History of the First Episcopal District Lay Organization
African Methodist Episcopal Church
The First Episcopal District Lay Organization was organized in 1952 with Mr. John Shack of the New Jersey Conference serving as the first president. Mr. Arthur L. Funn of the New York Conference served as the second president from 1953 to 1971. Mr. O.N. Smith of the Delaware Conference served as the third president in 1971; however, his tenure only consisted of approximately 28 days. Mr. Charles Trott of the NJ Conference then served from 1971 to 1972.
In 1972, Mr. Reuben Lambert of the Bermuda Conference was elected president and served until 1980. Under Mr. Lambert's
administration the first budget was established, the first lay directory was published, the education fund was established,
and the Eight Year Law went into effect. Mr. Lambert was the President when the District hosted the 16th Biennial Session
in 1979 in Philadelphia, PA.
In 1980, Mr. Joseph Inabinet of the Philadelphia Conference was elected president. He was also a delegate to the World
Council of Churches, which met in Kenya, Africa at that time. Under Mr. Inabinet's administration the Lay Awareness work
began, the first Laymen of the Year Award was presented, and the District Scholarship Fund was established which later
was renamed the Frank C. Cummings Scholarship Fund. Mr. Inabinet encouraged the Conference Lays to visit each other
on their Annual Conference Lay Night as a show of fellowship and support. This practice remains in effect today. Mr. Inabinet
also served on the General Board of the A.M.E. Church.
In 1988, Mr. George McLean of the Philadelphia Conference was elected president and served until 1992. The First District
Choir was organized under Mr. McLean's administration. Mr. McLean later served as Chaplain of the Connectional Lay
In 1992, Mr. David Busch of the New England Conference was elected president and served until 2000. Mr. Busch strongly
encouraged and pushed for young adult involvement. Under Mr. Busch's administration the District Lay Organization honored
all of the Presiding Elders of the First Episcopal District. Also, during Mr. Busch's administration, Mr. Frank Gilyard, District
Historiographer, compiled the history of the First Episcopal District Lay Organization and the History of the Conference Lay
Organizations. During his tenure, the First Episcopal District Lay Organization hosted the 26th Biennial Session of the
Connectional Lay Organization in July 1999 in Rochester, NY.
History was made in 2000 when the First Episcopal District Lay Organization elected its first female president, Ms. F. Jane
Chandler-Harris of the New York Conference who served until 2008. Under Ms. Harris’ tenure, the District started contributing
a large amount to the Debt Reduction Program of our First Episcopal District Headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Ms. Harris led the effort for the district to contribute to saving Morris Brown College and led the district to raise thousands
of dollars to be given to young adults to attend college, as a result of then Annual Scholarship Luncheon. Ms. Harris later
served as Third VP of the Connectional Lay Organization.
In July 2008, Mrs. Mary L. Mootoo of the New York Conference was elected the second female President and served until 2016.
During her tenure, the District elected its first Young Adult Representative, Olivia Luke from the New York Conference. Mrs.
Mootoo ensured that there were quality workshops presented and the Mid-Year Meeting was once again designated for all
workshops. Mrs. Mootoo also instituted two workshops to be held at the Annual Meeting and the District continued to
contribute large donations to the First District Plaza. Mrs. Mootoo had the first young adult, Brother Earl Knight III of the
Philadelphia Conference to serve as the District music director and appointed the District’s first official photographer, Brother
Thomas Davis of the Western NY Conference. Mrs. Mootoo insisted on lay workshops at the Christian Education Congress and
continued to increase youth and young adults in the lay organization. Mrs. Mootoo was also the first president to have a District Lay booth
at a General Conference.
In July 2016, Cheryl Hammond Hopewell of the Philadelphia Conference was elected President and is currently serving in
that position. President Cheryl reestablished the Lay Choir and had the First District Lay website and Facebook pages
redone. During her tenure she also increased memberships to The Christian Recorder. To assist with Evangelism, President
Cheryl challenged the District 3rd VP to prepare monthly mediations to the District. President Cheryl also challenged local
lay organizations throughout the First District to establish Reading Centers to assist youth, young adults, and older adults to
become better readers and to give them support. While it has been a slow process getting many established, the ones
currently in operation are very effective. President Cheryl also started “First Fitness” where lay members rise early and
have 30 minutes of fitness conducted by the President. President Cheryl also began having the First District Lay to dress
alike each day of the Biennial for more unity and uniformity. President Cheryl was the first president to send members of
the Executive Board birthday and holiday cards. While she continues the tradition of giving yearly gifts to the Executive Board, she also started, “Everybody’s Birthday” where all lay members present at the meetings receive a yearly token of appreciation. President Cheryl most recently started the President’s Youth and Young Adult of the Year Award and the first recipient was Jyzelle Steplight of the New York Conference. President Cheryl has also made it a point to connect with and support the other components in the First Episcopal District and throughout the Connection.
The First Episcopal District hosts two major meetings per year; the Mid-Year Meeting in February or early March which continues to be designed for workshops, and the Annual Meeting in July which allows for elected officers, committee chairpersons and conference presidents to give reports of their stewardship. There also continues to be at least two workshops at the Annual Meeting. At least one workshop is always done by a young adult. We continue to assist in providing financial support to clergy on Annual Conference Lay Nights and yearly scholarships for young adults through our District Scholarship Fund. The District continues to provide a large sum for the support of the First Episcopal District.
The First Episcopal District is proud of leaders in our District who have served as Connectional Lay Organization officers:
Mr. Timothy Johnson – Chaplain
Dr. Harriet Truman - Treasurer and Financial Secretary
Dr. George McLean - Chaplain Mrs. Ethel Marie Wallace-Jenkins –
Director of Lay Activities and First Vice President
Mr. Frank Gilyard, Sr. – Historiographer Ms. F. Jane Chandler Harris - Third Vice President
Mrs. Edith Bartley Cartledge - Director of Lay Activities Mr. Walter C. Jeffers – Director of Public Relations
The First Episcopal District is also proud of the leaders in our District who were appointed by Connectional Lay Presidents to serve as Connectional committee chairs:
Mr. David Ward – CLEDC Board Chair
Ms. Jacqueline Sibblies – Legislation Chair
Mrs. Mary L. Mootoo – Time and Place Chair
Mr. Earl Knight III – Music Director
Mrs. Cheryl Hammond Hopewell – GC/Biennial/Logistics Chair and CLO General Conference Breakfast Co-chair
Mrs. Rita Sinkfield Belin, Esq. – CLEDC Board Chair
The First Episcopal District is also proud of the leaders in our District who have been selected as Connectional Lay Persons of the Year:
Mr. David Ward
Mrs. Wimphrey Jenkins
The First Episcopal District consists of seven Annual Conferences:
Western New York
We are seven conferences but one Episcopal District Lay family.