Jarena Lee. Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee (Philadelphia, 1849), frontispiece. First published in 1836.
JARENA LEE (b. 1783)
Jarena Lee was the first female preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of America. Approved to preach by Bishop Richard Allen following her pious exhortation during a visiting minister’s sermon, she spent many years walking the entire country, preaching the gospel. She had her autobiography printed in 1836 and an updated version printed in 1849; following the events recorded in the second edition nothing is known of her life.
In her autobiography she reveals her extensive work from 1832-1833:
“I commenced my journey for Canada, in 1832. From the second day of July to the fifteenth day of October … 1833, I had preached 138 sermons, and traveled between 27 and 28 hundred miles. Returned from Brooklyn, and attended a quarterly meeting at Flushing…. Saturday evening I gave an exhortation, and preached Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock, the Lord accompanied the word, and, be it remembered, it will be either a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Having finished my visit I felt anxious to go to Philadelphia; feeling my labors to come to a close for the present. I arrived safe at home, found my son and friends all well, and then heard the truth of his conversion, for which I yet give glory to God.” (p. 75)