St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church continues to grow in the spirit of the Lord. Each day that passes adds to the history of our church and provides us with an enlightened future. Let us be thankful and grateful to God for giving us spiritual, physical and financial blessings which have enabled us to do HIS work and HIS will.
In January 1960, a spiritual torch was ignited. God gave the vision to start an African Methodist Episcopal Church in a newly developed black community, Progress Village. Sister Sallie Holmes told everyone how one evening a voice spoke to her said, “Sallie get up you need to start a church here now.” Mrs. Holmes told her Pastor Rev. J.J. Heath of Bethel AME Church. Mr. Ellsworth Holmes, Mrs. Sallie Holmes, Mr. Raymond Scott, Mrs. Van Scott, Mr. Earl O’Neal, and Mrs. Rosa B. O’Neal, stepped out on faith believing that their labor of love would bear fruit for Christ. The church was organized in February at the home of Bro. Raymond and Sis. Van Scott.
These faithful members were guided in their efforts by Rev. J.J. Heath, Rev. and Mrs. S.L. James of Bethel AME Church, and Rev. G.J. Oates of St. Luke Church. Rev. James took the mission to the Annual Conference, hence the name, St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop C.E. Hatcher assigned Rev. Samuel L. James as the first pastor of the church, and Rev. C.C. Brooks served as the presiding elder.
The small group met and held Sunday School at the Holmes’ residence. The first collection was $1.29. They met until they were able to rent a portable from Progress Village Elementary School for $5.00 a month, while First Baptist rented the lunchroom. Now that they were established, membership began to grow. Joining at the first service were Versie Evans, Nell Webb Wimberly, Mary Brown, Lula Mae Pauldo, and Rufus Forbes. Sisters Scott, Holmes, and O’Neal went out into the community knocking on doors encouraging persons to come to St. James. For the next several years, many more individuals and families joined the church.
In 1964, Rev. Leroy Kennon , Brothers O’Neal, Scott, Ginyard, Holmes, and George ‘Papa’ Bradley laid the foundation of the first St. James church, with guidance from Rich Bradley. The walls of the sanctuary were constructed prior to Rev. Kennon’s departure. Rev. H.H. Douglas completed the exterior and interior of the sanctuary. The adults, with the help of the youth, laid the tile in the sanctuary. The acquisition of the pews was Rev. Douglas’ final touch, and Rev. Benjamin Padgett finalized payment on the pews.
God sent “The Peace Pastor,” Rev. Francisco Rodriguez to St. James. Rev. Rodriguez delivered many messages before becoming ill. During his illness, Presiding Elder Martin placed Evangelist James D. Sykes at the church, who later became the appointed pastor. This energetic pastor began the Christian Education Department, burned the mortgage on the sanctuary and parsonage, built and burned the mortgage on the Fellowship Hall, as well as purchased a van.
Rev. La’Tanya Floyd started Holy Week, and the Women’s Auxiliary where Sharen Robinson was named president.
The Miracles in Motion Liturgical Dance Ministry began under the leadership of Rev. M. Mason B. Walker where Sis. Shirley Sanchez was appointed as the director, Sisters LaNitra Sanchez-Moore, and LaShay Sanchez-Cabrera were named as the instructors.
We must not forget Rev. Joe L. Gay, Sr., who has worked with the men of St. James to start the Sons of Allen. He has brought us to this mountain top experience, into a new edifice. Rev. Joe L. Gay we shall never forget, with the Lord’s help, what you have done for St. James AME Church.
Many firsts developed in the 60’s. The YPD was formed, and Raleigh Allen served as the YPD president; Sis. Sallie Holmes became the youth director; Vernelda Filer(Jones) was appointed the youth lay president; and Sis. Versie Evans the missionary president. In addition, Brothers Scott and O’Neal, and Sis. Holmes were appointed as Stewards and Bro. Ellsworth Holmes (Chairman), sisters Lucile Austin, Jimmie Lee Bradley, Ethel Bob, and Henrietta Bryant were named Trustees.
The church continued to grow, and more firsts in the 70’s. Bro. Robert Leeks and Sis. Holmes started Choir #1 and Sis. Prince (Anderson) started the Teen Choir. “The Annual Bradley and Wright Day” began in the 80’s and continued into the 90’s. Also in the 80’s, Choir #2 was formed and Sis. Twanda Bradley became the first choir director. In the 90’s, we were blessed to have many talented youth in our Young People Department. Spencer Humphrey and Alton Center were Episcopal Presidents, Sevette Clark, Episcopal 1 st Vice President, and Debra Brown, Episcopal Youth Lay President.
Many dedicated members go beyond the call of duty to spread the word of God through many organizations and ministries. Organizations and ministries include Women’s Missionary Society, YPD, Sons of Allen, Women’s Auxiliary, Christian Education, DMC, Church School, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Lay Organization, Music Ministry, Choirs, Liturgical Dance, Youth Ministry, and Boys MIME.
St. James AME Church continues to carry out the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20), building on a heritage rich in service and dedication to the “Village” community. We are constantly engaged in cooperative efforts to make the community a better place. St. James has partnered with senior programs, Project Focus Tutorial program, directed by Carolyn Miller and has given scholarships to the Youth Sports League.
- Presiding Elder C.C. Brooks
- Presiding Elder A.D. Burton
- Presiding Elder B. O. Martin
- Presiding Elder Theodore Andrews
- Presiding Elder Henry E. Green
- Presiding Elder Jimmy J. Thompson
- Presiding Elder James O. Williams, Sr.
- Rev. S.L. James (1961-1965)
- Rev. Leroy Kennon (1965-1970)
- Rev. H.H. Douglas (1970-1973)
- Rev. B.O. Padgett (1973-1977)
- Rev. F.A. Rodriguez (1977-1987)
- Rev. Dr. J.D. Sykes, Sr. (1987-1996)
- Rev. LaTanya W. Floyd (1996-1998)
- Rev. M. Mason Walker (1998-2003)
- Rev. Joe L. Gay, Sr. (2003-2009)
- Rev. Michael B. Price, I. (2009-Present)