By Rev. Shawin Reynolds, 16th Episcopal District
When the African Methodist Episcopal Church formed as a denomination they formalized their expansion goals which included Africa, Canada, and the Southern United States (particularly the Carolinas and Florida, West of the Allegheny), and the West Indies. While their vision may not have included Brazil, it was in the Lord’s vision. Our trip to Brazil demonstrated the reality of the vision. This article cannot fully contain the Brazilian’s genuine excitement and love for African Methodism and our mutual excitement to be participants with them.
As warriors in the struggle for justice, Brazil is more than another place to establish churches. It is a partnership of evangelism, justice, and expansion of the work of God through Jesus Christ. Sister May Mudesto, director of the YPD and WMS and a member of Communidade Crista Metodista reflected and recalled the District Conference. She said, “It was five days of living above and beyond our imagination! I cried, smiled, danced, saw miracles, received, served, worked and worked for a while, always with the heart overflowing. Yes! That’s who I am! That’s what I love! That’s my family! Thank God for the experience of the 16th [District’s] love conference in Brazil, for having met my Bishop Anne Henning Byfield and the brothers and sisters in Stephen A. Green, William Miller, Shawin Reynolds, Harriet McComb, Jackie Brown, and Christina Cecelia Davidson. Let the next challenges come! Together we are strong! I am AME.”
The Rev. Adriano Lima, re-obligated as a deacon, expressed the joy of being an AME and following in the legacy of Richard Allen. In fact, the continuous thread was their love for the Bishop Richard Allen story, how the Church has been in the forefront for freedom and justice, and the strength of the connection. One of the lay leaders is the Director of Social Justice demonstrating their commitment to social justice.
We were there as a follow-up of the Dominican Republic Annual Conference in which we received the four Brazilian churches, pending the visit by Bishop Henning Byfield to Brazil to confirm them. At the seat of the Dominican Republic Annual Conference, the Rev. Paulo Mudesto Filho and the Rev. Mirian Morales Mudesto were re-obligated and the Rev. Filho was appointed the presiding elder of the Brazilian Presiding Elder District.
On August 11, 2017, Sister Jackie Brown, representing the CLO and the 5th Episcopal District; the Rev. William Miller, 7th Episcopal District; the Rev. Harriet McComb, 2nd Episcopal District; the Rev. Shawin Reynolds, 16th Episcopal District; the Rev. Stephen Green, 1st Episcopal District; Sister Christina C. Davidson, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Duke University, who is researching the relationship between the AME Church and Brazil; and Bishop Henning Byfield attended the inaugural Brazilian District Conference. Our visit was met with enthusiasm, anointed worship and preaching, nourishing food, and wonderful cultural exchange.
Bishop Henning Byfield taught African Methodist history and polity to the joint assembly and sessions were specifically designed for both laity and clergy. The Rev. Miller led the clergy sessions and Sister Brown conducted the laity training. Sister Brown held the elections for AME Brazil. The Rev. Reynolds assisted Bishop Henning Byfield in the administrative matters for the trip. The president of the WMS and YPD Director were appointed. The YPD President was elected along with the president of the Sons of Allen.
The worship services were inspiring as we saw the combination of Brazilian praise and worship music, AME hymns, and American gospel music. At each service, there was also anointed preaching from Presiding Elder Filho, the Rev. Green, and Bishop Henning Byfield. The closing service with communion was special and meaningful as we ended our time reflecting on the blood and body of Jesus Christ. Communion was not considered as an add-on but a place of worship, dedication, and renewal.
Eleven persons were re-obligated based on their qualifications as locals and itinerants. In a very moving service, the candidates wept openly as did the congregation. When Bishop Henning Byfield lifted them up, many exclaimed glory to Jesus that we are now AMEs. During the Service of Re-obligation, five persons were baptized and seven persons declared their salvation. Bishop Henning Byfield, Presiding Elder Filho, and the Rev. McComb participated in the baptism and the Rev. Miller, the Rev. Reynolds, and the Rev. McComb participated in the Service of Re-Obligation.
The core of AME Brazilian churches is the focus and commitment to missions, particularly children and youth. Every church has a significant ministry of feeding, educating, healing, and helping others survive and thrive in society. The churches minister to over 200 children and youth weekly. Many of the children are without parents. The School of the Prophets, a mission of six members with Communidade Crista Metodista, serves 100 children who are primarily boys. Our church in Bahia serves 60 children. Toiletries, gifts, and money were shared with each church.
Through the leadership of Presiding Elder Filho and Pastor Nilson Amarl, we were able to meet the Mayor of Queluz Sao Paulo, who with his family, attends but is not a member. They provided a reception for us in one of the public halls and privately at his sister’s home.
The following churches were received into the Connection: Communidade Crista AME Church in Rio with Pastor and Presiding Elder Filho; Covenant Agape Alliance AME Church in Bahia with Pastor Luiz Frederico Costa Neves; Restauração (Restoration) AME Church in Quelez San Paulo with Pastor Nilson De Oliveira Amarl; and Colheita (Harvest) AME Church in Rio with Pastor Carlos Alberto Da Silva.
The African Methodist brand is growing in the 16th Episcopal District and certainly in Brazil. Brazil is a reality due to the visionary leadership of Bishop John Franklin White, who is now presiding prelate of the 4th District; Dr. George Flowers, Executive Director the AMEC Department of Global Witness and Ministry; Mr. John Thomas, III, Editor of The Christian Recorder, who continues to provide translation and support; the Rev. Mashod Evans, now pastor of St. Bethel AME Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry, now retired; and the late Bishop Sarah Frances Taylor Davis. We are grateful for all their leadership and contribution.
We also give thanks and pray for our leader, Bishop Henning Byfield, Presiding Elder Filho, the Rev. Mudesto, and the wonderful members of the Brazilian District Conference, for the work is above and beyond our imagination. In Brazil, African Methodism continues to thrive.
The Rev. Shawin Reynolds is the pastor of New Zion AME Church in St. Catherine in the Jamaica Annual Conference of the 16th Episcopal District.
This article originally appeared at thechristianrecorder.com. It has been used with permission.