History is the compass we use to find ourselves on the ever changing map of life's geography. Having crossed the threshold of a new century, we pause and reflect on the humble genesis of the oldest black church in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The story of a church one hundred forty years old is not easily encapsulated. It spans the stories of people, shepherds, conversions, baptisms, peaks and valleys.
It was the year 1870 when, in search of a place to worship, a small band of committed Christians gathered in the living room of Bro. Buckner, affiliating shortly thereafter in 1873, with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. As the spirit pervaded the new church and membership rapidly increased, larger quarters became a requisite. Imbued with true faith these hearty pioneers purchased land at the corner of Hastings and Portland Streets where construction soon commenced on a house of worship.
Rev. Dallas Turner, a theological student, was assigned to temporarily fill the pulpit. Upon ordination, Henry Buckner, for whom our school was named in 1974, became the second Pastor. The official roster included nine Stewards, seven Trustees, nine Stewardesses, Organist and Sunday School Superintendent. The year 1877 brought organization of the first missionary society, honoring a tireless, devoted worker, Margaret Hazel.
Around the time of World War I, due to an influx of people from various areas, the building could no longer accommodate the congregation. In 1920, under the dynamic pastorate of Rev. C. B. Lawyer the church was sold and the purchase of Wood Memorial Church, our present location, was executed and the parishioners marched from Portland and Hastings Street to this site.
On October 27, 1974, Austin Street became the first public street in our AME District to be dedicated and was renamed Bishop Richard Allen Drive, honoring the founder of the AME Church. Over the past one hundred forty years St. Paul has been served by an eminent line of over fifty distinguished, dedicated shepherds, two of whom - Bishop� John R. Bryant and the late Rembert E. Stokes - have been elevated to the Bishopric.
For thirty-two years, St. Paul was blessed with the outstanding leadership of the visionary Rev. Dr. LeRoy Attles whose adherence to God's voice led to the 1988 acquisition of a separate building to house the various ministerial organizations and activities of the church: the Christian Life Center, which in 1998, underwent a complete renovation of its auditorium, receiving new light fixtures and carpeting.1999 saw a complete renovation of the Church sanctuary, social hall and kitchen.
In the year 2009, St. Paul welcomed Rev. Marcellus A. Norris as its pastor. Rev. Norris served for three years growing and invigorating several church ministries including the Young Adult Network, the Liturgical Arts and the Married Couples Ministries. Under his leadership, the church purchased a 25 passenger mini-bus, a four bedroom parsonage, upgraded and revitalized the computer laboratory and put into place Insource Services, a financial accounting service whose work results in stabilizing church finances and related systems. St. Paul also celebrated the 250th birthday of Bishop Richard Allen with a city-wide Block Party attended by St. Paul members and hundreds of Cambridge and Boston area residents. Coupled with Sunday afternoon radio broadcasts, the Block Party drew an increasing number of people into the St. Paul AME Worship Experience.
In January 2012, St. Paul welcomed its new pastor, Rev. Melvin E. Wilson. Within three short months, Rev. Wilson set the course for a new church vision. St. Paul is becoming "A Ministry Committed to Growing through Knowing." Among the new teaching components of the church, Rev. Wilson has initiated both morning and evening Call-In Prayer Lines that are regularly attended by many members and non-members. He has also instituted an online Bible Study so that members and non-members who may be traveling or unable to attend Bible Study can join the class from wherever they are. Individuals from as far away as Georgia and California joined the first of these sessions in April. He has restored a critical teaching component of the church, Church School, on Sunday mornings. Rev. Wilson believes in using technology for the glory of God, and with that vision, has implemented ONLINE streaming of Sunday morning worship services.
Indeed, St. Paul continues to grow in membership and in spiritual maturity and for this we give God all the praise.