History & Legacy
St. Paul Community Church is the outgrowth of Bethel A.M.E. Church. An Action Committee was organized to contend for the right of the appointed Pastor, the Reverend Hale B. Thompson, to remain at Bethel for the appointed time. We labored for nine months but to no avail.
During Brotherhood Week, on February 25, 1947, after the Pastor had delivered a forceful sermon on the subject, he and many of the members decided to leave Bethel and organize an independent church.
The first meeting was at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Jones at 103 West 130th Street. Some of those present at the meeting were: Sisters Lula Clark, Louise Scott, Susan Jones, Gertrude Jackson, Willie Gladden, and Ethel Scott along with Brother John Pepper and others. Sister Jackson was the first to make a pledge. Our first service, at the invitation of Reverend Robert Lawrence, was held on March 2, 1947 at Metropolitan Methodist Church, 126th Street and Madison Avenue. Reverend Lawrence assisted Reverend Thompson in obtaining the Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist Church where we worshipped for nearly six years. The clergy present were Reverend Hale B. Thompson, Reverend William Bell and Reverend Joseph E. Thompson.
The Sunday School was organized with Brother John W. Fletcher having been appointed Superintendent, Sister Nellie Johnson, Assistant Superintendent, Sister Catherine Swett, Secretary of the Board, Sister Harriet Eurie, Secretary, Sister Ethel D. Scott, Assistant Secretary and Sister Pearl Scott, Treasurer. Some of the teachers were Sisters Willie Clark, Ariela Perkins, Lulda Walker, Frances Harris, Georgia Albright, Artancis Andrews, Edmonia Powe, Edith Balfour, Cora Alexander, Sarah Wright, Laura Spence, Mary Dozier, Josephine Grant, Anna Fletcher, Mary Rikard, Mabel Rikard, Anita Fletcher, Alma Fisher and Franchon Harris; Brothers Walter Van Reuselear and William Ferguson. Brother Richard Hanson served as Librarian and Sister Ethel M. Scott was the Social Director.
We purchased a piece of property at 111th Street and Lenox Avenue which we had hoped to renovate and occupy, but for some reason failed in the trying. Some of the members became discouraged and went back to Bethel, some went other places, and the others remained faithful, hoping and praying that we would soon find a place of our own in which to worship. During this period our congregation began to fall off from the 1,000 with which we started. We kept a watchful eye out for another site to build or buy and prayed that God would lead us to the proper place.
In August 1952 we were blessed with the building which we now occupy. It was during the Pastor's vacation that we heard of this site being available. The Trustee Board, under the leadership of Brother John Wilson, put an option on the building and upon the return of the Pastor negotiations began. In November 1952 St. Paul took possession of its own edifice located at 256 West 145th Street and realized there was much to be done.
The people began to work with a will, realizing this building was their own home. The Senior Choir, under the leadership of Sister Georgia Roundtree, provided the church with a grand piano and was responsible for the presentation of many cultural programs. The Gospel Choir, the St. Paul Choral Group and the Children's Choir were also very busy.
The organ was installed at a cost of over $43,000.00. The beautification of the building was instituted by Brother O'Donnell Wilson. Remodeling of the ceiling over the choir loft and the installation of lights and stained glass windows were all a part of the renovation. A kitchen and dining room were provided and the gift of a baptismal font was given by Sister Emma J. Wilson. Many other gifts were donated to the church. Sister Aurora Walker gave the first $1,000.00 offering and Brother Johann Testman was the first new member.
On May 29, 1960 the cornerstone was laid. The generosity of the members was unsurpassed as the boards and clubs played a big part in fundraising to carry on the current expenses of the church.
And so we continue today, over sixty years after a faithful few stepped out into unknown territory to build and establish a legacy for generations to come. There have been hard times and lean years. Many gave up but many more stood firm and paved the way for those of us who would follow. Our founders held fast to their faith and declared, as Jesus did to His disciples in Matthew 6:18, "Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Our legacy is rich and our future is full of the promises of Almighty God.