History of Saint James A.M.E. Church
Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church, INC. was organized by the late Rev. James Eade on September 15, 1953 at 56 River Street, Danbury Connecticut. The mission church branched out from Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Norwalk Connecticut where Rev. Eade was a member.
After the opening of the mission a youth named Sister Juanita McCarley volunteered her time during the winter months to help keep the church warm and comfortable by bringing logs to put in the pot belly stove. In attendance for the Sunday morning services were Sister Annie Lee Perkins and Sister Mary Shields, who later united with Mount Pleasant AME Zion Church.
As time moved on, Rev. Eade was introduced to the late Rev. Herbert Teel of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The two became well acquainted and labored together in ministry and building the Lord’s Church. In time, others joined and helped to carry on the work. Those co-laborers were Sisters Maude Violet Townsend, Saint James A.M.E. Church’s first missionary and pianist; Sister Evelyn Thompson, Brother Noah Mourning, Sr., Sister Barbara Moffett, Sister Maggie Mayo, Sister Mae Peele Taylor, Rev. Oween Peel Shields, and Brother Theodore Callands.
In the year of 1960, the Lord called Rev. James Eade from labor to reward. The late Bishop George Barber of the First Episcopal District sent Rev. Paul M. Ritter to Saint James A.M.E. Church to continue the work. Rev. Ritter became the Second Pastor of the Church and under his leadership, several members were added to the Church roll.
The fellowship between Saint James A.M.E. Church and the local churches grew tremendously. Five members of Saint James A.M.E. sang with the Community Gospel Chorus of Mount Pleasant AME Zion Church under the supervision of Sister Doris Williams, on the second Sunday of every month. Showing their gratitude, the community chorus came to Saint James A.M.E. Church every third Sunday for many years. In 1961 Saint James A.M.E. moved from 56 River Street to 6 Spring Street. The same year Rev. Paul Ritter resigned from the pastorate and Rev. Clarence William was sent to complete the conference year and become the third pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church.
At the close of the New England Annual Conference in the year of 1965, the late Bishop John D. Bright appointed the Rev. K.C. Jones as the fourth pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church. Rev. Jones worked tirelessly to stimulate the growth in membership and the Building Fund Drive, which was started by the Rev. Paul Ritter. However, Rev. Jones was unable to continue his ministry as the pastor due to physical limitations. The Rev. Elliott L. Strickland was appointed as the fifth pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church. During his tenure, the church grew in membership and community relations through fellowship with sister churches beyond the New England Conference. Shortly thereafter, the Rev. Samuel J. Smith was appointed as the sixth pastor of the Church. In 1971 Rev. Smith arranged for the incorporation of Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church, which changed our status from a mission to a church. After a year and several months, Rev. Smith was transferred to Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Newport, Rhode Island, and Rev. Clarence Williams returned to Saint James as our seventh pastor.
While during this time our most important goal of purchasing or building our own church edifice had not been met, we never lost courage. For the dawn of a new day was breaking and Saint James never ceased to thank and glorify Almighty God. At the close of the 126th Session of the New England Annual Conference, the Rev. Clyde O. Walker was appointed to be our eight pastor, by the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen Hildebrand. During Rev. Walker’s pastorate Saint James A.M.E. acquired land upon which to build.
At the close of the 128th Session of the New England Annual Conference, The Rt. Rev. Richard Allen Hildebrand appointed Rev. Reynold R. Smith the ninth pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church in June of 1979. Under the leadership of Rev. Smith, the architectural drawings for a building were prepared for the approval of a variance by the zoning board of appeals, of the City of Danbury, which was granted on January 24, 1980. On May 6, 1980, the additional site plans were submitted, both to the Planning and Building Commission of the City of Danbury, for final approval and the building permit. September 3, 1980, the planning commission approved the site plans with minor changes to be made. Due to the difficulty of obtaining the future mortgage for this kind of building, additional funds had to be raised. After the request of Rev. Reynold Smith for a transfer back to the New York Annual Conference, the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen Hildebrand appointed Rev. Joseph C. Edwards as the 10th pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church to carry on the work. Under Rev. Edwards’ leadership adult and youth membership increased. Another architect was hired but unfortunately building plans did not succeed.
At the close of the New England District Conference which was held October 17-18, 1986, Bishop Curtis Cummings appointed Rev. Norvel Goff Sr., to be the 11th pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church. Under the leadership of Rev. Goff, the membership increased greatly and the Church purchased the present edifice and a two-family house. In 1988 we moved to our present location at 45 William Street. Rev. Goff was a people’s pastor whose hand was extended to and beyond the premises of Saint James A.M.E. Many wonderful things took place under Rev. Goff’s pastorate. The church leaped from the valley of despair to the mountaintop of victory.
