THE HISTORY OF

SAINT MARK A.M.E. CHURCH

106 Years as AME's; 180 Years of Christian Service

 

When the four founders died, the property was neglected and several white denominations used the property.  In 1902, Mr. Purcell Harris inquired about the name of the denomination and after a thorough investigation, it was revealed that the property originally belonged to the four Negroes.  Mr. Harris employed the services of a lawyer and the property reverted back to these Negroes by court order.  The church was named The Union Avenue A.M.E. Church.  An application was made in 1906 for membership into the African Methodist Episcopal Church since that name was nearest the original name.  Rev. David Eato was sent to pastor the flock.  The first members elected to the Board of Trustees were Mr. Purcell Harris, Mr. Alexander Jackson, Mrs. Catherine Stevens, Mr. Louis Harriet and Mrs. L. Harvey.  This church served the community for many years on Union Avenue (renamed Corona Avenue) until 1929 when Rev. George Alonzo sold the property and erected the second church home at 95th Street and 32nd Avenue in East Elmhurst.  The church was also renamed St. Mark A.M.E. Church. 
Several influential white people became interested in the religious activities of this small group.  Among them were Judge and Mrs. Garrison and Mrs. Frances R. Irving, to whose memory a window was dedicated in the church.  It was at their request that Mr. Booker T. Washington visited and addressed the congregation just one year before his death. St. Mark continued to grow as its ministry touched the lives of the people in the new community.  The following pastors were assigned and served accordingly: Rev. Jessie L. Lundy, 1931 – 1933; Rev. McWright, 1933 – 1934; Rev. J.H. Thomas, 1934 – 36; Rev. N.W. Brown, 1936 – 1938, and Rev. N.T. Garrison, 1938 – 1948.  A Moller pipe organ was purchased and installed during Rev. Garrison’s years of service.  The membership increased greatly after Rev. Kelly Collins became the pastor in 1948 until 1950, when he was succeeded by Rev. J.P. Washington, the pastor from 1950 – 1954. In 1954, Rev. Augustus K. David became the shepherd of this growing church family.  He immediately conducted a survey of community needs, programs and resources and discussions were held concerning the need to launch a program to build adequate facilities for worship and related community activities.  As a result, a building fund and fundraising drive was initiated in 1963.  To commence the building fund drive, the church celebrated its anniversary from October 6 through 13, and Bishop and Mrs. George Wilbur Baber were the chief celebrants for the opening day of October 6th.  The committee for this occasion was lead by Mr. William Graham as the chairperson, with Mrs. Mabel Bronson, Mrs. Marie Godwin, Mrs. Myra Cooke, Mr. Vernon Gardner and Mr. Benjamin Thompson as its members.
Three pastors served this charge from 1966 through 1972; they were Rev. R. Henderson, 1966 – 1967; Rev. D. Robinson, 1967 – 1969, and Rev. C.B. Barrow, 1969 – 1972. In 1972, another visionary minister was sent to St. Mark; Rev. William B. Faush became the pastor and rekindled the fervor to increase the building fund and erect a new church home.  Under Pastor Faush’s leadership, the church moved forward; a new parsonage was purchased, and a Title 7 Senior Citizens Program was implemented – the first and only one of its kind in the community at that time. The building fund commission was comprised of the following members: Sisters Beatrice Thompson (chairperson), Mozelle Jenkins, Myra Cooke, Dorothy Crichlow, Rosetta Evans, Estelle Rutherford, Gloria Carty, Clara Leach, Sarah Flournoy, Mozelle Ivey, Juanita Mallett, Marie Boston, Rachel Jenkins (Philson) and Laurie Sanders with:  Brothers Alvin Carty, Paul Dixon, Errol Rhoden, Clinton Philson, Charles Mallett, Nathaniel Wells, Benjamin Thompson and Ulysses Sanders.   In 1977, the Rev. Terrence Hensford was sent to St. Mark with the determined goal of erecting a new edifice, and the building fund committee was re-established.  This committee was chaired by Sister Myra Cooke and included Sisters Beatrice Thompson, Clara Leach, Olga Willis, Sarah Flournoy, Edna Foster, Gloria Carty, Marie Godwin, Gloria Eady, Leonora Jeter, Clelia Steward and Bessie Pearson with Brothers James Thomas, Paul Dixon and Joshua McDowell.  A very successful fundraising campaign was launched, and three parcels of land were acquired at a cost of $227, 000.  An architect was selected and preliminary plans were drawn.  After many years of sacrificial giving and hard work, construction began on the new church on October 26, 1986 and the dedication was held on April 9, 1988, at its current location of 96th Street and Northern Boulevard.     A new method of construction was adopted, and once again, the church family came together.  Several members of the congregation loaned money to the church so that the building could be completed, and approximately 25 congregants signed the bank note.  Different members sponsored pews and stained glass windows; Brother George Barno gave time and funds untiringly; Brothers Joshua McDowell and Benny McCants served as night watchmen, and Brother Austin Rhoda donated a new organ.  The entire Boards of Stewards and Trustees, as well as many unnamed benefactors, combined their resources to build our third and current church home.  The structure now stands as a monument to the dedicated members of this station.  Pastor Hensford also emphasized the building of the fellowship.  Under his leadership, the music department was transformed, and the Mass Choir was established.  He also instituted Children’s Church, which grew to a membership of over 50 young people.  The life of this church was changed in 1993 when Rev. William Lamar Cody was sent to be its pastor.  Pastor Cody was noted for his dynamic preaching and teaching, including Bible study of the Book of Revelations.  