Saint Stephen African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1872 in the home of Sister Melinda C. Porter on Austin Avenue, near Roby Street which is now Damen Avenue. Sister Tillie Hubbard organized the first Sunday School, and was one of the charter members of the church along with Dave McGowan, Benjamin Moore, James Gord, and Anna Brown. The Sunday school was large and active and for many years sponsored every year the Sunday School in White Tea and Tom Thumb weddings.
Saint Stephen has a long list of distinguished pastors of whom Rev. A. T. Hiss was the first. He was followed by Rev. C. S. Jacobs in 1881, which during his pastorate the cornerstone was laid on Austin Avenue, near Damen and the birth of the first church building was erected. Our other pastors during the 19th century included: Rev. Ollie Knight, Rev. L.H. Reynolds, Rev. S. R. Hardison, Rev. George W. Gaines, Rev. J. R. Clemmons, and Rev. H. H. Thompson. In 1901, Rev. W. Sampson Brooks became pastor and was elected a bishop in 1920. Subsequent pastors for St. Stephen include: Rev. E. Wilson, D. D., Rev. J. C. Brewer, Rev. Bruce Taylor, Rev. Dr. Timothy Reeves, Sr., Rev. Dr. M. C. Wright, Rev. G. W. Williams, Rev. Eugene Thompson, Rev. Granville Reed, Jr., Rev. David A. Blake Sr., Rev. Wilfred Reid, and Rev. A.D. Tyson, III.
Saint Stephen has a rich heritage. Under the pastorate of Rev. L. H. Reynolds, the congregation was involved in the founding of Provident Hospital in 1893, which was the first black owned and operated hospital in America. Rev. Bruce Taylor was credited with paying off the church debt of the first church, and under the pastorate of Rev. Dr. M. C. Wright, the church building at the corner of Damen and Washington was purchased for $42,000. During the pastorate of Rev. Eugene Thompson, the church’s debts were paid and the world renowned Thompson Community Singers were organized. Under the pastorate of Rev. Albert D. Tyson, III, a parsonage was purchased and additional land for future expansion.
On November 5, 1999, the church building caught fire and what was left had to be demolished. Even though there was brick and mortar devastation, the congregation kept moving forward. Greater Union Baptist Church opened their doors to us and the pastor and members of 1st Baptist Congregational Church allowed us to worship in their smaller chapel for several Sundays. Additionally, St. Malachy Catholic Church offered us the use of their facility for church service and Sunday School classes. We started the process of possibly building a new church on the land where our old church had burned including having plans drawn, however God had other plans, and our current building was secured. It needed a lot of work but the church stayed together and did what was necessary to make it our new home. In June 2008, St. Stephen’s congregation, still strong in number, heads held high, humbled, and in a state of worship walked into our new building at 3042 W. Washington Blvd.
On Nov. 3, 2011, the Rev. James C. Bailey was appointed the new pastor of St. Stephen African Methodist Church. Rev. Bailey, currently in his fourth term as our pastor, came in energetic and ready to take us to the next level. We are a church that loves people and are committed to winning souls for Christ. Our ministries outside the wall include Evangelism, Prison Outreach, Vacation Bible School, a Soup Kitchen, Annual Christmas Toy Giveaway, and Angel Tree to name a few. Saint Stephen is a loving, giving, spirit filled serving church. As Rev. Bailey says, "we come to serve, not to be served."
Almost 150 years is a very long time for a congregation to stay together but we have a purpose. We are to witness of the goodness of Jesus and to bring souls to Christ, glorify God in all we do, get involved and help meet the needs of the community and our members, to be a shining light everywhere we go.
We are serving an excellent God in an excellent way.