FOCUS churches reach out to the homeless, the poor and the needy with food, lodging and educational programs.

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