In June of 1991 at the close of the First Episcopal District Planning Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, Bishop Curtis Cummings appointed Rev. Dr. Bennie Colclough to Saint James A.M.E. Church as the 12th pastor. During the pastorate of Rev. Colclough the second mortgage was paid in full. Rev. Colclough, a God-fearing servant labored mightily with dedication and commitment. To God be the Glory. Rev. Dr. Bennie Colclough transferred to the South Carolina Conference in 1995. It was then that the Right Reverend Phillips Robert Cousin, Sr., Presiding Prelate of the First Episcopal District appointed Rev. Clifford H. Hill, Jr., to Saint James A.M.E. Church as the 13th pastor. Rev. Hill served from 1995 to 2012. The Church Motto was "The Family Friendly Church" and the scripture was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ whom strengthens me.” Under Rev. Hill’s leadership, the church membership continued to grow. The church thrived through its Gospel Choir and Praise Dancers. Saint James A.M.E. licensed their first two preachers, Bro. Donald C. Dolberry, Sr, and Sis. Kathy D. Jones. Rev. Clare Naylor-Hill served as assistant pastor from 1999 to 2003. During Rev. Hill’s administration Saint James A.M.E. Church hosted the Bishop's Town Meeting, The District Planning Meeting, The Christian Education Meeting, multiple Watch Night Services, "The Seven Last Words of Christ" Good Friday Service and the United Church Ushers Opening Service for their State Convention. Rev. Hill always praised the congregation and encouraged the youth to be excellent in every field of their interests. During his leadership, Saint James A.M.E. had two “Youth of the Year” winners. The Sunday School won several awards for having 100% of its members participating in the Annual Sunday School Convention.
At the close of the 161st Session of the New England Annual Conference, the Right Reverend Richard Franklin Norris, Presiding Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed the Rev. Donald C. Luster as the 14th pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church in April of 2012. Rev. Luster heavily participated in church activities; was a weekly member of the adult Sunday school class and worked hard to ensure Saint James A.M.E. Church’s membership records were up to date.
In June of 2014 at the close of the First Episcopal District Planning Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram appointed Rev. Hollis M. Cotton to Saint James A.M.E. Church as the 15th pastor. Rev. Cotton came to Saint James with a renewed spirit of joy and served for almost three years.
At the close of the 166th Session of the New England Annual Conference, the Right Reverend Gregory G. M. Ingram, Presiding Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed the Rev. Orsella R Hughes as the 16th pastor of Saint James on April 02, 2017. Rev. Hughes brought a vibrant spirit and loving countenance to Saint James A.M.E. Church. Under Pastor Hughes's leadership, through faith, the hard-working members of Saint James, the support of the First Episcopal District under the leadership of Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram, and local philanthropic partners, Saint James was able to sell property in order to avoid foreclosure proceedings of the church. Without the stress of debt, Saint James was able to concentrate on reclaiming its place in Danbury, CT, by joining the Danbury NAACP, partnering with Western Connecticut State University during freshman orientation events, registering for clergy credentials at Danbury Hospital, and participating in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. events. The Women's Missionary Society, YPD, and Stewardess Boards were re-energized, and the Lay Organization was renamed the Barbara Livingston Lay Organization. Saint James was the host church of the 2019 Boston-Hartford District Conference, proving that a church small in membership could do great work when the heart is in alignment with God. With all of the aforementioned blessings, nothing compares to how the members of Saint James rallied together during the pandemic of 2020 to ensure its members would stay connected. Through virtual worship, Bible Study, and events, Saint James thrived spiritually and financially. There was an increase in giving and visitors through Zoom on Sunday mornings. The Church School department was blessed each week with virtual adults and youth from all over the nation attending weekly. Saint James established a donor-advised scholarship fund at The Prosperity Foundation, where the fund is celebrated with donations every August during Black Philanthropy Month. The heating system was converted from oil to gas, and the roof and gutters were replaced. Pastor Hughes was transferred to another assignment on June 20, 2021.
The Rev. Charles Cloy was appointed the 17th pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church where he served until his untimely death in March of 2022.
At the close of the First Episcopal District Planning Meeting, the Right Reverend Julius H. McAllister Sr., Presiding Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed the Rev. Tamesha Mills, M.Div. as the 18th pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church on June 17, 2023. We look forward to what God will do in the life of our church in this new season.