SAINT PAULS AME'S HISTORY
Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1890 under the leadership of the late Rev. T. Grove. The first church edifice was a small building located on Powell Avenue at 9th Street.
In 1895, under the leadership of the late Reverend G. W. Mitchell, the membership grew steadily and was moved from what was known as "Smoky Row" to its current location in the Smithfield neighborhood. According to city and courthouse records, St. Paul AME is the oldest church of record in the Smithfield area. The growth of the church can be attributed to the following ministers who have served this congregation throughout the years:
ERECTED 1945 (THROUGH 1997)The Reverend Samuel Matthew Davis led the congregation for 27 years. The tenure of Sam “the Ram” Davis included the Civil Rights Era. An active component in the movement, St. Paul often served as a meeting place for Civil Right leaders and supporters. Many of the church’s leaders and their families were actively engaged in the movement for justice among people of color. First Lady Lamar endured the torture of the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on her trek to freedom. The Reverend R. W. Hilson, then a pastor in Montgomery, rallied around the movement while here in Birmingham. The Reverend W. C. Matherson, a former principal in the city’s school system, supported demonstrations concerning the Birmingham Terminal Station, which paved the way for people of "Color" to ride anywhere their dollars afforded them. During the movement, the leader of St Paul, the Reverend Samuel Davis, could be found marching the streets of Birmingham to encourage social progress for African Americans.
The St. Paul family welcomed a new leader, the Reverend R. A. Johnson whose futuristic vision gazed upon a new structure for the parishioners of St. Paul. Under Rev. Johnson’s leadership, revenue was generated via multiple fund raisers including the President’s Wives Tea spearheaded by Mrs. Adrian Johnson. Rev. Johnson and the officers of the church strategically developed a Building Fund Account that served as seed dollars for the new construction.
Due to the illness of the Reverend Johnson, the Reverend W. D. Moon was called to serve the people of St. Paul. Reverend Moon continued to build upon the spiritual services rendered by Reverend Johnson. Reverend Moon, a “God-sent man," equipped with the armor of God, attributes and essential qualities, continued God's work at St. Paul. He served as the interim pastor from February 1994 until 1997.
Reverend Moon was a pastor of great integrity, a man who gave unselfishly of his resources, time and talents for the betterment of St. Paul. The Young Adult Sunday School Class, Young Adult Fellowship and Sister to Sister Ministries prepared and served dinner at the Jimmie Hale Mission as well as other homeless shelters under his Pastoral leadership. He initiated the "Worship in the Park Services," with our first services being held at Bessie Estelle Park. Additional services were held at Jeff State Park and the W. C Patton Park. The church’s finances grew as he led the congregation by example in tithing. He introduced a commitment to an individual payment plan that allowed the church to continue quarterly Phases that ultimately resulted in the fulfillment of the vision to build a new edifice.
Reverend Moon was a wonderful mentor to the children of St. Paul, with many ideas including diverting Halloween into “Hallelujah Night." Spiritual growth was maintained with emphasis on bringing your swords (Bibles) and reading from the Word.
The Prayer Board was renewed under First Lady Winfred Moon. The Stewardess Board was taught to make the Communion bread. On the First Sunday, Reverend Moon, the Stewards and Stewardess, visited the sick and shut-in, sang songs, prayed, and gave donations along with the communion to encourage participation in the worship service. He labored to make personal contact with the homebound and hospitalized members. Some of his outreach included canvassing the neighborhood for lost souls. The Sanctuary Choir was named in honor of Reverend Moon for his contributions to the church.
The Reverend Cornelius C. Cummings was appointed pastor after the eternal transition of the Reverend Johnson. Reverend Cummings was a well-known evangelist throughout the metropolitan area. Upon his assignment to St. Paul, he assumed the torch and began the next phase of preparing to enter the new edifice. Brunetta C. Hill Elementary School's gymnasium served as our place of worship, while Emanuel AME Church and St. John AME Church Downtown graciously allowed the families of deceased members to hold funeral services in their sanctuaries. We also used The Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist Church during construction for other church activities.
ERECTED 2000 (THROUGH 2017) A parade around the neighborhood announced the opening of the new edifice. The dedication service was an event of thanksgiving with a message delivered by Bishop Frank Cummings. The event was also supported by, retired Bishop C. E. Thomas, the Presiding Prelate Bishop Zedekiah Grady, and representation from the City of Birmingham, Councilman William Bell. The service was attended at full capacity, and the Spirit was upon all as the former structure’s bell tolled in the new edifice.
Under the leadership of Reverend Cummings, St. Paul joined five other churches within the Smithfield Community in fellowship, celebrating the Lenten season. Services rotated among the six congregations allowing each to serve as the host one night within the week of celebration. This union was paramount, allowing each congregation to practice their respective doctrines, while hosting services, thereby erasing the misconceptions of denominational boundaries. In the summer months, after a vibrant Vacation Bible School, Pastor Cummings routinely closed with a New Orleans-themed farewell including sack races, live entertainment, and other activities.
After the untimely passing of Reverend Cummings, the church found itself shocked, and grief-stricken. The district provided interim support and comfort to the congregation as we continued to mourn the passing of Reverend Cummings, and the passing of many long-standing officers and members who supported the church and the work of the ministry.
In November 2009, the Reverend Leodis Strong was appointed to St. Paul AME Church by the Rt. Rev. James Levert Davis, Servant Bishop. Reverend Strong was well received as he presented to the body his vision of "the beloved community." This would be a body of believers who love the Lord, the community, and oneself, in order that we may spread the Good News throughout the world.
Several weeks prior to the 2010 Northwest Annual Conference, St. Paul was without a full-time pastor; however, we were served by our presiding elder, the Reverend Dwight E. Dillard, Sr. Elder Dillard provided guidance and support until Bishop Davis was able to appoint a full-time pastor to our charge in 2010. We were happy to welcome Reverend Doctor Ronald D. Sterling, along with his beautiful and hard-working wife, First Lady Kim C. Sterling. Reverend Sterling placed strong emphasis on the laying on of hands and anointing with oil to heal and empower the congregation, and loved sharing his time with the "beloved community" of Smithfield.
In 2017, the Saint Paul Smithfield family opened their hearts to the Reverend Brian K. Blackwell, his wife and Attorney Lynita Mitchell Blackwell, and their beautiful daughter Angelica Gwendolyn. Reverend Blackwell is excited to share the joy of Jesus within and outside of the Smithfield Community!