Historic AUMP church survives as 'a beacon of faith'

All are welcome to the Christmas Eve service, with luminarias lighting the way


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  • Mary Sumter welcomes one and all to services and fellowship at St. John’s African Union Methodist Protestant Church (Photo by Geri Corey)




  • A prayful angelic statue in the medication garden behind the A.U.M.P. Church on Main Street in Goshen (Photo by Geri Corey)



By Geri Corey

— When she was just 22 years old, Mary Sumter moved from Newburgh to Goshen. At that time, she joined St. John’s African Union Methodist Protestant Church, although she had been a Baptist in Newburgh.

She’s been a church member for 60 years. She sang in the choir, served as secretary-treasurer, and now is the local missionary for the church, simply called AUMP, located at 207 West Main Street in Goshen.

“My job now is to go around, meet with people and try to meet their needs,” said Sumter.

It’s a job she does very well. Her most notable accomplishment is as founder of The Goshen Ecumenical Food Pantry. Sumter started the food distribution program, meeting the needs of many people in Goshen at the AUMP Church.

Community needs outgrew the limited space at the small church, so food distribution moved to The First Presbyterian Church of Goshen, in the center of the village. It’s been there ever since.

In 1813, the Right Reverend Peter Spencer, a freed slave from Kent County, Maryland, instituted the original Union Church of Africans, allowing religious freedom for African Americans. The name was later changed to the African Union Methodist Protestant Church (AUMP).

Today there are 31 congregations in the states of Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Sumterland, and the District of Columbia. Goshen’s church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

'People have passed on'But it hasn’t been easy for the church to survive, and the fact that it has is a testament to the strong faith of its parishioners. Through the years, with membership rising and falling, the historic church had fallen into disrepair.

“A lot of people have passed on, “ said Sumter. "But slowly, new people have come in.”

Some, but not all, of the newcomers are volunteers.

Since the late 1990s, congregants and volunteers have come to the aid of the ailing church and offered help for much-needed repairs. For instance, a new heating system and roof were installed; the basement has been freshened with new molding and painted walls and floor; the kitchen has been upgraded; French drains were installed to eliminate flooding; and the backyard cleared of brush and debris, allowing space for a meditation garden.

The sanctuary is scheduled to receive a fresh coat of paint. But still on the waiting list for completion are reconstruction of the handicap ramp and the Yankee eaves.

Along with professionals, Boy Scouts and BOCES students have donated work and time.

While helping others and caring for the church, Sumter raised four biological children and seven foster children. She still sings at Sunday church service, at 11 a.m., accompanied by Pastor Brasley Young on the piano.

“Because of a faithful few who believe, this church is a beacon of faith testifying that we should have this church in Goshen," Sumter said.

She makes it clear that the AUMP church welcomes all people, regardless of color.

Christmas Eve serviceThe Christmas Eve service, on Sunday, Dec. 24, is at 11 a.m. Silent prayer, with recorded music, is from 5 to 6 p.m.

Food will be available for all community members who would like to come. The church will be open until 7:30 p.m. Luminarias will light the way.

“A lot of people have passed on. But slowly, new people have come in.”
Mary Sumter


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