Jarena Lee

11th February 1783 – 1864

““And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper for a woman to preach? Seeing the Saviour died for the woman as well as for the man. If the man may preach, because the Saviour died for him, why not the woman? Seeing he died for her also. Is he not a whole Saviour, instead of a half one?”

Jarena Lee

Jarena Lee was an African American free woman who, after an intense religious awakening, became the first women authorized to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in America.

After encountering Christianity Jarena became acutely aware of her inadequacy as a sinner but after spending time in prayer began to feel the gift of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. Later in life she heard a call from God to preach and approached the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who told her that women were forbidden from preaching. This did not deter Lee who continued attending services. At one service, 8 years later, the preacher failed to deliver so Jarena stood up and began preaching herself amazing all those who listened. After this Jarena was authorised to preach and began an extensive preaching ministry across the United States.

Jarena wrote two autobiographical books during her life documenting her spiritual life and preaching journeys, which she took on foot, across America. Other than what she herself wrote little is known about her except that she allegedly died penniless in 1864. Despite this end she remains hugely influential and should rightfully be commemorated as a pioneer for women and people of colour everywhere.

Jarena Lee was born on this day 1783 in New Jersey.

A Prayer for Jarena Lee:

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the life and preaching ministry of Jarena Lee. We ask that the same spirit that filled her and her preaching also fills us so that we may preach Your word regardless of any barriers that stand in our way. Through your most Holy Name we pray. Amen

Suggested Bible Reading:

Exodus 15.1-20