all the records made available to us, it was determined that St.
James A.M.E. Church was organized in Lemon City, Florida, in 1901,
the early part of the twentieth century. Services were first held
in a house which was situated in a large field owned by a white
farmer where the Lemon City Library “was” located. Later
in 1901, the first church building was located near Northeast 2nd
Avenue between 69th and 70th Streets. This building was destroyed
by the 1906 storm, but it was restored.
founders of St. James were Mr. and Mrs. John A. Perry, Sr., (parents
of Mrs. Gussie Harris), Mr. and Mrs. Edward Strother, Sr. (Mrs.
Strother was the sister of Mr. John Perry), Mr. Clarence Jenkins,
and Mr. W. L. Green.
the early members of St. James A.M.E. Church were: Mrs. Emma Richardson,
mother of Mr. John A. Perry, Sr. and Miss Emma Richardson, R.N.,
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bain, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. John Frinks, and Mr.
Strother was St. James’ first organist; she was also a stewardess
and Sunday School worker. Mr. John A. Perry was the first superintendent
of the Sunday School; he was also a steward, class leader, and trustee.
Mr. Clarence Jenkins (one of the founders) was a trustee and a Sunday
and Mrs. Willie E. Sampson are to be included in the list of early
pioneer members. Mr. Sampson served as superintendent of the Sunday
School for twenty-seven years. He was also a steward, class leader,
and secretary of the church until his death in September, 1936.
Mrs. Katie Sampson Duncombe served as organist for the choir for
a number of years.
ministers served St. James during the years it was located in Lemon
City—Rev. J. E. Lawrence, Rev. M. Smith, Rev. J. A. Butler,
Rev. J. H. Haines, Rev. L. S. Johnson, Rev. H. R. Monroe, Rev. R.
J. Jones, Rev. G. B. Richardson, and Rev. L. M. Moore.
members who served St. James in its beginning were Mrs. Mary Goodman,
Mrs. Mary Perry, Mrs. Rebecca Strickland, G. P. Bain, Sam Wooten,
Grant Lee, and Mrs. Annie Wooten. Gussie Harris and Ezekiel Wallace
were mere children during the early days of St. James. Yet they
followed in the footsteps of their prominent parents and became
faithful members of the church.
1925 the church was moved to Liberty City to its present site under
the leadership of Rev. L. M. Moore. In late 1925 or early 1926,
Rev. R. W. Williams (the father of Mrs. Macie Williams after whom
our Missionary Society is named) organized a building program for
a new St. James and served faithfully for one year.
the church had many obstacles to overcome, it steadily showed growth
in membership. The number increased from the very few pioneer members
in the beginning to approximately 600 members.
church was partially destroyed in the 1926 hurricane. This gave
rise to the beginning of a bigger and better St. James under the
leadership of the Rev. G. N. Collins. A number of ministers came
after Rev. Collins and each in his way initiated efforts toward
completion of the building.
ministers served St. James from 1927 – 1949. In 1949, Rev.
J. B. Blacknell was appointed pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. A.
J. Reddick who organized a federal credit union, built a Parish
Hall, and organized a kindergarten. Following Rev. Reddick as pastor
was Rev. H. McNeal Harris.
J. B. Blacknell was again assigned to St. James, and due to the
steady increase in membership and changing times, there arose a
need for remodeling and expanding the old structure. Mr. Edward
L. Brooks served as chairman for the planning, remodeling and expansion
project. The renovation was completed on April 5, 1965 and the dedicatory
service for the new St. James as it presently stands was held on
August 22, 1965, under Rev. J. Benjamin Blacknell’s leadership.
During this period Mrs. Lugusta Colston and Mrs. Willie Hue Jamison
presented the idea and facilitated the organization and operation
of the Calendar Club to serve as a financial venue designed to assist
in covering the continuing expenses of the church and parsonage.
R. E. Sneed, who succeeded Rev. Blacknell, served for one year.
The Rev. S. L. Gay was appointed as pastor and served for nine years.
He made several improvements, paid off the existing mortgage, built
an addition to the Parish Hall, and purchased three lots for parking
areas. It was also during this period that an outstanding, influential
trustee, Nathaniel Colston, M.D., spearheaded the drive to purchase
two lots on 66th street to expand the church’s property holdings.
The membership continued to increase under the ministry and leadership
of Rev. Gay; he served as pastor from 1967 through 1976.
T. C. Kelley, who followed Rev. Gay as pastor and was fondly known
as having the middle name-Progress, made additional improvements.
Rev. Kelley initiated holding 7:00 a.m. worship services and the
Youth to serve in the fourth Sunday 11:00 a.m. worship services.
He also made renovations to the church, parish hall, and credit
union. Under Rev. Kelley’s leadership and the motto “Peace,
Harmony, and Goodwill,” the membership continued to grow.