Rev. Cody served this church for four years. A new approach to wholesome Christian living began in 1997 when Rev. Christopher Gillins was assigned to pastor this charge.  Prior indebtedness, due to serious financial problems, was immediately addressed by Pastor Gillins, who secured the Certificate of Occupancy that the church had long sought. Emphasis was placed on the young people and their involvement in the church.  Many basic repairs were done, including securing a new roof and a new sound system.  Major improvements under Pastor Gillins’ leadership include the addition of carillon chimes to the church tower and a chair lift between the sanctuary and the lower fellowship plaza, which was refurbished under the leadership of his wife, Sister Rosella Gillins.  Rev. Gillins served this congregation faithfully until his sudden death on March 31, 2006, in the midst of the church’s year-long, 100th anniversary celebration. On June 11th 2006, St. Mark received a new pastor, Rev. Dwayne A. Moore, witnessed to be a preacher, a scholar and a businessman, and the church awaited his leadership with great anticipation.  Rev. Moore and his wife, Sister Yvette Moore embraced the St. Mark family with love and understanding.  Unfortunately, Rev. Moore died suddenly on June 30, 2006, after only three weeks as St. Mark’s shepherd.    Bishop Richard Franklin Norris searched for months for the right shepherd to pastor this flock.  In the interim period of shock and sadness, Presiding Elder Harold Rutherford not only shepherded St. Mark with wisdom and caring but also lead the congregation in a successful $20,000 mortgage reduction drive.  Before the end of the year, Bishop Norris sent the sanctified and experienced Rev. Howard H. L. Dill as pastor with his wife, Rev. Dr. Emilygail Dill, to lead St. Mark.  They arrived with power and immediately set to work with Rev. Dill instituting an annual community candle lighting and tree dressing memorial service that gave St. Mark and its friends a chance to celebrate the lives of he departed and embrace the blessed holiday season.  Rev. Mrs. Dill took up the cause of the 100th anniversary celebration banquet, which had fallen into despair in trying financial times, by raising money, securing sponsors and helping to produce a beautiful and successful gala event.  Pastor and Rev. Dr. Dill, with the help of the great people of Bermuda, helped this church immensely, especially for this very elegant affair. Pastor Dill and Brother Irvin Eadie were in attendance at the ceremony renaming the street at our second church site to Pennington Way for Rev. Dr. James Pennington.  Also, at the Fall Convocation at the Philadelphia headquarters, the same year that the historic bust of AMEC founder Bishop Richard Allen was discovered and rededicated, St. Mark’s Christian Education Department submitted a patch featuring our church history that was included in the Manhattan Area quilt. Presiding Elder Nicholas Genevive Tweed acted as our interim pastor for several months when Bishop Norris sent Rev. Dill back to Bermuda.  In 2010, Rev. Kimberly L. Detherage, Esq. was sent to shepherd our flock.  Rev. Detherage, St. Mark’s first woman pastor, has placed great emphasis on building up and maintaining the church both spiritually and physically in these difficult financial times.  She preaches the unadulterated gospel with conviction and power and stresses the importance of knowing and studying God’s word and understanding the power of prayer.  She has a love for all people and includes the congregation’s young people in the work of the church.  As well as sponsoring special events and trips for our young people, the Dance Ministry has increased to include the Little Angels of Praise – as well as the Daughters of Praise senior dance ministry – and several of our young men are working and training in the sound room.   Pastor Detherage, also the Connectional President of  Women in Ministry in the A.M.E. Church, is shepherding the congregation through the discovery of the unearthing of a 19 century, female parishioner whose well-preserved remains, which were sealed in an iron coffin, were removed from a former St. Mark site burial ground by a real estate construction company.  Plans are underway to not only reinter our sister, whose body has been inspected by New York City Coroner, the Smithsonian Institute and Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), but to also create a lasting memorial display honoring her for the church.  Under Pastor Detherage’s able and energetic leadership, the congregation of Saint Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church looks forward to a glorious future in the Lord. The history of St. Mark is a history of cooperation and perseverance guided by an abiding faith in God.  For without His abundant grace and mercy, we would not be able to continue to be a guiding light in this community.  After over 180 years of service, we continue to press on toward the mark of His high calling that we may be a beacon on the boulevard for Christian discipleship.                     Respectfully compiled and prepared by:        Sister Lydia Gardner,          Sister Betty Johnson and        Sister Dianne Mitchell.
Saint Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church is a strong, vibrant, energetic group of believers who trust in God and rely on His divine direction.  We have bonded in one union, accepting the hardships, trials and tribulations; yet, we continue to strive and to overcome.  This church had its humble beginnings with the United African Society.  In July 1828, four former slaves (named Coles, Doyle, Peters and Johnson)  formed this group and shortly thereafter purchased one and one half acres of land on Union Avenue for $75.00.  These four families worshipped for many years in an old carpenter shop until a church was erected.  Built on the property was the church, the parsonage and a cemetery.