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Jarena Lee Jarena Lee felt imbued with a religious mission in life and because of this she bravely defied the conservative sex biases of the church to become as she contended the first female preacher of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church As an evangelist Mrs Lee sometimes traveled on foot to spread her religious message and would walk as far as 16 miles to preach When over forty years old the unordained minister logged 2325 miles on the Gospel circuit She preached up and down the Eastern Shore and traveled into sections of Illinois and Ohio converting blacks as well as whites to the Christian faith Believed to have been born free in Cape May New Jersey February 11 1783 to parents who were wholly ignorant of the knowledge of God she left home at the age of seven to work as a maid sixty miles away Her first religious experience occurred relatively late in life--in 1804 when she was twenty-one Listening to a local Protestant missionary who was holding services in a schoolroom she became overwhelmed by the weight of my sins Afterward she contemplated committing suicide and credited the unseen arm of God with preventing her After moving to Philadelphia she was inspired by the preaching of the Reverend Richard Allen founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and became gloriously converted to God Five years later she experienced a religious sanctification of mind and spirit and was moved by a vision to preach She went to see the Reverend Allen who informed her that she could hold prayer meetings but that his discipline did not call for women preachers Later writing in her journal she reflected on the decision noting O how careful ought we to be lest through our by-laws of church government and discipline we bring into disrepute even the word of life For as unseemly as it may appear now-a-days for a woman to
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