Jarena Lee (b. 1783) was a traveling itinerant preacher who wrote a compelling spiritual autobiography about her fascinating life as an African-American woman in the 19th century. A few years after joining the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Lee felt the call to preach. Her pastor, Richard Allen, told her that was not allowed, although she could hold prayer meetings or offer a testimony. Lee wrote that the “holy energy, which burned within me, as a fire, began to be smothered.” For eight years, she did not testify much, but married a pastor and moved to New Jersey, where she became unhappy and quite ill. In that period, Lee lost five close family members. Left a single mother of two children, she returned to Philadelphia, where Allen had become the first bishop in the recently organized African Methodist Episcopal Church. One night at Bethel AME church, Lee felt the visiting preacher “losing his spirit,” so she stood up and finished the sermon for him. Allen, who was in the congregation, recalled their earlier conversation and said he realized her calling was as valid as any man’s. From then on, he allowed her to work as a traveling minister, and she preached for black and white congregations in both the north and south. One year, she reported, she "travelled two thousand three hundred and twenty-five miles, and preached one hundred and seventy-eight sermons."
Read Lee's own account of her call to preach
Information about the Jarena Lee Preaching Academy