Varick first came into notice in 1796 when certain black members of the Methodist Episcopal Church living in New York secured permission from Bishop Francis Asbury to hold meetings by themselves in the intervals between the services held for them by the white ministers. With several others he hired a house on Cross Street, between Mulberry and Orange streets, and fitted it up as a place of worship. Three years later, the congregation organized a church under the laws of the state of New York, which was to be subject to Methodist government and known as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; in 1800 a frame building for its meetings was completed and dedicated.
A white minister was regularly appointed to have charge of it, but black preachers also conducted services. As a result of a number of causes, in 1820 the church declared its independence. Preliminary action was taken at a meeting of official members, held in Varick's house in July of that year, at which Varick and others were appointed a committee to consider the matter. Subsequently, July 26, 1820, the church adopted resolutions severing the existing connection with the Methodist Episcopal organization. Varick was later appointed chairman of a committee to draw up a Discipline based on that of the Methodists.
On October 1, 1820, the church elected Abraham Thompson and Varick, both of whom had long been preachers, elders with the power of performing all the functions of that office until ordained by regularly constituted authorities. Several other churches, including one in Philadelphia, one in New Haven, Connecticut, and one on Long Island, soon affiliated themselves with Zion Church and on June 21, 1821, a Conference was formed with Varick as district chairman, or presiding elder.
Patient efforts to secure ordination from Methodist Episcopal bishops having failed, on July 17, 1822, he and two others, all of whom had previously been made deacons, were ordained elders by three former ministers of the Methodist Church who had withdrawn from the connection. That same year Varick was elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and served as such until his death. After his death, which occurred shortly before the Conference that convened May 15, 1828, Christopher Rush (1777 - July 16, 1873), born a North Carolina slave, who had also been influential in Zion Church, succeeded him as bishop.
Through all the years leading up to the establishment of this denomination, Varick had been a wise and patient leader.
His character was never questioned; he had the confidence of prominent Methodists, and is said to have been an able debater and a forceful preacher.
Varick was married and had three sons and four daughters.