just doing god’s work?

After the Inquirer article appeared on the ruin of Ebenzer AME in Frazer, I contacted  Rev Dr Mark Tyler via e-email with a few interested folks on the e-mail including local historians.

Three times.

Why email? Because also included was information to help them make an informed decision. I stupidly thought maybe if they could see what we’ve been looking up, and see photos of the spot over the past few years, they would be interested in working together to clean this place up. 

When not even a simple acknowledgment of what had been sent to him was received after three attempts, I took to Twitter. Why did I take to Twitter? Because I learned that they respond to Twitter. 

But the lesson I learned again is there not particularly nice about anything if you aren’t one of their “flock”.

So I will call the good pastor but I’m not expecting much. Because the continued message I received from any level of this church is they aren’t interested in preserving their history. They also aren’t interested in communicating or speaking with me. 

They can pony up the money for fancy bicentennial celebration which must have been super expensive to put on, but they can’t clean up one small church yard and secure one small ruin?

I don’t even know where to go in my head with this. 

And what a horrible thing to think about any church. It’s so terribly sad. They all want to speak about and preach about their marvelous history, yet when their marvelous history needs saving they don’t want any parts of it?

I guess they might not want to respond in writing because then they have wiggle room for potential deniability down the road or something? 

Wow, what a take away lesson.

I do not like to think the worst of anyone, let alone a religious organization, but it’s been over three years at this point of my trying to get this place saved and it just gets more disappointing for everything of effort I expend.

The phone number is 215-925-0616.

I just phoned and I left a detailed message and who I was and why I was calling. I don’t expect a call back. I don’t expect an acknowledgment.

I really want to save this place but at this point in time I am just thoroughly disgusted.  I thought doing God’s work meant you tried to save places like Ebenezer AME. You do it for future generations, you do it for ancestors living today, do it for the history and the fact it’s a sacred place, and you do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Apparently I have been operating under a misapprehension all these years. Is no wonder that people step away from organized religion.

No I’m not disappointed in God, just the people representing him.

yuck.

Why does the world need digital billboards the size of drive in movie screens?

The hit crinkled guard rail just adds to the allure, doesn’t it?

westtown: developers’ paradise

In Westtown they used to grow stuff other than plastic McMansions…..no more and with Crebilly and who knows what other parcels being planned for development, my goodness it just boggles your mind…sad…

the song remains the same

This photo was taken the day many of us were interviewed for the Philadelphia Inquirer article. We had brought the reporter Kristin Holmes out to see the state of the site herself.

This photo was taken the day many of us were interviewed for the Philadelphia Inquirer article. We had brought the reporter Kristin Holmes out to see the state of the site herself.

Well as lots and lots of people know, The Philadelphia Inquirer covered the story of Ebenezer A.M.E. that was once located at 97 Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA.

Bacton-newsInterestingly, a  couple of fairly powerful and influential members (or so I was told) of the A.M.E. Church were interviewed : Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, executive director of the national denomination’s department of research and scholarship and Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia.

I had contacted Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown in the past and it kind of got nowhere. I have contacted the A.M.E. Church Elder Rev Charles H. Lett and that was late December, 2015. He never responded after we had a brief telephone conversation where he instructed me to write to him.

Most recently because of the Inquirer article, I contacted Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia.  Three times. I have not even received an acknowledgement of my efforts to reach him.

So either the A.M.E. Church cares very little about honoring their history and their dead or they don’t want to hear from a woman who is not of their faith and is not related to anyone buried at Ebenezer AME in Frazer.

How sad and too bad, I am not giving up. The A.M.E. can’t just talk the talk of their history, they need to walk the walk of their history.  And if they could afford a giant bicentennial celebration in the city of their faith’s birthplace, surely they can afford one cleanup of one small old and sacred and historic place, right?

Here is the article before I tell you who I wrote to today for help:

Updated: JULY 17, 2016

Tia Manon trudged through the swampy cemetery of the old Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, looking for two names belonging to one man. (SLIDESHOW)

Perry Ringgold was a slave who escaped the South on the Underground Railroad. James Williams was the free man he became after he was harbored by a Quaker family in Exton.

According to family lore, this relative of Manon’s helped found the East Whiteland church in 1832, but none of the stone markers bore a trace of him, by either name. She did come across one name she recognized, a Reason – William Reason. Could he have been an ancestor of her late husband, George Reason?

….”It makes you feel very, very sad,” said Manon, 47, of Paoli, a student at Immaculata University.