The membership had now increased to at least 1100. Rev. Kelley served
as pastor from 1977 through 1989. He retired from active ministry
upon leaving St. James.
the 1989 South Florida Conference, our church family was blessed
with the appointment of a man call JOHN. Rev. John L. Bodison, a
faithful servant of God, began to incorporate changes to make an
impact and leave an indelible print. Under his ministry and leadership
more than two hundred men, women, and children gave their life to
Christ and joined our church family. He successfully organized and
implemented our third Annual Church Retreat; additional improvements
were made inside and outside of the church. Some of the accomplishments
are establishing centralized church treasures and installing computer
systems -- our first computerized membership data and financial
reporting, which was guided by a steward, Bro. Walter Perkins, Jr.
In addition, a new parsonage (at the present location) was purchased,
the church directory was published, bus ministry established, the
Spirit Newsletter published, the first Youth Lock-In held, and St.
James served as host to the 1994 South Florida Annual Conference.
Rev. John L. Bodison’s leadership, ministry, and faithful
commitment to God, the church continued to grow and expand, serving
as a beacon welcoming all to God’s promise of everlasting
November, 2000, during the Eleventh Episcopal District Planning
Meeting, Rev. James H. Davis was appointed as pastor to St. James.
Rev. Davis was known as “Mr. Congeniality/Mr. Personality.”
He always had a smile and an outstretched hand to greet and welcome
you. During his pastorate, two buildings were purchased; an After
Care Program involving fifty (50) young people was instituted; forty-six
(46) persons united with our fellowship through confession of faith
and accessions; and a 12- station computer lab (donated by and dedicated
to Bro. Fred Dixon, a steward) was established. In addition, our
community outreach initiatives were increased and expanded.
2002, Bro. Louis E. Sparks and Sis. Alberta L Sparks served as chairpersons
for our Homecoming Celebration, and they were very successful in
surpassing the financial goal set in their “Special Effort”
campaign to secure additional property in close proximity to the
church. Also in this year, Bro. Alonzo Jackson submitted St. James
A.M.E. Church as a “Historical Church of Miami Dade County”
to the M. Athalie Range Foundation, Incorporated to be honored as
an institution and organization having been established more than
one hundred (100) years.
James H. Davis served a pastor from November 2000 through November
2005. During the Eleventh Episcopal District Planning Meeting held
in Tampa, Florida, in December 2005, Bishop McKinley Young appointed
Rev. Benny L. Johnson to serve as pastor to the St. James A.M.E.
Church in Miami. Under his leadership, sixty four (64) souls accepted
Jesus Christ as Lord; participation in Church School and Bible Study
was increased; further emphasis was placed on tithing (what I owe
God), offerings (gifts to God), and benevolence (gifts to others).
In addition, Rev. Johnson shared his wisdom and promoted study of
our church polity; he introduced leadership, worship, and evangelism
seminars. Rev. Johnson implemented a Christian Education Director
award to recognize youth for stellar achievement and participation.
continuation of Church Transformation was a vital part of the ministry
at St. James from 2008 through 2011. Rev. Benny L. Johnson passed
October 15, 2011, after attending the 121st Session of the Eleventh
Episcopal District’s South Florida Annual Conference.
embarked toward a new era under the leadership and ministry of Rev.
Jimmie L. Williams, III, who was appointed as pastor by Bishop Young
in the 122nd Session of the Eleventh Episcopal District’s
South Florida Annual Conference on September 30, 2011. The beginning
has proven to be spirit filled, enlightening, and exciting. Rev.
Williams revived the usage of the Economic Development Center, a
501 (c3) organization, which is serving two educational programs.
In addition, he has established a Community Development Corporation
Board for the purpose of partnering with other entities to enhance
programs and improve the aesthetics of the community.
Williams has infused his knowledge on stewardship by precept and
design. Under his pastoral teaching and leadership, we have completed
three major maintenance projects with a zero balance of debt. One
of these projects was the renovation of our parsonage which was
purchased in 1990; another, was a new roof for the church building
with reinstallation of the cross; and the third project was the
painting of the church, parish hall, church office buildings, and
the Economic Development Center.
Pastor Williams’ leadership, the St. James Federal Credit
Union received a combined Camel Score of three (3) after its recent
(2014) NCUA examination for its operation. The Credit Union, which
was started by ten persons with each contributing $5 for a share,
has been in operation since 1957; it is the only credit union in
the state operating with an alliance to the A.M.E. Church.
120 years of divine work, St. James’ visions of the future
are now; they must be broadened and enhanced to continue serving
as a beacon to draw, a welcome mat to include, and a nurturing place
to learn, grow, and serve.
is a chronological listing of pastors serving St. James A. M. E.
Church, along with the Presiding Elders and Bishops of the Eleventh
Episcopal District. And in addition, some pictorial highlights of
the history of St. James are included.