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Biographical Sketch of
Rev. Carolyn Clarene Cavaness 

Pastor, Bethel AME Church ~ Ardmore

Rev. Carolyn C. Cavaness is the daughter of the late Rev. Harold Cavaness and Ms. Karen Cavaness. A fourth generation preacher, Rev. Cavaness’ great-grandfather, The Rev. Dr. Joseph Slade, Sr., pastored numerous churches in the Philadelphia Annual Conference and in the New Jersey Annual Conference, including the historic St. James AME Church in Newark, NJ. Her great-uncle, Rev. Walter Slade, founded Union Chapel AME Church in Newark, NJ, where Rev. Cavaness served on the Ministerial Staff. Rev. Carolyn embarked on her ministerial journey at Israel Memorial AME Church, Newark, NJ, where she answered her call to preach at the age of 14, rendered and received her license to preach at the age 15. 


Rev. Cavaness is a graduate of Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City, with a major in Urban Studies with a concentration in Economics. During her time at Barnard, she served as President of the Student Government Association, Vice President of Student Government, President of the Columbia University Gospel Choir, President of Black Church at Columbia, and was involved in many other activities and boards. Also, she was Programming Coordinator for the 2003 New Student Orientation Program at Columbia University. For her contributions to the Barnard Community Carolyn received the Frank Gilbert Bryson Prize the highest leadership award of the College. She was also the recipient of the Barnard Bear Pin for her dedication and commitment to campus life. 


Rev. Cavaness graduated in May, 2011 from Union Theological Seminary in New York City with a Masters of Divinity degree. In her second year, she was awarded the Hudnut Preaching Award. The award is conferred annually by the faculty at the end of the middler year to a student who, in their judgment, has made the best preparation for the preaching ministry. 

Prior to enrolling in seminary, Rev. Cavaness was deputy finance director for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s historic campaign for President. She was employed by Barnard College as Officer to the Barnard College Annual Fund. She was also Finance Director for New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Carolyn was also Director of Development for George Jackson Academy in New York City. 

Rev. Cavaness is fluent in Spanish after spending her junior year in high school abroad in Zaragoza, Spain. Rev. Cavaness served for eight (8) years as New Jersey Conference YPD President of the AME Church. She was also 2001 AME Youth of the Year for the New Jersey Annual Conference. At the age of 16, Rev. Carolyn was admitted on trial in the AME Church. She was ordained an Itinerant Deacon in the AME Church on April 17, 2010 and on April 14, 2012 an Itinerant Elder in the AME Church.  


On August 15, 2012, Rev. Cavaness was appointed by the Rt. Rev. Gregory G.M. Ingram, pastor of First AME Church, Sharon Hill, PA. On May 18, 2014, Rev. Cavaness was appointed by the Rt. Rev. Gregory G.M. Ingram, pastor of Bethel AME Church, Ardmore, PA, the first female pastor in the church’s 128 year history.  Blessed to serve this historic congregation, Rev. Carolyn’s innovative style and initiative has assisted her in leading the congregation to embark on various capital improvements including: upgrade and overhaul of the HVAC system, roofing and renovations of the lower level of the church. In Spring, 2018, the congregation launched the Bethel Community Garden, which in its first year harvested over 1,000 lbs of produce, which impacted local pantries, members and friends.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel has been on the front line in service to the community providing food and household supplies support, tutoring, mental health support and resources for children and families and COVID-19 testing and vaccine/booster clinics.  In response to the church’s critical presence during the pandemic, the congregation received a $1.5 million dollar grant from the Montgomery County Recovery Office to undergird its vaccine, farm/garden and mental health programs. Additionally, due to this support a capital improvement and upgrade plan has been launched which will include a complete renovation and upgrade of the church’s current fellowship hall/community life spaces, kitchen as well as ensuring that Bethel is accessible to persons who experience mobility challenges. In addition, Rev. Cavaness led the congregation in the purchase of a multi-family unit and commercial business unit located directly on the church’s property line. Literally saving three (3) families from being displaced due to gentrification and development. 


Paramount to the work has been increasing Bethel’s outreach, evangelism, and community engagement - inclusive of expanding Bethel’s opportunities for worship and Christian education. Strategic partnerships have been advanced with the business community and various non-profit agencies and boards across the Main Line, as well.  


Joining with sisters and brothers of other faith traditions, she helped to form the Lower Merion Clergy Interfaith Alliance and also served as co-convener of the Lower Merion/Narberth Food Insecurity Working Group, which has been at the cutting edge of bridging resources to children and families in need of food and social service access  She has been blessed given her commitment to interfaith dialogue, to travel to Israel in 2017 by invitation twice to advance dialogue between the African American and Jewish communities.


In 2018, she and the Bethel, Ardmore Family were blessed with the honor and privilege to host the 202nd Session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference - the first time ever held on the Main Line and hosted by a Main Line congregation.


On January 1, 2022, Rev. Cavaness was elected the first female president of the Main Line Black Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. On July 1, 2023, Rev. Cavaness was elected the first African American female president of the Rotary Club of Ardmore. 


Rev. Cavaness considers herself a bridge connecting people and resources all towards creating the beloved community. She is blessed to serve(d) on various boards and initiatives some including: Chair - Bethel Academy, Board Member - Interfaith Philadelphia, Vice-President- CommUNITY Breakfast of the Main Line, Executive Committee Member - Main Line NAACP Executive Committee, Treasurer - AME Ministerial Alliance of Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Vicinity Treasurer, Treasurer - Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, Board Member - Family Promise of the Main Line,  Board Member - HealthSpark Foundation, Board Member - Bucks-Mont Collaborative - Board Member - Common Space, Member - Lower Merion Police and Minority Relations Board,  Board Member - Ardmore Library, Board Member - Pennsylvania League of Women Voters. This past Spring, Rev. Cavaness was appointed an Advisor to the USDA's Urban Agricultural County Committee for Philadelphia.   

Rev. Cavaness has been featured in the CRAINS Business magazine, New York Post’s Page Six magazine. In addition, she has been named a Millennial Superstar by Montco.Today and a Main Line Hero by Main Line Today. Recently, Rev. Cavaness was recognized by Radnor Township for her work in the dedication of a historical panel in honor of Bishop Richard Allen’s walk to Radnor in 1784.  


She desires to use all her God-given talents and gifts to reach and help all that she can. She lives by the statement, "Only what you do for Christ shall last." 

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