St. Paul History
Since 1868 - Now
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church began its Christian fellowship and service in 1868, 5 years following the issuance of the historic Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln and only 3 years after the end of the Civil War. In 1868, because there was no church closer than Woods Chapel, (which became Allen Temple) a small group of people began meeting to worship from house to house. Soon thereafter, near Humphries St. in Austin’s Alley (later named Miller’s Alley) a plot of land was given to the group with the stipulation that it be used only for the erection of a church or school. On that site, a simple straight building was erected. There a small mission was organized and named St. Paul A.M.E. Church.
A few local ministers from Woods Chapel were assigned to preach to the small congregation on occasions. Rev. George Christberg was the first assigned pastor. Dissatisfied with their original location, the congregation purchased a more desirable site on Humphries St. and built a small frame building.
Rev. Christberg was succeeded by Rev. Mitchell who was followed by Rev. Wright, Rev. Chappell and Rev. J.T. Bellsaw. Under their leadership, the congregation grew in numbers and it became necessary to enlarge the building to accommodate it. Rev. Bellsaw was succeeded by Rev. B.T. Greene.
In 1890 Rev. J.H. Adams was appointed pastor, followed by Rev. J.G. Gary. He was succeeded by Rev. D.K. Knight. Under Rev. Knight’s administration a more traditional brick edifice was built in 1895. The ministers who followed Rev. Knight were: Rev. W.M. Flaggs, Rev. Travers, Rev. H.D. Canady, Rev. J.S. Flipper (who later was elected an A.M.E. Bishop after serving as President of Morris Brown College) Rev. L.A . Townsley, Rev. J.E. Epton, Rev. J.M. Estes, Rev. S.M. Zeigler, Rev. S.F. Andrews, Rev. W.A. McClendon, Rev. C.G. Gray, Rev. W. Boyd Lawrence, Rev. L.R. Parker and Rev. D.T. Babcock.
During the ministry of Rev. G.B. Hannan, who succeeded Rev. Babcock, the church on Humphries St. was destroyed by fire in August of 1936 as a result of an electrical storm. After the fire, interim services were held at Morris Brown College Chapel until a new church was completed. The doors of the new St. Paul A.M. E. Church were opened on May 3, 1937 at 457 Mc Daniel St. on the corner of Hightower St.
Rev. R. H. Porter served as pastor from 1938 to 1949. During his tenure, an expansion program began. The adjacent property southwest of the church was purchased. An education department was developed and convened in the first unit of the church.
The formative years from 1939 to 1948 were very important in the life of the church. During these years both the Optimist Club and the Music and Dramatic Guild were organized. The St. Cecilia Children’s Choir was organized in 1942 by Dr. Billings.
Rev. H.I. Bearden, (who later was elected an A.M.E. Bishop), a former member of St. Paul returned to the church as Pastor in 1948. During his pastorate, a baby grand piano and chimes were purchased and installed.
The old parsonage on Humphries St. was completely renovated under Rev. T.J. Davis who also organized the first Deaconess Board. The Pulpit Aide Board was also organized in 1951 under his pastorate.
Rev. B.J. Nolan who followed Rev. Dr. T.J. Davis in 1952, redecorated the church and spearheaded a move to purchase a new parsonage. The Rev. J.R. Hurley succeeded him.
The Young Matron’s Circle was organized on Feb. 7, 1954; St. Paul grew rapidly on McDaniel St. The church was able to acquire the coal yard next door with the intent of erecting an educational building. However, a major turning point occurred in the church’s history. Rev. Hurley and the church received official notice from the GA Highway Dept. that the property would have to be relinquished to make way for a proposed new highway (I-20).
On Feb. 15, 1959, Brother & Mrs. Richard Griggs surprised the congregation by presenting the church with a check for $156. This was the start of the building fund for the new edifice. The church purchased a parcel of property at 1540 Pryor Rd. from the Atlanta Housing Authority on Feb. 17, 1959. The purchase price was $23,500.
The new design was created by G. Lloyd Preacher, AIA, the same architect responsible for the design of Atlanta city Hall. Rev. Hurley arranged for the use of the T.H. Slater School as the interim worship center.
On May 4, 1961, Rev. A.R. Smith was assigned to the pastorate of St. Paul. Under his administration which lasted until Oct. 1971, the new edifice was completed in Dec. of 1962 at a cost of $254,000. The herculean job of erecting this magnificent building was due in great part to Rev. Smith’s tenacity. The first service held in the new sanctuary was the wedding ceremony of W.T. and Irene Adams on Dec. 14, 1962. The formal opening worship service in the new church was held on Sunday, Jan. 27, 1963 marking the beginning of a new era in the then 94-year history of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. Under the leadership of Rev. Smith, a Bible study group was initiated and weekly Sunday School teacher’s meetings were convened. Also during his pastorate the church was renovated.
Rev. L. Jerome Jones was appointed Pastor at the Annual Conference in 1971. During his administration, the church’s indebtedness was retired and the mortgage was burned. The Youth Dept. was revitalized and a very vibrant Youth choir was organized. Combined choirs sang during the first Sunday worship services and stained glass windows were installed. The prominent circular window was given in memory of Mrs. Johnny Clark, an usherette, by Dr. John Barnes an employer of Mrs. Clark.