She is among a group of neighbors and history buffs who want to clean up and preserve the two-acre tract on Bacton Hill Road. Officials of the Chester County township said that they will coordinate the effort, but that they first need permission from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which they believe owns the property….

The 2.5 million-member A.M.E. Church, founded in Philadelphia by Bishop Richard Allen in 1816, is the oldest independent Protestant denomination established by African Americans. It currently has 7,000 congregations, but the number that sprang up over the centuries and then vanished is unknown.

Chester County is filled with the ghosts of churches past. Like Ebenezer, they grew in concert with pre-Civil War black communities in locations such as Uwchlan and Downingtown, said Renee Carey, a Chester County history enthusiast and South Coatesville borough councilwoman who has researched black churches and cemeteries.

 

I have only included an excerpt of the article, please read it in it’s entirety.  I worked for close to a year alone to get that article placed, and I am grateful to Tia for agreeing to be part of it.

EBeneSo anyway, today I decided to read a biography from the Mother Bethel website of this senior pastor  Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler. I got the bio off a Google cache truthfully because the Mother Bethel website is down more than it is up. I noticed he had been interviewed by a gentleman I believe to be the foremost authority today on African American history, Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates of Harvard University. A lot of you would recognize him as the brains behind the PBS Series Finding Your Roots.

So I decided to e-mail Dr. Gates, it can’t hurt. Here is part of what I said:

Dr. Gates,

You don’t know me but I am a huge fan of your work. I watch your shows on PBS.  I live in Chester County, PA, and I am desperately trying along with others including the people on this e-mail to get the A.M.E. Church to save a 184 year old church ruin and cemetery.

The Church is named Ebenezer AME and land was deeded by a Quaker named Malin around 1831 and the church was completed in 1832. It was one of the earlier black churches out here and there is a graveyard too. In the graveyard there are USCT Civil War soldiers and freed slaves.  It is because of one of the Civil War soldiers I became interested in the first place. His name was Joshua Johnson. Ebenezer A.M.E. is still located even as a ruin on 97 Bacton Hill Road, Frazer, PA (East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA)

I am a blogger and a native Philadelphian who moved to Chester County, PA a few years ago.  I have been trying for a few years now to get help.

All records indicate the AME Church still owns the land.  We just really want to get this place saved.  And I am hoping the reason I am ignored by the AME church doesn’t have to do with the fact it’s not my church and these aren’t my ancestors. To you, I respectfully submit these ARE the ancestors of people in the area, and there are more in addition to Tia who was in the article I placed with Kristin Holmes recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I think you might be surprised by the people who wish to help get Ebenezer cleaned up before it is too late.  The A.M.E. Church needs to spearhead the initial clean-up as we all believe land is STILL owned by the AME Church and merely not owned by a church congregation that no longer exists. But there are people interested in helping the church after that as in volunteering their time.  The boy scouts always want service projects, in addition. And there is a history with local scouts and this place.

The A.M.E. Church just finished hosting their bicentennial in Philadelphia.  This is part of the history they celebrate this year.

I have been routinely ignored by the A.M.E. Church for three years now.

I am not the only one.

I am a realist, and not every sacred and/or historical place can be saved. But this place is special, truly special.

I also promised the poet A.V. (Ann) Christie before she died this spring of breast cancer I would keep working with others to save this.  I want to keep my word.

Most recently I contacted someone you interviewed not so long ago, Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel in Philadelphia. He was interviewed in the Inquirer article.  I alone have now sent him 3 emails with information to try to get Ebenezer saved. He has not even acknowledged receipt of the e-mails.  I can’t tell you how discouraging it all is.

I know you are so incredibly important a person and busy, but I thought maybe if someone like you expressed an interest, the A.M.E. church would actually respond to us.  We just want them to help us get it cleaned up.  It is so badly overgrown, we can’t just go onto their property and clean it up. We need their permission, and we need them frankly to pay for the initial clean-up.  After that we feel we can get volunteers organized and with the permission of the A.M.E. church hopefully keep it cleaned up going forward.

But we are at a critical juncture, and we need to get the A.M.E. Church moving now before all is lost forever.

I am not asking you for any sort of financial input, but I am asking you to help us because of your unique academic and celebrity position.   You are the one who teaches us how to find our roots and the importance of our personal histories.  You are also the foremost authority on African American History in this country today.  The people buried at Ebenezer are part of that history. Plus there  are local residents and not so local residents interested in honoring their ancestors buried here.

I hope you can help us.

