The United States
The establishment of the church in New York was the result of the Ethiopian World Federation which was established by Dr.Melaku Beyene 1937, during the occupation of Ethiopia by Mussolini. The aim of the federation was to promote unity and solidarity and teach the history of Africa among all black people, and it was helpful in the introduction of the history of Ethiopia to its members. Although it was a political organization, the federation became a source of inspiration and a route for the advent of this ancient Christian church in the Western World.
Several years before the official establishment of the church in the United States, constant contact was kept between the interested group and the mother church in Ethiopia. His Holiness Abuna Basilios the Late Patriarch of Ethiopia, before and after he ascended the spiritual throne of the church corresponded with certain members of the group led by Father John Divine Hickerson, an American who was not officially ordained but was a pro-African. He was a man of vision who was responsible for the coming of the church to the West. Ultimately a promise was made by the authorities in Ethiopia to officially set up the Church in the United States at the opportune time.
In 1952 Father Gabre Yesus Meshesha ( Abuna Athanasius ) and Ato Abera Jembere were sent to the group with articles for the church and sacrament books for the members. In 1954 Archbishop Theophilos visited the United States to reassure members that the promise would be kept, that the church would be set up, and he himself would return. On October 25, 1959 the great day finally arrived His Holiness at the time known as His Grace Abuna Theophilos, archbishop of Harar Province and assistant patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, officially set up the church in the United States. On that date 275 converts were baptized by him, also the parish in New York was dedicated and named Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Church. His Grace Archbishop Y. Samuel of the Syrian Orthodox church was spiritual adviser. A building was purchased by the members and was dedicated by His Holiness Abuna Theophilus in december of that year the first building owned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in America. It was located in Brooklyn at 726 Gates Avenue and was named Saint Michael the Archangel. A more suitable building was needed for the church, the purchasing of which was left to His Eminence Abuna Yesehaq at the time known as Abba Laike Mandefro and members of the congregation. Initially they experienced great difficulty locating a suitable building and raising adequate funds for it's purchase. With the faithful assistance and diligent work of the membership, a building was purchased at 43 West 126th Street in New York City early in 1966 to house the Holy Trinity Parish. After the building was purchased His Eminence Abuna Yesehaq left for Ethiopia to seek assistance for renovations. Unfortunately, the building was taken by New York City authorities in his absence.(Yesehaq, 192)
Finally, with the assistance of the membership and funds given by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie the First, On December 25,1969 a day of history making for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the United States and a time of great rejoicing for it's clergy and members. On that day they took possession of a newly purchased building at 140-42 West 176th Street, Bronx, New York, including a large lot next to it on which many projects were planned including a Cathedral. Due to events in Ethiopia and other events later on in New York these projects never came to fruition.
The establishment of the church in the United States became valuable at least for the following reasons:
- For people who look for redemption and have no desire to join any other Christian denomination except a church from Africa, the church allows them to gather together and to accept Christ and live a Christian life, which is essential for their salvation. Many people especially elders when asked by His Eminence Abuna Yesehaq why they had not accepted baptism and matrimony in other churches. The answer was that they would never do this if it was not for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,the Church of Africa. This expression includes other concerns such as identity and heritage.
- Many Ethiopians come to the United States continuously for reasons such as Ethiopia's diplomatic relations with the U.S. government, international affairs, study and refuge. Thus the church here provides protection of the spiritual lives of her children and has enabled them to worship in their own language and according to their customs.
- The church has also become a center for the introduction of the cultural history of the Christendom of Ethiopia and the country itself. At the church in New York when it was under the spiritual guidance of His Grace Abuna Yesehaq visitors numbered five to ten people every day, and on Sundays about twenty to thirty people sought information about Ethiopia.
During the period 1959-74, the church worked in cooperation with the Ethiopian Consulate in New York, particularly in the field of cultural and spiritual involvement. At that time many Ethiopian Government officials and dignitaries visited the church in the United States and attended services including His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I; himself.