The effort is part of a "Let My People Vote" campaign by the PICO National Network, of which Mother Bethel is a member. PICO is an interfaith federation of congregations working on social issues.
Tyler said it was at a PICO meeting in Chicago that he came up with the idea of canceling services. The pastors were making plans for Voter Sabbath Week (which began Sunday) and discussing ways to integrate registration drives into their services.
For the 2008 presidential election, 70 percent of eligible African Americans in the United States were registered to vote and turnout among them was 93 percent, according to a July 2012 census report.
"In my mind, I just saw Mother Bethel's members going out and registering people," he said, noting the church's legacy as a hub of civic engagement dating to the 1800s. "I didn't think it was good enough to register just our members."
So Tyler arranged his church's registration drive for last week. He said he took a registration card from every eligible voter - even those already registered.
"If your name [on the registration card] is not exactly as it is on your passport, your driver's license, whatever, you might not be able to vote," he said. "So we want everyone to register again and make sure the registration is exactly as it is on the ID."
In most cases, that appears to be unnecessary. Under the state's new voter ID law - which is being challenged in court - nicknames, initials, and other common name alterations should not disqualify anyone from voting as long as the names "substantially conform."
Contact Jessica Parks at 215-854-4851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.