 

So we will see if that helps, or if Dr. Gates responds. He is kind of famous, so maybe he won’t. But I hope he does.

Here are some e-mail addresses for any of you out there interested in getting Ebenezer saved:

The pastor at Mother Bethel interviewed in the Inquirer is Mark Kelly Tyler.  Markkellytyler@gmail.com

Rev Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, The 20th Editor,
The Christian Recorder — Since 1852
“The Official Newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church”

www.the-christian-recorder.org
Office: 615. 714-0986
chsydnor@bellsouth.net

Other emails I found to add to emails:

Dr. Richard Lewis Richlew1@aol.com

journeyministry@aol.com

cio@ame-church.com

info@stpaulsamecmalvern.org – Unfortunately note that the Malvern folks have never replied to anything. Ditto for Info@MotherBethel.com

Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown teresa.brown@emory.edu or AMECHistoryintheMaking@yahoo.com

Bishop Ingram  BishopIngram@firstdistrictame.org and alternate e-mail for First District AME is Clinton@FirstDistrictAME.org

Click HERE for a Google Cache of organizers of the A.M.E’s bicentennial.

Be polite but please consider writing to these folks to get them to help save the ruins and graveyard of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland, Chester County.

If you are a member of an AME congregation please tell them and the location of your church. If you have ancestors or think you have ancestors buried at Ebenezer, tell them that as well. I would also suggest including a link to the Inquirer article.

Seriously, just because they don’t respond to me it doesn’t mean they won’t respond to you- the MORE emails they get the more likely they will pay attention.

In closing, yes the song remains the same, but we can hope the more people talk about Ebenezer, the better our chances to save it and what remains of the graves.

#ThisPlaceMatters

The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turkpike)

The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turkpike)

gone too soon. be at peace, austin wylie

Austin

I received word a little while ago through my Shipley network.  Young Austin Wylie is gone. Reports indicate suicide.  This teenager is a perfect stranger to me, my only sense of connection is my alma mater Shipley, and I have to tell you I find the news devastating.  I am having such a hard time wrapping my head around the photographs of a seemingly happy and well-adjusted teenager, and this news.

We have a teen close enough in age to this boy, so it hits home on that level too. My better half’s mother was  on the Board of Trustees like Austin’s mom when we were in high school . (My sweet man’s mother is one of the reasons boys were allowed to go to Shipley all those years ago, truthfully.) We  were speaking about this today, I called him at his office to tell him the news from Shipley wasn’t good.

missing 3One of the things we spoke of is how I don’t remember kids being under pressure like this when we were at Shipley. And that at the Shipley of today this was the second teenage boy from there in a little over a year to chose to end his life. I am referring to Cayman Naib.

Before all you haters pop up and criticize me for thinking about this, be honest, am I the only one? This is not a dig at my alma mater Shipley at all, they are just as devastated and this came way the hell out of left field at school officials as well. I am speaking of the pressure teenagers, and seemingly boys in particular are under to succeed.

This was not a boy anyone would have pegged for this action. But Austin Wylie as per Shipley, his family, and the authorities ended his life by jumping off the Ben Franklin Bridge. He left a note on his phone apparently, and was feeling overwhelmed by something at that time. I don’t understand how no one saw him climbing up on the bridge, but that is one of the things about cities and life: we are all so busy going about our days we often do not notice what happens around us.

Here is the letter from Shipley:

explain 1

explain 2

explain 3

explain 4

This is a very nice letter.  I am sharing in my own post because I am a little offended by the Patch and their zeal to spread devastating news like spam. They hit a power share button and just blasted the news across their sites in my opinion. Maybe if they did actual reporting they might have content for all their hyper local sites. But I digress.

Yesterday Shipley had put the following out:

shipley yesterday

 

missing 2I have to be honest as the hours dragged on yesterday and people in the media I knew kept commenting how they were being shuttled back and forth between the police departments involved trying to figure out what was going on that the news was NOT going to be good.  It was just a feeling, and now as I write this post I wish the outcome had been different.

What happened to Austin that made him drop everything else he was doing and go do this in the middle of the day like this?

A friend of mine just made the following comment:

Another suicide. Another young person with their whole life ahead of them. I can’t think about it without crying. But what can we do…to lessen the pressure our children feel – whatever happened to the carefree days of high school? – and what can we do to recognize and support those in need of mental health support. I can’t help but feel like we are failing today’s children.

