Audrey Bronson says the first time she stood up to preach a sermon, at the Church of God, at 38th Street and Haverford Avenue, she was too fired by faith, and too young, to feel nervous.
She was only 14.
Today, Bishop Audrey Bronson is the pastor of her own church, and, yesterday, at age 79, became the first woman president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity.
As the vice president of the Black Clergy, Bronson stepped into the lead job after the president, Rev. Ellis I. Washington, was transferred by his bishop from Philadelphia to an AME church in Boston.
Bronson's presidency isn't just a matter of circumstances.
Bronson, pastor of the Sanctuary Church of the Open Door, already had been selected by members of the 400-church organization to become president next January.
Although there are far fewer women ministers in the black-clergy organization than men, Bronson said that she didn't feel any male resistance to a woman taking over leadership of the group.
If there was any controversy, she said, "I didn't feel it and I didn't see it.
"They all stood behind me, I would say 95 percent. They didn't show any division at all about my appointment."
Bronson joined the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity right after it was formed 25 years ago. She estimated that there are now perhaps 20 female pastors in the group. The president's term is for two years.
As president, Bronson said, she won't have a "gender agenda. I'm not a male basher.
"We are attacking all issues," she said. She numbered among them poverty, health care and housing. "We're particularly concerned about the violence with guns," she added.
Bronson grew up in rural Florida, where her father was a school principal and minister, and came to Philadelphia after he retired.
Bronson graduated from Cheyney University, received a master's degree in psychology from Howard University and doctorates from New York Theological Seminary and the National Theological Seminary. She taught psychology at Cheyney for about 18 years.
Bronson also served on the MOVE Commission that investigated the 1985 police firebombing of a radical group in West Philadelphia.
She started the Sanctuary Church of the Open Door, a nondenominational Church, on Walnut Street near 60th, in 1975, and it now also has its own private school. *