The Mother African Zoar congregation was founded in 1794 and has the proud distinction of being the oldest African American Methodist congregation within the United Methodist denomination. Its founding location at Fourth and Brown Streets, has been recognized by the City of Philadelphia as a historic landmark.
Many people associate the beginnings of the African American Church movement with that of Richard Allen and the separation of Blacks from St. George’s (formerly St. Georges Methodist Episcopal Church) now United Methodist Church. However, the history of Zoar starts with remnant of Blacks who remained after Richard Allen left and then separated two years later. Our history is rich, complex and it is impossible to talk about the myriad of individuals and historical benchmarks that was the first 100 years of Mother African Zoar’s rich legacy. Zoar is not only a church in itself, it is an integral, vibrant, and intricate thread that binds all Philadelphians to the historic reality of being a Black Christian in the late 18th Century, through the 1800's and 1900’s through today. Zoar is proud to have been a stop along the Underground Railroad, and a gathering place for public meetings of the Vigilant (Fugitive Aid) Association in the early 1800’s.
Mother African Zoar has birthed several churches across the city and one of its members, Charles “Pop” Dorsey, started the Ushering Movement within the Black Church across denominational lines. "Pop" Dorsey worked at the Union League as the coat-man and greeter and recognized that there should be greeters in local churches, thus Ushering was started at Mother African Zoar. Other important events in Zoar's history include: Philadelphia's first well-baby clinic for Blacks throughout the city; Collaboration with other churches to start a Building and Loan Association to help individuals borrow money to purchase homes.
After 89 years in the Northern Liberties section of the city, Mother African Zoar moved into is present facility at 12th and Melon Streets in 1883. Zoar continues to be a meeting place for many civic and social services groups.
Going forward, it is our prayer that Mother African Zoar can continue its longstanding legacy of mission and cooperation with the surrounding Philadelphia community.
Mother Zoar's Daughter Churches
African Methodist Episcopal Union Est. 1809
Tindley Temple U.M.C. Est. 1837
Janes Memorial U.M.C. Est. 1872
St. Thomas U.M.C. Est. 1872
Haven Memorial Est. 1878
Mt. Zion U.M.C. Est. 1915