Converted early, Richard Allen joined the Methodists at age 17. He began evangelizing and attending services so regularly that he attracted criticism from local slave owners. Allen was qualified as a preacher in 1784, at the first conference of the Methodist Church in North America, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was allowed to lead services at 5 a.m. In 1786, Allen became a preacher at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but was restricted to early morning services. As he attracted more black congregants, the church vestry voted to build a segregated gallery for the use of blacks. Allen also regularly preached on the commons, slowly gaining a congregation of nearly 50, and supporting himself with a variety of odd jobs. Allen became the first black Methodist minister, ordained by Bishop Francis Asbury, in recognition of his leadership and preaching.