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 New Jersey 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 and served until 1988.  Mr. Inabinet was 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 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, Dr. George McLean of the Philadelphia Conference was elected President and served until 1992. The First District Lay Choir was organized under Dr. McLean's administration. Mr. McLean also served as Chaplain of the Connectional Lay Organization.

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 encouraged the conferences to compile their history. The First 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 District Lay 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 the Annual Scholarship Luncheon.

In July 2008, Mrs. Mary L. Mootoo of the New York Conference was elected President and served until 2016.  During her tenure, the district elected its first Young Adult Representative, Sister 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 workshops only. Mrs. Mootoo also instituted two workshops to be held at the Annual Meeting and 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 musician and the district lay had its first official photographer, Brother Thomas Davis of the Western NY Conference. Ms. Mootoo insisted on lay workshops at the Christian Education Congress and increased participation of youth and young adults in the lay organization. Ms. Mootoo was also the first president to have a District Lay Booth at a General Conference.   


In July 2016, Mrs. Cheryl Hammond Hopewell of the Philadelphia Conference was elected President. Mrs. Hopewell reestablished the Lay Choir, had the First District Lay website redone and increased full subscriptions to The Christian Recorder. To assist with evangelism, Mrs. Hopewell challenged the District Third Vice President to prepare monthly meditations to the District which are posted on the District’s Facebook page and distributed by email to members of the District. Throughout Mrs. Hopewell's administration, newsletters and workshops are put on the District Facebook page and the District website page. Mrs. Hopewell also challenged local lay organizations to establish Reading Centers throughout the First Episcopal District to assist youth, young adults and older adults to become better readers.


Mrs. Hopewell started "First Fitness" where lay members rise early and have a fitness class conducted by the president for 30 minutes before meetings. Mrs. Hopewell started having the First District lay delegation dressing alike every day of the Biennial for more uniformity. Mrs. Hopewell was the first president to send all members of the Executive Board birthday and holiday cards. As was previously done by other presidents, Mrs. Hopewell gives thank you gifts yearly to all Executive Board. She was the first president to start "Everybody's Birthday" where all lay members receive an appreciation gift each year. Mrs. Hopewell also increased travel by the president to the seven conferences for even greater support to them from the president.  


The First Episcopal District hosts two major meetings per year; the Mid-Year Meeting in February which continues to be strictly designed for workshops and the Annual Meeting in July which allows for officers to give reports of their stewardship. There also continues to be at least two workshops at the Annual Meeting. At least one workshop is done by a young adult. We continue to assist in providing financial support to Clergy on Conference Lay Nights and for young adults through our District Scholarship.  Resources continue to be provided to assist District Projects and to support our Headquarters Building. Our members and delegates are always in place for the Connectional Meetings whether Executive Board Meetings or Connectional Lay Biennials. We continue to support the Disaster Relief Project of the Connectional Lay Organization. The First District Lay continues to encourage members to be a part of the Connectional Lay Economic Development Corporation (CLEDC), so that the Connectional Lay will reach the stated goals. The work is all divine and the teaching and training continues.


The First Episcopal District is proud of leaders whom have served as Connectional Lay Organization officers:


Mr. Timothy Johnson – Chaplain

Mr. Arthur Funn – First Vice President
Dr. Harriet Truman - Treasurer and Financial Secretary

Dr. George McLean - Chaplain
Mrs. Ethel Wallace Jenkins - Lay Director 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


Other connectional representatives who have served as committee chairs or representatives:

Mr. David Ward – CLEDC and Connectional Lay Person of the Year

Ms. Brenda Lazier – CLEDC Representative

Mrs. Lucretia Bowie – CLEDC Representative

Ms. Jacqueline Sibblies – Legislation Chair

Mrs. Cheryl Hammond Hopewell – General Conference Breakfast Co-chair

Mrs. Mary Mootoo – Time and Place Chair

Mrs. Wimphrey Jenkins - Connectional Lay Person of the Year

The First Episcopal District consists of seven Annual Conferences:

Bermuda, Delaware, New England, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and Western New York.