Shorter Community AME

Shorter Community AME Church, organized in July 1868, by Bishop Thomas M.D. Ward, was the first African-American Church established in Colorado. The Church has grown form a log cabin erected in lots at the corner of 19th and Holladay Streets (now Market Street) to its current locations, “Freedom Crossroads”, Martin Luther King Boulevard and Richard Allen Court. St. John AME Church was organized by Bishop Thomas M. D. Ward. The first church building, a log cabin, was erected on land donated by Major Fillmore, a Union officer in the Civil War. The church began with eighteen members, including six trustees: Gibble Burrel, Samuel Cook, Alvin Cummings, Gilbert Phelps, Lewis Price and Irving Williams.

The cabin served as the first church structure from 1864-1878. In 1878, a larger, brick structure was built on the corner of 19th and Stout Streets for $2,000.00. In 1880, to honor the presiding Bishop, James A. Shorter, St. John AME Church was renamed Shorter Chapel. In 1886, the structure at 19th and Stout (currently the U.S. Federal Court House) was sold for $15,000.00, and other sites were considered to build a new church home. For almost a full year and at three different locations, Shorter Chapel experienced considerable opposition from neighbors against having a Black Church in their community.

In the fall of 1887, three lots on the corner of 23rd and Cleveland Place were purchased for $9,000.00. One of the homes purchased with the lot was converted into the church parsonage. The church was built for $24,000.00 and after the financial gains during the community battles, only $7,000.00 remained on the church mortgage. The church site at 23rd and Cleveland Place served as the place of worship from August 5, 1889 until April 9, 1925. In April, it is alleged that the Ku Klux Klan set fire to and completely destroyed the building. The Shorter Family Shared worship facilities with Peoples Presbyterian Church until Easter morning April 4, 1926. On this morning, the first service was held in the new building erected over the same location of the previous building; 23rd and Cleveland Place.


Shorter Community AME Church is currently located at the intersection of Freedom Crossroads. The effort to move from 23rd and Cleveland Place was initiated in the 1970’s under the leadership of Rev. Carter. The first services in the Shorter Education Center, our temporary sanctuary, were held July 11, 1981.

The ground-breaking ceremony for our permanent sanctuary was held in the fall of 1988. The permanent sanctuary was completed in June 1990 with the dedication services being held during the month.

Shorter currently owns and operates the Bishop Richard Allen Corporation and the Richard Allen Gardens-Senior Housing Facilities.

Every pastor of Shorter has served to help affect early liquidation of debts on church property has been actively involved in church and community concerns and has led in the spiritual growth of the membership. Through these efforts, Shorter AME has become a leader in the Denver community and the AME connectional church.

A.M.E. History

The African Methodist Episcopal Church was started in 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by a group of disinherited Americans whose forefathers came from Africa. The leader of this group was a 27 year old “African,” Richard Allen. At that time the word “African” was used to designate those persons whom we now call African American.

The A.M.E. Church is a member of the family of Methodist Churches. Its founder and first active bishop, Richard Allen, felt that no religious sect or denomination would suit the capacity of his people as well as did Methodism with its emphasis upon the plain and simple gospel which the unlearned could understand, and its orderly system of rules and regulations which the underdeveloped needed. He felt that Methodism had what the “African” needed to encourage him to make progress, to worship God freely, and to fill every office for which he had the capability.

The movement to organize a church separated from the white peoples’ church was started in response to the “Africans” need for opportunities for self-expression and fuller involvement in the service of the worship of God, and in society as a whole. It was the answer to a cry for social recognition as human beings, and the means through which a group of people started on a program which gave them a growing sense of dignity and self-respect.

To foster this program Richard Allen considered it important to conduct night school classes in which his people could learn how to help themselves. Out of these night school classes has come the church’s philosophy of education with its strong emphasis upon self-help. The general emphasis has not been significantly changed until this day. In addition to the educational program of the local church, the A.M.E. Church operates eleven institutions of higher education.

Most religious groups had their origin in some theological, doctrinal, or ideological dispute or concern. But the A.M.E. Church originated as a protest against the inhumane treatment which the helpless people of African descent were forced to accept from the white people belonging to the St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This fact says to us that the organization of the A.M.E. Church was the result of racial discrimination rather than of any theological or doctrinal concern.

The “Africans” who started the A.M.E. Church were very poor and most of them could not read nor write. Yet, under the leadership of Richard Allen, they managed to buy an old blacksmith shop, and to move it to a lot at the corner of Sixth and Lombard Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they organized Bethel A.M.E. Church (also called Mother Bethel) which stands today as one of the historic shrines of Philadelphia.

In time other African American churches were started in Baltimore, Maryland; Salem, New Jersey; Attleboro, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware and other places in the United States. In the year 1816 these churches came together and formed the A.M.E. Church. Richard Allen was elected to serve as the first active bishop.

Today, the A.M.E. Church has 21 active bishops and more than a million members scattered throughout the 50 States in the USA, the Dominion of Canada, South America, West Africa, South Africa and the West Indies.