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Blast from the Past: Charles Tindley
2 min read
Check out the story of the “prince of preachers” in Philadelphia, a Methodist district superintendent, hymn writer, and African-American leader in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I visited the church he served, now known as the Tindley Temple, in 1992.
Often referred to as “The Prince of Preachers”, he educated himself, became a minister and founded one of the largest Methodist congregations serving the African-American community on the East Coast of the United States.
Tindley’s father was a slave, but his mother was free. Tindley himself was thus considered to be free, but even so he grew up among slaves. After theCivil War, he moved to Philadelphia, where he found employment as a hod carrier (brick carrier). He and his wife Daisy attended the Bainbridge St. Methodist Episcopal Church. Charles later became the sexton, a job with no salary. 
Never able to go to school, Tindley learned independently and by asking people to tutor him. He enlisted the help of a Philadelphia synagogue on North Broad St. to learn Hebrew and learned Greek by taking a correspondence course through the Boston Theological School.*  Without any degree, Tindley was qualified for ordination in the Methodist Episcopal Church by examination, with high ranking scores. He was ordained as a Deacon in the Delaware Conference in 1887 and as an elder in 1889. As was the practice of the ME church, Tindley was assigned by his bishop to serve as an itinerant pastor staying a relatively short time at each charge: 1885 to Cape May, New Jersey, 1887 to South Wilmington, Delaware, 1889 to Odessa, Delaware. 1891 to Pocomoke, Maryland, 1894 to Fairmount, Maryland, and 1897 to Wilimington Delaware at Ezion Methodist Church. In 1900 he became the Presiding Elder of the Wilmington District. 
Tindley then became the pastor of the same church at which he had been a janitor. Under his leadership, the church grew rapidly from the 130 members it had when he arrived. In 1906 the congregation moved from Bainbridge St. to Broad and Fitzwater Sts. and was renamed East Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church. The property was purchased from the Westminster Presbyterian church and seated 900, though it was soon filled to overflowing. The congregation over time grew to a multiracial congregation of 10,000.