A week-long series of events celebrating 148 years culminated with a special service at St Paul AME Church on Sunday.

In the year 1870, a small group of Black Bermudian men came together and raised £800 to purchase the land where the church stands today.

Back then, it was the Reverend Willis Nazrey, the Bishop of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, which was an extension of the AME Church in Canada.

That church was established after 1850 because of the US Fugitive Slave Act, which meant that slaves who ran from the United States could be forcibly returned from anywhere they were found.

And it was against that backdrop that the AME Church in Bermuda came to be. Bishop Nazrey visited Bermuda  and on the first Sunday in January 1870, the first service was held at St Paul AME Church.

When contacted by Bermuda Real, Reverend Nicholas Tweed said: “The foresight of those Black people who understood the importance of establishing an institution that would serve both the spiritual, social, economic and the needs of our people was a critical vehicle for moving our people forward.”

In Bermuda today, he said St Paul AME “remains so after 148 years”.

“So it has a special meaning for the AME Church in Bermuda. The AME Church has always been committed to the liberation and empowerment of our people.”

When asked to respond to the sentiment held by those who feel the church, collectively; has not stood as strong on the “people’s issues” as in days gone by, Rev Tweed said: “They haven’t been listening.

“First you have a government committed to a living wage and tax reform, universal or national health care, engaged in trying to create a framework for structural changes that are more progressive arguably than any other government in the history of Bermuda.

“And it’s the structural changes that will change the system, or put the island on par, that will bring an end to the systemic perpetuation of some of these protracted issues that the island has seen, particularly inequality and the racial wealth gap with a major ambitious commitment.”

More than a century later the journey continues.