Saint James A.M.E. Church
History of Saint James A.M.E. Church
Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church, INC. was organized by the late Rev. James Eade, September 15, 1953, at 56 River Street, Danbury Connecticut.
The mission church branched out from Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Norwalk Connecticut where Rev. Eade was a member.
After the opening of the mission a youth namely, 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. Attending the Sunday mornings services were Sister Annie Lee Perkins and Sister Mary Shields, but later they 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 kingdom building.
In time, others joined and helped to carry on the work. They were Sisters Maude Violet Townsend, St. James 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 to Saint James, Rev Paul M. Ritter to continue the work. Rev. Ritter became the Second Pastor of Saint James. Under his leadership, several members were added.
The fellowship between Saint James and the local churches grew tremendously. Five members of Saint James sang with the Community Gospel Chorus of Mount Pleasant AME Zion Church under the supervision of Sister Doris Williams, on the second Sunday of each month. Showing their gratitude, the community chorus came to Saint James every third Sunday for many years.
In 1961 Saint James moved from 56 River Street to 6 Spring Street and the resignation of Rev. Paul Ritter. Clarence William was sent to complete the conference year. Rev. Williams became the Third Pastor of Saint James.
At the close of the New England Annual Conference in the year of 1965, the late Bishop John D. Bright, Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed the Rev. K.C. Jones as the Fourth Pastor of Saint James. Rev. Jones worked tirelessly with Saint James in our effort to stimulate the growth of membership and the Building Fund Drive, which was started by the Rev. Paul Ritter. But, due to his physical handicap, Rev. Jones was unable to continue his ministry as the pastor. The Rev. Elliott L. Strickland was appointed as the Fifth Pastor of Saint James. During his tenure, Saint James grew in membership and much progress was noticeable as we fellowshipped with other sister churches beyond our own conference.
Shortly thereafter, the Rev. Samuel J. Smith was appointed as the Sixth Pastor of Saint James. He made arrangements for the incorporation of Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church, which also changed our status from a mission to a church. This occurred in 1971. After a year and several months, Rev. Smith was transferred to Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Newport, Rhode Island, and Rev Clarence Williams returned to Saint James as our Seventh Pastor.
Although our most important goal was not achieved, namely, the purchasing or building of our own church edifice, we never lost courage, from the dawn of a new day was breaking and Saint James never cease to thank and glorify almighty god.
At the close of the One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Session of the New England Annual Conference, the Rev. Clyde O. Walker was appointed to be our Eight Pastor, by the Right Reverend Richard Allen Hildebrand, Prelate of the First Episcopal District. During his tenure, we acquired land upon which to build.
At the close of the One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Session of the New England Annual Conference, The Right Reverend Richard Allen Hildebrand, Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed the Rev. Reynold R. Smith to be the Ninth Pastor of Saint James in June 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 Conference, the Right Reverend Richard Allen Hildebrand appointed Rev. Joseph C. Edwards as the Tenth Pastor of Saint James to carry on the work.
Under Rev. Edwards’s tenure, the membership increased with adults and youth. Also, another architect was hired, but unfortunately plans did not succeed.
At the close of the New England District Conference which was held on October 17th and 18th of 1986, the Right Reverend Curtis Cummings, Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed Rev. Norvel Goff Sr., to be the Eleventh Pastor of Saint James.
Under the leadership of Rev. Goff, the membership increased greatly. It was during his tenure that we purchased the present edifice and a two-family house. In 1988 we moved to our present location at 45 William Street. Rev. Goff is a people’s pastor whose hand was extended to and beyond the premises of St. James. 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, Pennsylvania, the Right Reverend Curtis Cummings appointed Rev. Dr. Bennie Colclough to Saint James as our Twelfth Pastor.
Through the leadership of Rev. Colclough, God blessed St. James financially. It was under his tenure that the 2nd mortgage was paid off. Rev. Colclough, a God-fearing servant labored mightily with dedication and commitment. To God be the Glory.
Rev. Bennie Colclough requested a transfer to the South Carolina Conference for personal reasons in 1995. It was then that the Right Reverend Phillips Robert Cousin, Sr., Prelate of the First District appointed Rev. Clifford H. Hill, Jr., to Saint James as our Thirteenth Pastor.
Under Rev. Hill’s leadership, Saint James continues to grow. The Gospel Choir and Praise Dancers were organized. Adults, youth, and children became members. Saint James first two preachers, Bro. Donald C. Dolberry, Sr, and Sis. Kathy D. Jones received their license. Rev. Clare Naylor-Hill served as assistant Pastor from 1999 to 2003. During Rev. Hill’s administration Saint James African Methodist Episcopal 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 whatever their field of interest was. During his leadership, Saint James had two Youth of the Year Winners. The Sunday school won several awards for having one hundred percent of its members participating in the Annual Sunday School Convention. Rev. Hill served Saint James from 1995 to 2012. The Church Motto was "The Family Friendly Church" and the scripture was Philippians 4:13.
At the close of the One Hundred and Sixty-First Session of the New England Annual Conference, the Right Reverend Richard Franklin Norris, Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed the Rev. Donald C. Luster as the Fourteenth Pastor of Saint James in April 2012. Rev. Luster was very involved in church activities. He was a weekly member of the adult Sunday school class. Rev. Luster worked hard to ensure Saint James membership records were up to date.
In June of 2014 at the close of the First Episcopal District Planning Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Right Reverend Gregory G. M. Ingram appointed Rev. Hollis M. Cotton to Saint James as our Fifteenth Pastor. Rev. Cotton has come to Saint James with a renewed spirit of joy. Great days are ahead for St. James.
At the close of the One Hundred and Sixty-Six Session of the New England Annual Conference, the Right Reverend Gregory G. M. Ingram, Prelate of the First Episcopal District, appointed the Rev. Orsella R Hughes as the Sixteenth Pastor of Saint James on April 02, 2017.