- A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW - PT 1
- A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW - PT 2
- A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW - PT 3
- A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW - PT 4
- FOOTNOTES IN THE CHRONICLES OF HISTORY
- SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL AME CHURCH
- SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL AME CHURCH
“AND IT DOES NOT YET APPEAR WHAT WE SHALL BE”
Upon this rock I will build by Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18).
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest Black Church and the only A.M.E. Church in Pleasantville, NJ, was the vision and dream of Mr. Charles R. Govans.
Mr. Govans’ dream was not unlike that of the founder of the African Methodist Church, Richard Allen, who had a vision and a dream of securing a consecrated place for worship.
In 1890, Mr. Charles R. Govans met with a group of Christian men and relayed to them his thoughts and dreams for constructing a place of worship for the community.
This group of men who met with Mr. Govans to discuss the possibilities of building a church were: Charles Sullivan, Robert Spencer, Techumsech Hall, Samuel Walder, Spencer Dennis, Albert Dutton, C.C. Patterson, and Mr. Applegate.
Two years latter, in 1892, Mr. Govans’ dreams were realized. St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was brought to the hill on a flat trailer drawn by horses, and placed on a plot of land at the corner of Tremont and Harrison Avenue, in Pleasantville, NJ.
The land and building was secured through the efforts of Mr. Jessie Risley. Mr. Risley was a farmer, realtor, and surveyor in the city of Pleasantville, NJ. The men of the original group, who met with Mr. Govans, became the first trustees of the Church.
The Church was dedicated on June 19, 1892. The original St. Paul A.M.E. Church was located at the top of the hill at 1205 Harrison Avenue, facing Harrison Avenue. Red wooden steps on the outside led to the Church’s interior with yellow pews and thin red cushions. The bell in the steeple had a crack in it. Pulling the long rope attached to it rang the bell. The large coal stove in the basement heated the sanctuary via a large vent in the middle of the Church’s floor. A pot-bellied stove heated the basement.
The Church’s parsonage was next door. Behind the parsonage was a water well and bucket which eventually became a hand pump. The rest rooms out behind the Church were called “outhouses.”
The pastors from 1893 to 1921 were as follows: Rev. James E. Groves, Rev. Anthony Lane, Rev. Thomas J. Oliver, Rev. Jacob G. Mowrey, Rev. Charles Green, Rev. G.H. Collins, and Rev. H. A. Ivy.
Sometime in 1922, the Church had its first renovations. Through the years to follow, periodic renovations were made to enhance the appearance of the Church. The outside stairway was changed to face Tremont Avenue. The entire entrance was enclosed with two big red doors.
When the city water lines were available in the southwestern part of Pleasantville, often referred to as “Smiths Landing” or “Little Africa”, the Church got running water. The restrooms were brought inside and located at the back of the basement, behind the kitchen. The coal furnace was converted to an oil burner.
The Church’s first organ had a foot pump. The small choir loft was on the right and left side of the pulpit. The altar was very small. In later years a pipe organ was installed, the pulpit was enlarged, and the choir loft was moved to the right of the pulpit.
In 1922, Rev. Herbert VanBuren became the pastor and was followed by Rev. C.H. Crumedy, W.H. Burwell, J.W. Thomas, J.E. Earle, M.L. Oliver, R.H. Lott, Elmo Bean, and James R. Bess.
After the New Jersey Annual Conference convened in June 1965, Rev. Curtis H. Francis was sent to Pastor St. Paul A.M.E. Church, Pleasantville, NJ.
The old two story parsonage next door to the Church wasn’t large enough to adequately house Rev. Francis and his family, so in 1966 a home was purchased at 228 West Park Avenue, Pleasantville, NJ for about $8,000.00. This was the location of the new parsonage for St. Paul A.M.E. Church.
Under Rev. Francis’ pastorate, the Church did some major repairs and remodeling. On the Harrison Avenue side of the Church, a big dormer window with stained glass was installed. Double glass doors replaced wooden ones at the top of the 12 or more wooden steps that led up to the sanctuary.
A new and larger altar rail replaced the old rail. Rev. Francis was very proud of the new altar rail because he and some co-workers designed the rail at the Egg Harbor Boat Works where he was then employed.
The church converted the heating system from coal to oil heat during renovations. The small space where coals used to be stored became the mimeograph room.
The restrooms were relocated between the mimeograph room and the kitchen. The sanctuary’s ceiling light fixtures were changed also.
