Goodwin Memorial A.M.E Zion Church developed out of the First Congregational Church of Amherst, a place of worship still active today. The Church permitted slaves and servants of the town to attend mass alongside their owners and as early as 1742, the list of communicated members of the First Congregational Church includes "George, a Negro servant" (African American Historical).Slaves had been documented in Amherst as much as 4 years earlier, Zechariah Field owned a slave valued at 130₤ (Carpenter & Morehouse, p.59).
After the erection of Amherst Academy in 1812, students and faculty of what would become Amherst College in 1821 began holding Sunday school classes and chapel services in the Academy. These services were primarily intended for children of the faculty, but children of the African American "servants" were also allowed to attend. These services were held in the Academy building through the 1860's lacking a specific, designated meeting location after it was torn down in 1869 (“History”). With funds collected from Amherst College faculty and townspeople, a chapel was erected in 1869 “so that the colored people of the town will have a place to worship” (Rhomer). The building was named Zion Chapel, and stood on Parson's Street, what is today Woodside Avenue (African American Historical).
As time progressed, Amherst College's involvement with Zion Chapel began to diminish, and by 1900 the church's parishioners were maintaining the Chapel independently. In 1904, as a tool to help sustain themselves, Booker T. Washington was recruited to aid with fund-raising efforts (African American Historical). It was at this time a division grew between parishioners which ultimately led to the creation of Hope Church, the second African American church of Amherst.
In 1905 a sect of the church membership of Zion Chapel officially organized into the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and in 1910 constructed a new place of meeting and worship further down Woodside Ave. Moses Goodwin was appointed the chairman of the board for the Church and during the opening ceremonies said "After 50 years of dependence upon others, the colored people have determined to have a church of their own" -Hampshire Gazette, July 10, 1910 (African American Historical).
In 1967 the Name of the church changed once again to it's present form, Goodwin Memorial A.M.E Zion Chapel in honor of Moses Goodwin and his family. The Church is still active and meets at the location constructed in 1910.
For additional facts and resources about Goodwin Memorial and to view an electronic copy of the African Methodist Episcopal Church's One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; or, The Centennial of African Methodism, CLICK HERE
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