The history of our church is like a ship at sea; stopping at several ports to take on a new Captain, to add a new member, or to take on passengers.
In the year of 1869 the residents of the twenty-four mile community decided to establish a place where they could worship the Almighty God. The first temple was constructed in the formation of a bush tent and was given the name of the Pastor, the Reverend James. The second was constructed of poles. After years of worshipping in the old pole church, the congregation, under the leadership of Reverend S. K. Howard, decided to construct a new temple. In 1901, Mr. Sampson Simmons donated one acre of land, which supplied the spot for the new temple. Following the completion of the third Saint James, which was constructed of wood, gave the congregation a safe place for worshipping.
The local preachers of the third Saint James were the Reverends Elias Coaxum, Ben Brown, Edward Green and Edward Frazier. The Steward was Mr. Warren Thompson. The Superintendents were Edward Brown, Irving Manigault, Robert Poole, Sara Mitchell, and Marion Williams. The class leaders were Richard Manigault, Amos Coaxum, Sara Middleton, and Caroline Manigault.
Following the succession of Reverend Howard, the Reverend Brewington became Captain of Saint James. The Reverend Cobwell later succeeded him. Reverend Cobwell served for a number of years and was succeeded by Reverend Greatheart. Reverend Greatheart rendered his many years of services and was followed by Reverend J. P. Perks. After two years of good faith and high spirit, Reverend Murray, who also served for a number of years, followed Reverend Perks. The next Captain of Saint James was Reverend G. W. Wright, who gave his many years of services and was followed by Reverend Mack, who served for one year. Following the expiration of Reverend Mack, Reverend R. H. Carter became Captain of Saint James for four years. Succeeding Reverend Carter was Reverend Bunneau, who served for two years of good faith and high spirit. Reverend Hamilton who served for two years succeeded Reverend Bunneau.
During these many years of worshipping, all the days were not good ones, there were many days when it seemed as though the Captain and the crew would perish; but with faith in God, the vessel sailed on.
The next Captain of Saint James was Reverend W. M. Taylor, who served for ten years in good faith and high spirit. We pause in memory of him to say: “And God shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thine ways…”
For eight years Reverend J. W. Williams, who succeeded Reverend Taylor, kept the congregation spiritually alive and in good fellowship. During these many years of sailing in the third Saint James, there were many improvements made to make the vessel safe for sailing. But sailing the high seas of fierce gales and angry waves, the man-made structure became worn.
The next Captain of Saint James was Reverend R. H. Capers. Seeing the condition of the vessel, the Captain and crew decided that the ship was no longer safe for the continuation of the voyage. But before plans could be made to construct a new temple, the Pastor impeded because of ill health. But with the Reverend W. Alston, Assistant Minister, the congregation was able to continue its spiritual voyage. Now we pause in memory of both of them to say: “Man goeth forth, to his work and labor until the evening…”
In 1958, Reverend G. W. Heyward became Captain of Saint James. During his many years of services, Reverend A. L. Steed, through the will of God, became his Assistant. Knowing the condition of the vessel, the Pastor and congregation made plans to construct a new sanctuary.
On September 7, 1959, the ground breaking took place and the foundation of the fourth Saint James was laid. Bro. Henry Manigault was the carpenter. Many times progress was slow because of economic conditions, but with faith in God, the work continued.
In June of 1964, we were able to step aboard Saint James, The New Saint James, with the sum of $5,153.53 spent. The Saint James Club of New York donated the organ and pews.
In November of 1978 a great and faithful Captain stepped aboard Saint James, Reverend James Smalls. The new Captain and crew sailed for seven glorious years in good faith and high spirit. Now we pause in honor of both Reverend G. W. Heyward and Reverend James Smalls to say: “It is far less what we say, or what we think, that fits us for the future…”
In 1985, a young and courageous Captain, Reverend Robert Carter, became commander of Saint James. This marked the beginning of the New Saint James – The Saint James Station African Methodist Episcopal Church – “The Little Church with the Big Heart.”
In 1987, Reverend Arthur Turner became Commander of Saint James. Under his leadership and spiritual guidance, we were blessed with a devoted faithful minister, Licentiate Joseph Smalls, Jr. and plans for the church’s expansion projects were made and many of them completed.
With the great loss of Reverend Turner, God knew that the members at Saint James needed another fine leader, so he sent us the young, energetic, “no-nonsense” pastor, Reverend Isaac Grant. Under Reverend Grant’s leadership, numerous projects were successfully completed and we were blessed with not one but two faithful and loyal ministers, two women “on fire” for the Lord, Licentiate Jeannine R. Smalls, and Licentiate Etha J. German. Reverend Grant served faithfully for five years.
In December 1999, God saw fit to send us another strong leader, Reverend John Henry Gillyard. Rev. Gillyard was with us from December 1999 to September 2001. Under Rev. Gillyard’s leadership we were blessed with two more faithful, dedicated and devoted ministers, Evangelist Carrie Belle Jackson and Licentiate Patricia Middleton.
In September 2001, God sent us a good, strong leader, Reverend Edward Palmer, who came to is let us know that “Jesus is Alive and Well.” Rev. Palmer is a kind, loving, unselfish pastor who gives his time and attention to everyone, especially the young people. Under his leadership we were blessed with yet another minister, a young, vibrant, dedicated minister, Licentiate Raymond Bernard Young. There is more to be done in the near future but with his vast experience, knowledge and a passion for preaching and teaching the gospel, we continued to reach our goals and looked forward to many years under the leadership of Reverend Palmer. In October 2005 Reverend Palmer retired from the ministry due to medical reasons but with what we accomplished through his ministry and his guidance, we are expecting to lower our anchor, step ashore, kneel at the edge of the ocean, and give thanks to the Almighty God, who kept the fierce gales from blowing us astray, and the angry waves from swallowing us.
In October 2005, God sent us a good, faithful servant and exceptional leader, Reverend Spavarie B. Taylor. Reverend Taylorhas been an inspiration to us. She came with a church theme in mind: “Building Relationship” and she has been teaching us how to build a relationship with God and each other. She is an advocate for the young people and works diligently with them. She is a preacher, teacher, mentor, and guidance counselor. The spiritual body of the church as well as the up building of the church has improved tremendously since God sent her to us. She is an extraordinary pastor with a vision for St. James A M E Church. The door to her heart is always open to us. She is a caring, compassionate individual and we are truly blessed to have her. With her at the helm, we are sure to reach higher spiritual heights.
To God be the Glory for the great things He has done and continues to do for the family of Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church.