The Church’s interior walls were painted; a lighted bulletin board was erected outside the Church. The Church’s exterior finish became white stucco. Wrought iron steps and a fire exit door were put at the back of the Church and led to the choir loft and the rear of the pulpit. Rev. Francis was given a new assignment and the following ministers pastured St. Paul A.M.E. Church: Rev. William White, Louis A.C. Davis, and Nathaniel Stewart.
In 1979, Rev. John Smith was sent to pastor St. Paul A.M.E. Church and was accompanied by his wife Gertrude, fondly called Sister Get and Hun-Bun. Rev. Smith informed the waiting congregation that he was sent to build a new and bigger Church, for the Church was growing in membership and had began to outgrow the modest building.
At a church conference held at the Church on July 23, 1979 at 7:30 p.m., it was unanimously motioned to build a new church on the same plot of land. The estimate cost was three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000.00). The Church’s trustees held another meeting on August 13, 1979 and in agreement in a church conference voted to erect a new and larger church on the site. A resolution was submitted to the second quarterly conference on September 4, 1979. Permission to erect the new edifice was granted by the annual conference branch, through the submission of the presiding elder, Dr. John H. Johnson, Jr. of the Atlantic City District.
“How lovely is the dwelling place, O Lord of host. My soul longs, yea faints for the courts of our God. My heart and flesh sing for the job O Lord. That a Church may rise here where the word of God shall be so read and preached that it shall become the living word and the sacraments so administered that all life shall become a sacrament.” We break this ground today.
The preceding paragraph was the Litany that was read on Sunday, July 20, 1980, at 4:00 p.m. for the ground-breaking ceremony for the “new” St. Paul A.M.E.
The members of the Trustee Board were: Sis. Florence Spense, Vice-Chair, Sis. Alberta Parker, Sis. Neota Jackson, Sis. Ruth Self, Sis. Thomasena Brown, Bro. James Clayton, Secretary, Bro. James Holland, Treasurer, Bro. Horace McZeke, Chaplin, Alfred “Pete” Spence, Bro. John Martin, and Bro. Abraham Jones.
In 1979, the Church secured a 30 year mortgage in the amount of $325,000.00.
During the construction of the “new” St. Paul A.M.E., all St. Paul services were conducted at the Church of Nazarene on West Washington Avenue in Pleasantville, NJ.
The dedication of the “new” St. Paul A.M.E. Church at 1203-05 Harrison Avenue took place on Sunday, December 20, 1980. The weather was very cold outside. Warm smiles hearty handshakes and greetings of “Praise God” welcomed you inside. Sis. Lillian Berry cut the ribbon to enter the beautiful edifice.
During the dedication celebration Rev. John W. Smith, Pastor of St. Paul AME Church, Pleasantville, NJ, said his goal was to pay the Church off in 15 years instead of 30 years. The members were skeptical, but were reminded that “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13) and “ask and it will be given to you” (Matt 7:7).
Rev. Curtis H. Francis was reassigned to pastor St. Paul Pleasantville in August 1982. Under Rev. Francis’ leadership, St. Paul A.M.E. Church, and its members continue to be a beacon light for the community and for lost souls seeking to give their lives to Christ.
The church’s ministerial staff included Rev. Florence Gandy, Rev. Leslie L. Williams, brother-in-law of former pastor John W. Smith, Licentiate Juanita Henry and Evangelist Bettye Cabell.
The organist was Mr. Robert Hawkins and Mrs. Doris Graves the pianist.
When Rev. Curtis H. Francis, Sr. was reassigned to St. Paul, he came with a Vision and a Plan to pay off our mortgage debt early.
Rev. Francis formed a group of church members and friends to be Investors, contracting for specific amounts to be loaned to St. Paul. The mortgage was paid off and the investors received his or her entire investment with interest.
A Sacrificial Pledge by each member was voted upon, and coupon books were printed for each member’s pledge amount. Also, December 26, 1982 started “Our Gifts to God” Pledge, which also intended to pay off the church’s debts.
Under the new leadership of Rev. Dr. William Lamar Cody, the pastor’s of St. Paul A.M.E. church, a ceremony, was held Sunday, July 20, 1997, to burn St. Paul A.M.E. Church’s mortgage. The pay off to investors and all expenses were completed in 17 years.
The Atlantic Human Resources Service has rented one classroom since the church was built in 1980. Head Start is a federally funded pre-school program, having classes 5 days a week, 9 months a year.
