St. James A. M. E. Church - A History
[Founded in 1887]
"God of Our Fathers"- this stately hymn has much to say to the members of St. James A.M.E. Church Many feel that the Almighty Hand of God has led much of the way from the beginning in 1887 - 90 years ago - to the present Yes, St. James was at first Levy's Chapel, located in an abandoned street car barn on Biltmore Avenue, then called South Main Street.
During that earliest, precarious existence of Levy's Chapel, the pastor and congregation often sang "Fade, Fade Each Earthly Joy", and struggled to keep hopes and faith alive.
Two years later - in 1889- the little band was able to move to a building already standing on Hilderbrand Street near the intersection with Pine Street. At this same time the name was changed to St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. P. J. Jordan was the earliest pastor whose name is part of our history. It was probably during his ministry that the church purchased its first bell, installed it in the bell tower, and felt a tinge of pride when it tolled the hours and called the people to worship, for Sunday school, morning and evening services, funerals, celebrations
Following Rev. P.J. Jordan, in regular succession there came Rev. E.T. Bailey- here for only a portion of a term- Rev. G.D. Carnes, and then Rev. W.J. Jordan.
During this latter Rev. Jordan's time, Rev. S.O. Mauce served as the associate pastor whose reputation has lived long after him customarily, Rev. Mauce was called on to "pray the church down", when this happened Rev. Mauce would often become so enthralled by his solicitations that he could walk the benches, never falling, held up by divine power!
Again in regular succession of four - year terms, Rev. W.H. Monoko was followed by Rev. J.W. Barnum, and then came Rev. C.H. King. During this last tenure the vacant lot at the corner of the street was purchased by the church On this property a parsonage was built by and occupied by Rev. J.D. Cowan and his family. In more ways than one Rev. Cowan was a blessing to the church in that he taught by example that things can get done, whether it was making a fire in the janitor's absence or playing the organ when the organist could not be present.
When Rev. J.E. Holt came to serve the church, the members decided to brave a big step: the parsonge was moved back on the lot and the basement of a new church was begun; the old church was remodeled into an apartment building, the St. James Apartments.
When Rev. R.L. Tillery was unable to serve, Rev. T.S. Marsh came to the church, initiating several new policies for members and youth, among them the separate, special communion table for the children of the church, a practice we observe generally to the present day.
Rev. W.F. Rice followed Rev. F.W. Sowell and finished the church building in which we now worship, amidst wonder and rejoicing and near disbelief. During the years of struggle there was much "joining of hands" and cooperative "putting shoulders to the wheel" to get the job done. Some groups and individuals have left their signatures for us to see-note the givers of the windows. Others worked less obviously, altho no less gloriously Here are some of those silent, unsigned benefactors: The Columbia Busy Bee Club assumed responsibility for plastering the sides of the new building and for one chandelier The Boosters Club had the ceiling plastered The Willing Workers Club provided a chandelier and carpeting in the center aisle The carpeting in the pulpit was a gift from Mrs. Alzetta Johnson and Mrs. Lola B. McCracken Money for lumber was advanced by Mrs. Hattie Morgan and Mrs. Bernice Williams There were other true stewards whose identities have been lost through the years; to them we are no less beholden and appreciative
Again in regular succession the church congregation was served well by Rev. T.L. Scott, Rev. Hale B. Thompson, and Rev. W.A. Jennings, even if for only a brief period. Following in their footsteps and profiting from their achievements came Rev. C.A. Stroud for a long, useful 12-year term of service. The parsonage on Broad Street was puchased, the church pulpit was remodeled, and an organ was secured.
Both Rev. G.W. Troublefield and Rev. J.A. Valentine served only briefly, each making his own distinctive contributions. Many felt Rev. Valentine brought a new spirit of unity and African Methodism not experienced earlier.
Several "steps forward" marked the long term of Rev. C.C. Scott, including the observance of the church's 66th anniversary. Highlights included purchase of pipes and chimes for the organ, installing oil furnaces in church and parsonage, and getting beautiful, new pews in the church. Members were overjoyed to regain possession of the St. James Apartments, and faith and hope were largely restored. The Allen Christian Endeavor League was activated during this period also.
Rev. and Mrs. P.B. Walker followed and concern for the family unit came to the fore, with equal concern for unity in the church and community problems. While the Walkers were with us the children of the church Sunday School became the proud recipients of a van-bus to transport them to and from services, a bequest from Miss Catherine Slaughter, a good and faithful member and friend of children. Other bequests at this time were those from Mr. Avery Hooper.
Clubs continued to serve where there were special needs for improvements and for fellowship. The St. James Guild pioneered in and other clubs joined in sponsoring coffee hours for fellowship; these were activities continued intermittently for several years; the lack of a fellowship hall probably contributed to their gradual decline Improvements made possible by clubs included, among other things, changes in church restrooms, the pastor's study, furniture replacement at the parsonage, and others.
The church inherited a library from the Bell [Wright crossed out] family. With no proper and convenient place for the safe keeping of the books, members have never been able to fully enjoy the benefits of this valuable gift Another need for an educational building.
Another gift to the members of the church from Miss Catherine Slaughter is the fresh palm branches we enjoy each Palm Sunday even to the present, with provisions for many years to come.
Rev. C.W. Hunt and Rev. A.J. Holman came next in service to our church. During this time the plan for finances was instituted whereby adults were asked to pay at least $20.00 monthly and support 2 main rallies, a Men's Day rally and a Women's Day rally in the spring and fall of each activity year. This plan is generally followed now.
There have been many good and faithful men and women, in addition to those already mentioned, who have worked and toiled down through the years to help formulate and carry out church policy and programs. They have been the officers, -trustees, stewards, stewardesses, missionaries, choirs, club officers, Sunday School superintendents and teachers- without whom there could have been no church. Herewith names of some that float down to us over the years Earliest known were (See insert-page 9-
Officers and Stewardess Boards
In spite of efforts to the contrary divisiveness developed in the church. Rev. W.L. Williams came to us at this time and in his quiet, gentle way set about the task of mending and uniting. He showed the way, and the church has been able to move slowly out from the sad, shocking experience of losing his leadership in the midst of revitalization. During his brief ministry he brought into our fold our present assistant pastor, Mr. L.T. Haith, who has become a very active force for inspired leadership and encouragement.
The desire for such a facility as and educational building has long been a dream of most of the members of St. James Church. This deep wish was communicated to Rev. P.O. James immediately after his arrival in their midst. In the way of the many good men and true who have gone before him, he has come with us to this day of great rejoicing and renewed hope- the ground-breaking for our new educational building. Let us rejoice that we have come thus far on our way, for it seems that at last, truly, the "Church is Movin' On"! (song)
Some of the earliest known officers were:
Following those early officers came others in several groups:
The names on this last group are remembered by many of us:
Choir members who served well are remembered fondly. These groups included:
Other groups included the following:
Additions from time to time were:
Members of the Gospel Choir (organi[s]ed during the ministering of Rev. Stroud).