How the Stewardesses System Operates in the A.M.E. Church
Christian Recorder: May 15, 1873


The last General Conference of the A.M.E. Church as you are aware, so legislated as to allow the pastors of our churches to employ females as stewardesses, or in other words, gave him the power to nominate, and the board of stewards to confirm or reject them respectively. Immediately on my return from the said conference, I called my stewards together and informed them of the new law. One objected to the whole thing, and desired to let such a law as that remain a dead letter on our statute book. But I told him, that if he could not stand the stewardesses, he must go out of the board and let me put in such officers as could, &c. He was silent after that.

I then proceeded to nominate such sisters as I thought would be useful; selecting some old motherly sisters, some of middle age, and some young, as there were nine. I tried to get three of each. Some were confirmed unanimously, some by a mere majority, and some were rejected. Others were nominated in their places. However, I got my nine stewardesses.

The next day some of my leaders and local preachers, having heard of what had transpired, became rather ashy over the matter, and was disposed to be troublesome. I gave them to understand that two could not walk together except they be agreed, and if they could not work in harness, because I had a few stewardesses, they had better vacate their positions at once; or I would vacate them without their assistance, and put other men in their places; that I was the pastor of the church, and so far as its spiritual administration, was concerned was responsible to my Bishop and conference, and they were not and if the conference held me alone responsible, then it was my administration and not theirs, and those who could not work with me, must get out of my way.

This seemed to have blowed on brakes, and I have heard no more of it. Yes I have too, I heard some of the same individuals say, that it was the best thing the General Conferences did.

As there were no specific duties assigned to the stewardesses by the General Conference, I concluded that their duties would have to be defined by the pastor, and the board of stewards. I suggested a series of duties for them, which were endorsed by my stewards. 

Those duties are as follows:

1st, Look after the sick and dying, &c.

2nd See after the poor and needy, &c.

3rd, Search out children for the Sabbath School, &c.

4th, Look up those neglecting their classes, &c.

5th, Look after leaders who neglect their members, &c.

6th, Look after any who walk disorderly

7th Keep a strict eye on the church generally and report to me in stewardesses board every two weeks, at 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon.

Thus the stewardess system was inaugurated in my church, and I must say, it has worked like a charm.

I did not require them to meet the official board, because I do not think that was contemplated by the General conference or would it be proper to have ladies strolling around after night. So they meet me in stewardess board in the afternoon.

I have found my stewardesses worth more than all the male officers put together. They are more industrious, more regular to time, more concerned about the religious progress of the church, and they find out more that is going on wrong.

Sister Moriah Grant, better known as mother Grant, my chief stewardess, is altogether worthy of her position.

All this trouble about members not speaking has been wiped out by them from the church. If they know of two sisters who do not speak, the stewardesses appoint a time, and order the parties before them at some private house; and they sing, pray, and talk over them till they burst into tears and are reconciled, when all go home pleased and happy. They have settled some old cases, which the brethren could do nothing with.

While I limit their operations principally among the females, I sometimes send them after the males too and up to this time they have been abundantly successful. Dr. H. J. Young, whose active brain is always in advance, did our church an inestimable favor, when he got that law through; for it was he who fought it through the General Conference.

We only need now in our church to place us ahead of the Christian world, an Arch-Bishop, our other bishops finely robed, organs in all our churches, (though we have several) and Wilberforce University well endowed.

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