 

Another friend then said:

This is horrible. We all need to stop the high expectations, pressure cooker, mentality at school and home. Isn’t great teaching and great learning enough? Manage the expectations and egos.

 

I agree.  And I think this goes especially for boys.  Boys internalize so much.  We don’t even realize it.  Girls seem to let emotions out more.  And they will talk about stuff more.  When you ask a teenage boy how their day was, the response is monosyllabic. I know first hand and it drives me crazy.  Ask girls the same question and you will not only get more of a response, you will get the added color of who annoyed them at lunch or what someone was wearing.

missingHowever, male or female, we do need to regulate the pressure cooker called life.  As kids climb the grades in high school the expectations grow. The expectations grow from their schools, from us as parents, and the pressure these kids put on themselves so they don’t disappoint anyone.

Another friend of mine said :

It‘s not just Shipley though. It’s an epidemic. The pressure and expectations how early it starts is terrible. And the way today’s teenagers believe their lifetime happiness and success are somehow related to test scores or number of AP classes or grades is heart breaking. In addition we need them, everyone, to be unafraid to ask for help and to not be embarrassed to address and acknowledge their struggles.

It’s a topic that is hard to discuss. It’s not something that teens or adults want to think about.  It’s unpleasant and difficult. But it does happen. Teen suicide is very real, and is preventable.

Good mental health is fundamental to the health and well-being of every person and of the nation as a whole. Our children are our future, so we need to help them know they are not alone and there are resources at their and their parents disposal.

Being a teenager is not easy. It is quite literally the best of times and the worst of times. As adults, we need to think back into the deep, dark recesses of our minds and remember what it was like to be a teenager. The hormones, confusing and often conflicting (let alone ever-changing) emotions, peer and parental pressure.  Add to that today the issues of multi-platform bullying and social media overload.

Teen suicide is part of a larger public health issue. Coverage of this topic and discussion needs to encourage help-seeking.   And we all have to remember suicide is a very complex issue. It can’t be pigeon holed into a little box and that’s it.   There are multiple causes. And the signs of suicide vary.

 

According to the website Reporting On Suicide, the signs can include (but not all individuals display signs):

  • talking about wanting to die
  • looking for a way to kill oneself
  • talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • displaying extreme mood swings

 

Parents  need to be  honest and admit  at times it can be a struggle when communicating with the teenagers in our homes.  And according to a study produced during the Clinton White House Years , teenagers aged 15-16 who do not feel close to their parents are about three times as likely to think about suicide as teens who are close to their parents, and teens aged 15-16 who don’t eat dinner with their parents regularly are twice as likely to have attempted suicide. This talking point about dining as a family is also just good common sense.

Togetherness as a family that is positive opens many doors, and face it, what is one of the hardest parts of raising teenagers? Communication. And communication isn’t social media like Facebook and Twitter, e-mails, chat programs, it’s a real conversation. Sitting down and talking even if it is light dinner conversation. Real and tangible contact and human interaction is so important with regard to interpersonal relationships at any age.

Teen suicide is very preventable, but as a society we have to open the doors to productive conversations and communication.  Proper education on the topic is one of the keys to prevention. This needs to be discussed in the schools, the community at large, and the home.

Again, communication is key.  When life gets bumpy or stressful it is helpful to know there are resources and people to talk to. Some teens in crisis will not display any telltale signs of issues, so it is really important to be able to talk with your children and they with you. And it is important for them to know from us that we do not need them to be perfect, and for some parents, especially if they are personally ambitious that is often hard to convey.

I am not laying blame here, I am devastated for the Wylie family.  I look at photos of a boy that will be forever frozen in time, never aging.  That makes tears run down my face. I also hope parents who were friends with, neighbors of, and went to school with Austin hit the pause button and help their children grieve and work through this.  We can’t pretend these things aren’t happening, they are happening right in our own communities and across the country.

Updated: JULY 15, 2016 — 3:21 PM EDT

Please talk with your kids about teen suicide. We need to take the top of the pressure cooker.

Austin Wylie, I never knew you, but I won’t soon forget you.  I hope you are at peace, and I pray for his family and friends to find peace at this most difficult time.  Remember the good times you had with this by all accounts remarkable young man.  Hold him in your hearts with love.

Here are some resources Shipley recommended:

Grief Counseling Referral List 2016[1]

After a Suicide- Student Questions

Parent Handout – Suicide Loss

My deepest condolences to Brooksley and Jim Wylie and Austin’s brother Cameron.