On March 9, 2008 at the convening of the 136th Session of the New Jersey Annual Conference, St. Paul was sent its 33rd pastor, The Reverend Lynda T. Rassmann.
As the members and community celebrate the 116th Church Anniversary with the dynamic and anointed woman of God, we praise Him for His many blessings and look forward to even greater works in us and through us as we walk up the King’s Highway.
Nov. 16, 1979 – Bids for contracts to build new church – Calvin Back accepted bid. $300,000 loan-NJ Conference approved and signed
Jul. 20, 1980 – Ground Breaking Ceremony for the “New” St. Paul AME Church
1980 – South Carolina Club Organized – Sis. Elizabeth (Moody) Avant
Dec. 20, 1980 – Opening Ceremony: St. Paul AME Church
Sis. Lillian Berry and Ryan Moody cut the ribbon
1981 – Rental of St. Paul Parking Lot for Casino Buses – Bro. Compton Beresford, Coordinator
Aug. 31, 1981 – Brick bulletin board built for front of church
Norman Lambert Men’s Club – Howard Ricks, President
Apr. 15, 1982 – Club Assessments started: Money goes to pay principal on Mortgage
Jul. 9, 1982 – Organ rewired – Bro. David Turner
Choir chairs purchased for sanctuary – Bro. David Turner
Aug. 1, 1982 – Parsonage (W. Park Avenue) Sold
Jan. 24, 1983 – Burglar alarm installed – Ultra Sonic Motion Detectors
Mar. 21, 1983 – Trustee & Stewards Meeting: Cable installed in church and pastor’s study; Rev. Francis paying the cable bill
May 5, 1985 – Dedication of Sanctuary Pews & Windows: Donations from members
Plaques Installed; Sis. Florence Ricks, Coordinator
Jun. 21, 1985 – Bro. Leslie L. Williams Trial Sermon
Jun. 29, 1985 – Carnival in Church Parking Lot – Sis. Marie Merritt
Feb. 21, 1988 – Sis. Juanita Henry Trial Sermon
Jun. 12, 1988 – Proclamation by George Dix, Mayor of Pleasantville, NJ
Sunday, June 12, 1988 – St. Paul AME Church Day; 96th Church Anniversary – Rev. Curtis H. Francis, Pastor
Dec. 4, 1988 – Curtis H. Francis Scholarship Fund Established
Sis. Janet Joseph – Sis. Marie Merritt
Jul. 8, 1990 – Bro Robert & Sis. Sadie (Vereen) Hawkins honored by St. Paulettes Choir
Jun. 14, 1992 – 100th Church Anniversary; Spiritual Service, BBQ, & Parade from
the original Pleasantville High School; members performed a 5 act play depicting the fruition of Mr. Govan’s dream to build a church written by Sis. Judy Collette-Holland, Alfred Spence, & Chris King, Jr. & members of St. Paul were the cast.
Dec. 17, 1995 – Rev. Curtis H. Francis promoted to Presiding Elder
Dec. 24, 1995 – Rev. David L. Randolph assigned to Pastor St. Paul
Feb. 6, 1996 – Deed filed in Mays Landing, NJ – Sis. Elsie Graves
Oct. 11, 1996 – Rev. David L. Randolph’s last day as Pastor at St. Paul AME Church
Oct. 27, 1996 – Rev. Gary Skipper appointed to pastor St. Paul AME Church
Mar. 9, 1997 – Rev. Gary Skipper reassigned to pastor St. Paul AME Church
Mar. 11, 1997 – Rev. Gary Skipper died
Jun. 15, 1997 – Rev. Dr. William L. Cody assigned to pastor St. Paul
Jul. 20, 1997 – Mortgage Burning Service; Rev. Dr. William L. Cody, Pastor
Oct. 27, 1998 – PA System purchased
2000 – New church van purchased
Jan. 30, 2000 – Pan Methodist Alliance Service
Rev. Dr. William L. Cody, President
Feb. 8, 2001 – Rev. Carolyn Turner ordained as Local Elder
June 29, 2001 – St. Paul Church Conference Member Vote To sell Parsonage: 228 W. Park Avenue, Pleasantville, NJ
Jul. 1, 2001 – 109th Church Anniversary
Oct. 2, 2001 – Kitchen remodeled – Pete Spence
Oct. 24, 2001 – The City of Pleasantville and St. Paul AME Church reached
a mutual agreement to perform improvements to the city
Football field’s parking area and St. Paul’s parking area.