In 1975, Rev. D.H. Jackson was assigned Pastor by Bishop Hildebrand. He re-landscaped the grounds; repaired and redecorated the church’s interior and exterior. Youth programs continued to flourish and major repairs were made to the front portico and vestibule.
Rev. Preston W. Williams served one of the longest tenures (and later was elected an A.M.E. Bishop). Appointed Pastor in June of 1981 by Bishop Frederick H. Talbot, Bishop Williams initiated methods for members to express their views regarding church priorities. The church’s budget increased to over $500,000; a full-time secretary was employed and new office equipment was purchased. The church was again remodeled. In 1983, the steeple was rebuilt; the educational wing re-roofed; the sanctuary and church exterior were painted; modern intercommunication and burglar systems were installed and a new pastoral suite was also added. During Bishop Williams’ tenure, a flourishing Outreach Ministry developed. One significant outgrowth of this ministry was the Saturday Tutorial Program which involved numerous church members and provided aid to improve educational and life skills to needy students thus enriching the lives of parishioners as well as the residents of the community.
In 1993, the Family Life Center was designed by William J. Stanley and Ivenue-Love-Stanley and was completed in 1995. The cornerstone was set and the building was dedicated on May 11, 1997. It was later rededicated as the Mary B. Jordan Family Life Center spearheaded by one of St. Paul’s esteemed sons, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
The appointment of Rev. Thomas L. Bess, Sr. as pastor of St. Paul in May of 1997 resulted in another sixteen-year tenure and a series of accomplishments in the improvement of the physical building as well as the spiritual growth of worship and fellowship. A few of his accomplishments include the purchase of a new Rodgers Organ, the organization of the Sounds of Glory Choir, The Dance Ministry and the “Bess Band” (Sons of Abraham),the WMS Blue & White Crystal Luncheon and The Jesus and Me Children’s choir; organization of a trained evangelistic team, reorganization and revitalization of the Class Leaders Council, the Church School, Jr. Church and the church library; the incorporation of a Holy Week Revival; incorporation of the Pryor Road Community Redevelopment Corporation and the consolidation of the church’s financial encumbrances.
Numerous physical improvements to the church included substantial repairs to the infrastructure of the building, renovation of the sanctuary, and installation of a custom altar rail with flip top communion cup receptacles, installation of sound attenuation panels and a permanent stage in the Family Life Center, a refurbished nursery and installation of the Lillie Bell Memorial play area. St. Paul served as host for President George W. Bush in June of 2002 for a Town Hall meeting and for numerous connectional functions; participated in the Empowerment Zone planning sessions and prepared numerous ministers for pastoral duties.
Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Gregory V. Eason, Sr., appointed to St. Paul on May 10, 2013, St. Paul began the era of Radical Hospitality. Pastor Eason’s goal was for St. Paul to become a five-star church that practiced radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission & service and extravagant generosity. He added a significant number of new members and converts to the St. Paul fellowship and the kingdom of God. Pastor Eason was instrumental in the opening of the Radical Hospitality room, instituted noon day and contemporary young adult bible study classes, and “Super Saturday” sessions for the training of new members. He revamped Sunday worship services to include a time for congregational concerns and the invitation to newcomers to engage in personal interaction as signature components of his pastoral care. Numerous special Sunday were held to honor Married Couples, Breast Cancer Survivors, Veterans, Seniors, T. H Slater Elementary and Carver High Schools. Additionally, the church sponsored and facilitated two Health Fairs, a Health Education Program with Emory University and a “Trunk or Treat” block party. Facility improvements made during his three-year tenure include remodeling of the church’s vestibule, purchase of a new sound board and installation of new media equipment, pavement of the parking lot and the purchase and use of a giving kiosk.
During its 148 year history, St. Paul has flourished under the leadership of over 35 pastors, numerous Bishops, Presiding Elders, Stewards, Trustees and members. Today, under the leadership of Rev. Isaiah J. Waddy, who was appointed to St. Paul by Bishop Preston W. Williams on June 10, 2016, St. Paul continues to stand as a monument to the founding fathers who established it, to the officers and members who through the guidance and help of God built it, and as a source of joy and pride to future generations and the A.M.E. church as a whole. None of the accomplishments documented above could have happened without the dutiful, committed and dedicated members who have gone before us, and those who currently work diligently as kingdom- building, Satan- busting people of God, with praise on their lips, the word in their hearts, and the devil under their feet as they empower the Church to shape the city for Christ. Today we salute all who have contributed their love, time, talents and resources to the ongoing of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.
FIND YOUR FAITH
We encourage you to find your faith. We encourage you to find a new life with Christ. "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." - Romans 10:17
To share God's word and love to the people of our community and world.
The mission of St. Paul A.M.E. Church is to equip believers to love and embrace saving souls; to empower the community, the poor, and the members to be transformed and committed to Jesus Christ.
We are African Methodist Episcopal.