167 YEARS AND COUNTING IT ALL JOY
Before the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation and the gift of the statue of Liberty from France to the United States St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was born on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The Rev. W. W. Clark was impressed with the thought of having an African American church on the south side of the river; he succeeded in persuading eight persons interested in joining him in this effort. The year was 1846 and they held worship services in a small building on Wright’s Alley.
During its early years, the congregation met with many adverse conditions, moving from place to place sometimes even people’s homes. However, the membership grew and they did purchase lots on South 14th Street near Sarah Street. Under the great panic of 1873 the mortgage was foreclosed. Under the leadership of Rev. W. H. Palmer the congregation began to grow and they were able to purchase a building on Sarah Street near 13th Street.
When the Annual Conference met in May of 1888 the pastor and the congregation could finally say they had made many improvements on the building and that they had paid off all their debts. Rev. T. J. Andrew took leadership of the congregation in 1899 and the people decided to move out of their cramped quarters which became hemmed in by warehouses and factories. They secured a lot at the corner of Warrington and Arlington avenues in Allentown and built a new St. Paul which was dedicated in August of 1900.
The edifice on the corner of Sylvania Avenue and Montooth Street in 1918 was built under the leadership of Rev. George Smith. For the next 82 years many souls were saved and many renovations were done at this location. Here there were many ministries that helped not only the congregation but the community in whole with a Day Care center, Boys and Girls Scouts of America, Health Care Center and a food pantry just to name a few.
On April 5, 1999 the Rev. Dr. Eric L. Brown and the Trustee Board of St. Paul presented a proposal to the Right Rev. Robert Vaughn Webster and Presiding Elder William S. Hopson to consider purchasing the former Christ Lutheran Church located at 400 Orchard Place. This proposal was approved and on Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000 we dedicated the facility to the Glory of God.
This opened up new opportunities to not only worship in a larger facility but to enlarge our territory and footprint to ministry.
In 2010 God sent us our current pastor the Rev. Cheryl Ruffin, the first female pastor in the history of St. Paul. We have truly become a community church. Our community efforts include a “Community of Hope Garden,”* feeding the homeless at Shepherd’s Heart Church, providing food for children at Grandview Elementary School, hosting community forums and meetings, and with funding from the Birmingham Foundation sponsoring the “St. Paul Summer Academy.”* All ventures are to the glory of God. We recently purchased the parcel of land that housed our garden.
We have had many hurdles to overcome but our theme since Rev. Ruffin has arrived holds true “God Is Able.” We are proud to be celebrating over 160 years of ministry to the Lord and we truly do Count It All Joy.
*Green Up Pittsburgh: Edible Gardens is funded by a Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund grant and is an expansion of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s Green Up Pittsburgh Program and serve PGH initiative and most recently G-Tech sponsored. *Birmingham Foundation funded program.