ST. PAUL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL (AME) CHURCH is the oldest AFRICAN-AMERICAN congregation on Cleveland's West Side. St. Paul originated from informal meetings held by adherents of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination at the home of the Williams family on Peerlor Avenue in 1919 under the leadership of Rev. T. J. Evans.
The small congregation of some ten members worshipped in homes and storefronts on the West Side until ST. JOHN'S AME CHURCH provided it with a building on Bellaire Road in 1922. St. Paul AME was officially chartered the same year and Rev. Evans served as its first pastor. The church erected its first parsonage in 1955 during the tenure of Rev. Paul Ross. The state of Ohio acquired the church building on Bellaire Road in 1964 to make way for the construction of the I-71 interstate highway. Under the leadership of Rev. H. E. Bragg, the congregation erected new church quarters on Liberty Road in 1966, where it has remained to this day (2010).
Rev. J. P. Henning held the pastorate at St. Paul from 1967 to 1969. He was succeeded by Rev. Charles P. Lucas, Jr. who enlarged and improved the church structure. Rev. Charles S. Scott added 60 new members and paid off the mortgage on the church building during his tenure from 1977 to 1981. Rev. Frederick A. Wright led the congregation of St. Paul AME from 1981 until 1988. He recruited approximately one hundred new members to the congregation and revived the church's Sunday School, Wednesday night prayer, and Bible Study. Rev. Rodney S. Thomas succeeded Wright, launching a food ministry and a "Providence House Ministry," a residential home for children in need.
In 1996, Rev. Georgina Thornton assumed the pastorate at St. Paul AME, becoming the church's first female minister and one of the leading female AME pastors in the nation. Thornton increased the church's involvement with the African-American community on the West Side and launched the annual Ecumenical/Interfaith Worship Service that has brought together leaders of different religions. She also extended the outreach work of St. Paul AME beyond the borders of the United States, sponsoring mission ministries in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Johannesburg, South Africa. The church also hosted a "Black Heritage" dinner to mark the conclusion of Black History Month and honor the spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Items from the church archives were displayed during the dinner to urge public reflection on African-American history.
In October 2009, St. Paul AME appointed Rev. Shane K. Floyd of Youngstown to the pastorate.
See also RELIGION and METHODISTS.