With historic civil rights ties, AME Zion Church of Rochester pushes to the future

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A march to peace, built on a strong foundation. Tucked away in the Corn Hill neighborhood on Clarissa Street sits the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

It’s steeped in history; it was founded in the 1827 by Reverend Thomas James, who was born a slave. Not long after, the church found itself in the middle of the civil rights movement.

Its current pastor, Derrill Blue, started his journey in North Carolina, and was excited when he got to the call to come to Rochester from his previous church in Connecticut.

“I want to become a part of this movement,” Pastor Blue said. “I was like I want to be a part of that. Because looking at some of the members who were members of this church uh of this congregation. I just thought this was a wonderful opportunity.”

Even though the church is no longer in their original home on favor st in Rochester, they have some stained glass from the original. That building was a stop on the underground railroad. Frederick Douglass printed the north star in the basement. Susan B Anthony even delivered her final speech there.

But beyond this rich history, dozens of prominent African-American Rochester called AME Zion their spiritual home, including Rochester’s first African-American doctor, and first black police sergeant. Today in their new location, they look to march forward, to peace.

“Well one of the most important things for me is the continue to be the church that is at the forefront,” he said. “To continue to try and model the way for the religious community within the city of Rochester. And I just felt like it really undergoes all that we do. But we want to do it with the spirit of excellence, number one, and secondly as we look at this community we want to continue to be a part of the community and do what we need to do to lead the way.”

“Faith grounds me,” Pastor Blue said. “It reminds me that we are a community, we are connected. And I think that’s what religion does. If used properly I think it puts all of us on a common path so that we can find common ground and just respect each other as human beings.”

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