I close with one of my favorite Robert Frost poem I shared a year ago:

Reluctance

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Robert Frost

have you seen austin wylie?

missing 2This morning when I logged onto my computer, social media was filled with news that strikes fear through your heart: a teenager is missing. From Shipley. His name is Austin Wylie. He is from Lower Merion Township. Lower Merion Police are asking for ANYONE with any information to call them at 610-649-1000.  His car was apparently found yesterday at 5th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia.  His friends say his keys were found in the car, the police aren’t confirming or denying that.

As per Google, this is where his car was found:

5th and spring garden

This is not where you would find a kid from the Main Line typically unless they are going clubbing or something and he is just too young for that I think.

I thought maybe first he was a city kid who went  out to Shipley, but he’s not as per NBC10:

Standout Teen Soccer Player from Montco Goes Missing

A standout teenage soccer player from Montgomery County vanished this week, and police from multiple jurisdictions are working together to try to find him.

Austin Wylie, who recently finished his junior year at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, was featured in September as the Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week for his achievements as Shipley’s forward.

Friends are taking to Facebook, Twitter and other social media to share photos of Wylie after they said he went missing Wednesday morning.

A spokesman for Lower Merion Police Department told NBC10 that a number of law enforcement agencies from different jurisdictions are investigating Wylie’s disappearance.

He confirmed that a car Wylie had been driving at some point was located at 5th and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia since the teen went missing, but wasn’t able to confirm whether the keys had been left in the car, as reports on social media have said.

Anyone with information on Wylie should contact Lower Merion Police at 610-649-1000.

Follow us: @nbcphiladelphia on Twitter | NBCPhiladelphia on Facebook

Austin Wylie is a rising senior at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, my alma mater. That means he just finished his junior year.  By all accounts a standout student athlete who is well liked. Kids like him do NOT just vanish into this air.  What is around 5th and Spring Garden in Northern Liberties that would attract a kid from the suburbs? Or did nothing attract him and something or someone made him go there?  And all his friends are saying on social media his keys were in the car????

Main Line Media News is reporting Austin is from Haverford in Lower Merion Township:

Police asking for help in locating missing Haverford teenager

Thursday Lower Merion spokesman Tom Walsh confirmed social media reports that Austin Wylie, a 17-year-old from the Haverford section of Lower Merion, is missing and police have been searching for him.

His friends are a credit to him, they took to social media immediately, posting away. I think it because of these friends that media and police and the rest of us are sharing. When you have a kid close to Austin’s age it is especially terrifying.

missing

I do not know this boy and I am uspet.  Another teen missing?  From Shipley, no less? This just doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would take off and disappear. So where is he? His poor parents and family, and his poor friends.

Please if you have seen this boy, please come forward.  Even if you saw him buying a soda in a WaWa or something, please come forward to police. Who the heck knows where Philadelphia Police are on this since all we have heard from only Austin’s hometown PD, Lower Merion.

missing 3

This just doesn’t seem like a kid who would just disappear or take off. Maybe I am wrong, kids get upset, teenage years can be super emotional.  Please if you have seen this kid call the police.

Praying for a safe and happy resolution. (And I would love to know why no one has heard from Philadelphia Police on this yet???)

Austin

Police seek info. on missing Montgomery County teen Austin Wylie

His car was reportedly found in Northern Liberties

BY ELISA LALA
PhillyVoice Staff

Authorities are asking anyone with information related to the disappearance of Montgomery County teen Austin Wylie, who has been reported missing since Wednesday morning, to come forward.

A spokesperson from the Lower Merion Police Department confirmed to NBC10that a car driven by Wylie at the time of his disappearance has since been found at N. 5th and Spring Garden streets in Northern Liberties.

an amazing experience

DSC_6606Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting a Duffy’s Cut archaeological dig site thanks to Dr. William Watson of Immaculata. This is my second Duffy’s Cut tour thanks to the good doctor.13592353_10154326569529313_2829693570295626942_n

I also had the opportunity to meet his team, his brother, and the  teachers attending the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)  Duffy’s Cut Teachers Institute. Everyone was so warm and welcoming to a non-educator.

I have always wanted to see what an archaeological dig was like in real time, so I found it all fascinating!

Thanks Bill for including me!!!

Here is the PBS video of a few years ago. I have watched it a few time now and it still gets me every time – really powerful stuff:


DSC_6512 DSC_6551 DSC_6624 DSC_6651 DSC_6653 DSC_6670 DSC_6676 DSC_6702 DSC_6713 DSC_6741