Delaware’s Zion African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church is under the direction of a newly-appointed pastor, a bright mind with a wide range of cultural experiences that extend well beyond the United States.
On Sunday, Zion AME officially welcomed the Rev. Morné Meyer to the church and community in a ceremony led by the Rev. Michael J. Brown, Ph.D., who currently serves as the president of the Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Meyer came to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa, where he pastored Emmanuel Atlantis AME Church and churches in the Cape Annual Conference for a decade. In addition to pastoring, he served as the director of marketing and communications for West Coast College, a technical vocational education and training college.
His decision to leave that work behind centered around his desire to obtain a master’s degree from a program accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), which Meyer said is a requirement in the AME church if one wishes to reach higher offices in the church, like being a global leader or a bishop.
“For one, I wanted the global experience,” Meyer said of coming to America. “Two, I wanted to be equally equipped in our church, because we are a global church.”
Meyer is studying at Payne Theological Seminary, which is an AME school and also the oldest standalone black theological seminary in the United States, he said. There, he is working on a master’s degree in divinity.
As part of his F1 Visa he was granted to study in the country, Meyer is able to work for organizations affiliated with the church, like the Zion AME Church in Delaware. Prior to taking the lead in Delaware, he was the associate minister at the United AME Church in Xenia, Ohio.
Asked about the differences he has recognized in ministering in the states, Meyer pointed to the significant cultural differences, both in the church and in general.
“It’s a big cultural difference,” he said. “This is a first-world country, and there is a strong economy. People live very busy lives. I come from a place where church is a very strong part of our being.”
Referencing a recent discussion he had with a minister back in South Africa, Meyer said, “We speak church, we live church, everything revolves around the church. And because we don’t have that strong economy, and we don’t have so much to do — our lives are not that busy — church is everything. Here, church is (just a) part of people’s operations … church is not these people’s lives, it’s part of their lives.”
Meyer said it has been an adjustment he’s needed to make to his strategy of managing the culture and his congregation, saying he tends to “run fast” and believed everyone should run with him in living and breathing the church.
As for Delaware, itself, he said his first impression of the community was how close-knitted it is. He also said he sees great opportunity to work across races, something he saw immediately at his introduction ceremony on Sunday with what he called a “diverse crowd.”
Quoting his speech from Sunday’s event, Meyer said, “I’m thankful for the well wishes and this wonderful welcoming, but this day is bigger than me. Because we cannot do church as usual … we cannot do church in silos, each one in their own corner. It’s time to unite. It’s time to stand together as church, in respect of our differences, races, our backgrounds … I can see that happening in Delaware.”
Eventually, Meyer will complete his master’s degree at Payne and will have to decide what’s next. It’s a question he says he is asked almost daily, whether he will stay in America or head back to South Africa. While he said he is open to pastoring in the United States for an extended period of time, Meyer said eventually, he wants to get back to his community in South Africa and be able to put what he’s learned in this global experience to use for those back home.
He added it is important for him to return and give back to the home from which he came.
Zion AME Church is located at 140 S. Washington St. Sunday services begin at 10 a.m. For more information on the church, visit its Facebook page by searching “Zion AME Delaware, Ohio.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.