History of Saint Paul AME Church
The history of Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal church covers a period of more than 87 years. No document or land deeds were signed giving the property to the church trustees. Later years, with the help of Bailey and Bailey and Company the correct deeds were acquired by Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Church was started as a branch of China Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church. Several members: Nancy Phillips, George Aldridge, Will Reese, Confort Smith and some others, moved into the Madison area from the China Grove area. They joined together with other members: March Bennett, Fannie Thompson Smothers, Austin Moore, Rosie Sampson, Missouri Cummings, Hester Peal, Amanda Smothers, Rufus Brown, Emma Basemore Lewis, Arthur Gray and many more who were already living in the Madison area. They started what is now Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The early development of the church actually started under a Brush Harbor, where the two big oak trees stand on the grounds of the old structure. The Brush Harbor was where the pastor would come and preach from the back of a horse drawn wagon. Before the first wooden structure was built, services were held in the Madison Rosenwald School for several years. The school was located where Rosa Scott School is currently located.
In 1925, the first wooden structure of Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was erected. It had a tall steeple with a bell in it. The Sunday School Superintendent would ring the bell before Sunday School started and the bell was toned before a funeral or during a community emergency. The first cornerstone was laid on November 1, 1925 under the leadership of Reverend G.T. Billings and the Right Reverend W.M. Bogkett, Bishop.
As time progressed, Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church experienced a period of growth with adults as well as children. The Sunday School grew and consisted of two primary classes, two intermediate classes, one young adult class and one adult class. The YPD was organized and would meet on Sunday afternoon and the missionary would meet on Tuesday nights. Prayer meeting was always held the week before revival for a whole week to prepare the candidates. The candidate would sit on the front benches, called the "mourning bench," until after revival was over. Baptism was held in the Hawkins pond, located behind the church, the field south of the police station. Each year, in the month of June, we would have vacation bible school and all the children in the community would participate.
The first building began to experience structural damages and in 1968 a new structure was built. The cornerstone of this building was laid July 30, 1972, under the leadership of Reverend O.W. Woods and the Right Reverend I.H. Bonner, Bishop. As time passed, most of the children grew up and graduated from high school, went off to college or moved away. Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church began to experience diminished growth, however, the church continued to flourish.
Throughout its history, Saint Paul has been led by what was called a circuit pastor, who served several churches in the area: Saint Paul, Bennett Chapel and China Grove African Methodist Churches. In 1958, a parsonage was built on the lot on the east side of the church by the oak trees. Only one of the pastors lived there in its existence, Rev. J.R. Rosenthall and his family. When he was later assigned to another church, the house was rented to a family in the community. It was later demolished due to its deterioration. The inspiring ministers who led the flock at Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church were: Reverend G.T. Billings, Reverend O.W. Woods, Reverend G.S. James, Reverend Benjamin Phipps, Reverends Exclano, Lemessee, Dennis and Love. J.R. Rosenthall (served two times), John H. Bennett, David Hudson, Ervin Harris, I.V. Berry, Andrew Stamps, Archie R. Smith, Nettie Ranel, Robert Lee Johnson, III and current pastor Byram D. McKinzie. Due to community growth in the mid 80s, the members of Bennett Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church came to worship with members at Saint Paul, and in 1998 the two churches were merged as one.
In the year 2000, we found out that due to population growth in the Madison area, a new highway was going to be constructed where the old structure was located on the corner of Crawford and Main Street. After several months of negotiating the church sale took place and the purchase of the 19 acres where the new structure is located at 816 Madison Avenue was completed. A special thanks to Mrs. Josephine Powell and her sister Mrs. Laura Stamps who made the 19 acres available where the church sits today.
The Reverend Byram D. McKinzie and the Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church family are grateful and thankful to Almighty God for His mercy, grace and bountiful blessings. We have come this far by faith, because without God we could do nothing. God is our refuge and our strength.