he A.M.E. Zion Church Methodism in Western New York has one of its most enduring proponents in the Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rochester, New York. Founded in 1827, the early church edifice was connected to the Underground Railroad in Rochester. Harriet Tubman, known as “The Moses of her people,” is credited with leading hundreds of Negro slaves to freedom, using the first building to shelter fugitive slaves. Susan B. Anthony gave one of her last public addresses in the church, and Frederick Douglass edited his abolitionist papers, “The North Star,” from presses set up in the church basement.
The accepted year of the founding of Memorial A.M.E. Church is 1827. By 1831, under the leadership of the first regular pastor, the Rev. Thomas James, a church site at the corner of Spring and Favor Streets had been obtained. A small one-story wooden structure was completed and occupied as a church edifice. The incorporation of the church in 1835 was a significant step toward the establishment of the church as one of the city’s institutions.
The first church structure was replaced by a second building on the same site in 1879. A special feature of the new church was the Memorial windows, and the word “Memorial” in the title of the church name. The Frederick Douglass memorial window was installed at the front of the church. Two of the memorial windows were dedicated to Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman.
In its distinguished history, the following ministers have served Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church: Thomas James, Dempsey Kennedy, John Lyells, Zachariah Taylor, John Thomas, James Hyatt, John McRea, Roswell Jeffery, William Abbot, William Sanford, Abram Cole, David Wier, J.W. Lacy, Isaac Stewart, H. Ross, George A. Carter, James E. Mason, W.A. Ely, Henry J. Callis, J. Harvey Anderson, Alonzo Scott, J.J. Adams, James W. Brown, James McMullen, E.D.W. Jones, A.J. Gorham, R.R. Bail, J.C. Taylor, E. Rex Flack, C.J. Henderson, J.C. Brown, Archie C. Bell, Andrew N. Gibson, Jasper Green, Andrew Mackey, Joseph Kerr, Errol E. Hunt, Sr., Kenneth Q. James and presently, Derrill A. Blue.
The Rev. Andrew Gibson served Memorial A.M.E. Zion from 1961 until he died in 1993. He picked up the challenge set before him by his predecessors. Under his leadership, Memorial A.M.E. Zion continued to be a leading force in the community. It has been the gathering place for civic groups concerned with community problems and progress. With prayerful anticipation, the founders’ dreams and new visions for Memorial A.M.E. Zion continues under the leadership of Rev. Derrill A. Blue.