Mr. Ralph Paterson – Mayor
John Bettis – City Administrator
Jul. 14, 2002 – 110th Church Anniversary
Mar. 27, 2002 – Bro. Edmond White Trial Sermon
Oct. 15, 2002 – Church Conference – Election of Trustees & Appointment of Stewards
Dec. 15, 2002 – Curtis Francis Mass Choir renamed the Anointed Choral Ensemble
Dec. 15, 2002 – Fellowship Hall is named for Rev. Curtis H. Francis
Jul. 20, 2003 – 111th Church Anniversary
Jan. 24, 2004 – The Church sign is delivered
Jul. 18, 2004 – Miss America, Erica Dunlap (crowned 2003-2004), visits St. Paul AME Church
Aug. 22, 2004 – Dedication Luncheon
Exterior Church sign dedicated and installed
Fellowship Hall dedicated to Rev. Curtis H. Francis
June 12, 2005 – Carmen Pierce Praise Dancers debut
Mar. 5, 2006 – Mother Anna Mae (Spence) DeShields officially appointed as Mother of St. Paul AME Church, Pleasantville, NJ
Jan. 19, 2008 – Kick-Off: Men’s & Women’s Day – Combined
Feb. 10, 2008 – Men’s & Women’s Day Combined
Bro. Curtis H. Francis, Jr. & Sis. Lessie Moore, Chairpersons
Mar. 2, 2008 – Retirement Dinner for Rev. Dr. William L. Cody and End of Conference Year
Mar. 9, 2008 – NJ Annual Conference appointed the first female pastor St. Paul AME Church, , Rev. Lynda T. Rassmann
Mar. 16, 2008 – Rev. Lynda T. Rassmann preached her first sermon as the assigned pastor of St. Paul AMEC
June 15, 2019 – A new pastor was assigned to us who also happens to Ben a woman, Rev. Dietra C. Bell
June 16, 2019 – Rev. Dietra C. Bell preached her first sermon as Pastor of St. Paul, and hit the ground running among us.
Special Gifts Of Time, Money, and Talents
Dec. 20, 1980 – Building Contractors donated meats for Opening Day Dinner
Jun.-Oct. 1982 – Trustee/Steward Board Combined: All official board members were asked to help pay the church’s bills and expenses; all bills arrears – no money in treasury; officers took bills individually or shared a bill.
Jul. 28, 1985 – Charles Berry Day: Loyal lifetime member who gave his gifts in tithes, time, and talent
1995 – 2 pulpit chairs donated by Elizabeth Moody & Family
Feb. 12, 2001 – Stockton College donated 16 computers to the youth of St. Paul
Rev. Anthony Lane 1895
Rev. Thomas J. Oliver
Rev. Jacob G. Moury
Rev. Charles Green
Rev. W. J. Wilson
Rev. Alphonso Rainer
Rev. John W. Thomas
Rev. H. G. Dunn
Rev. G. H. Collins
Rev. H. A. Ivy 1921
Rev. Herbert VanBuren 1922
Rev. C. H. Crumedy 1930
Rev. Charles Hursey
Rev. W. H. Burrell
Rev. J.W. Thomas 1939-1942
Rev. J. E. Earl 1942-1948
Rev. M. L. Oliver 1948-1952
Rev. R. H. Lott 1952-1957
Rev. Elmo Bean 1957-1960
Rev. James R. Bess 1960-1965
Rev. Curtis H. Francis, Sr. 1965-1970
Rev. William White 1970-1974
Rev. Louis A.C. Davis 1974-1975
Rev. Nathaniel Stewart 1975-1979
Rev. John W. Smith 1979-1982
Rev. Curtis H. Francis, Sr. 1982-1995
Rev. David Randolph, Sr. 1995-1996
Rev. Gary Skipper, Sr. 1996-1997
Rev. Dr. William L. Cody 1997-2008
Rev. Lynda T. Rassmann 2008-2019
Rev. Dietra C. Bell 2019-Present
Reverend Juanita Henry
*Reverend Leslie Williams
*Evangelist Edmund White
Reverend Carolyn Turner
Reverend Florence Gandy-Littles
*Reverend Daniel Shumate
*Reverend Mary Gregory
Evangelist Vera Worthy
*Reverend Edward Bell
*Evangelist Bettye Cabell
Reverend Juanita Mitchell-Davis
Reverend Virginia Collette-Martin
*Reverend John W. Boxley
Reverend Doctor Leslie E. Moody