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St. Paul A.M.E. Church

St. Paul A.M.E. Church, St. Augustine, FL

St. Paul A.M.E. Church, St. Augustine, FL

By Amy Howard

St. Paul A.M.E. was born soon after the Civil War when the Philadelphia-based African Methodist Episcopal Church evangelized to ex-slaves in the South. The church's permanent tribute to African heritage made it a hotbed of Civil Rights activity. Martin Luther King's presence there made it famous in St. Augustine's black history. It's still famous today for sporting one of the best choirs in town.

African Methodism in St. Augustine

The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) had blossomed in the north for seventy years before Negroes in the slave states had access to it. After the Civil War, the AMEC campaigned to newly-freed slaves in the South. Their traveling pastors repeated a sermon titled, "I Seek My Brethren." The church offered a basic Gospel doctrine and a fellowship of African heritage.

It was ex-slave Richard James who first took up the AMEC torch in St. Augustine, establishing St. Paul A.M.E. in 1873. The church held a respected position in the segregated black community. Then it tackled segregation in the civil rights movement. Now, St. Paul offers the same Methodist doctrine and attention to African heritage - to churchgoers of any color.

St Paul's AME, St. Augustine is governed by the AMEC

St Paul A.M.E., St. Augustine is governed by the AMEC.

In addition to the African emphasis, life at St. Paul is dramatically influenced by its Episcopal administrative structure. AMEC churches are linked by a hierarchy much like the American Congress. District bishops make executive decisions together at an annual conference. Bishops appoint or re-appoint local pastors on an annual basis.

Therefore, St. Paul's pastor is always under evaluation and can be replaced or relocated. Not only does this keep pastors on their toes, but also the congregation. It prevents them from fixating on a human, fallible leader. As a result, the congregation stands out as the bonding force at St. Paul; some member families go back generations. In addition, St. Paul's members can visit any other A.M.E. church and learn what they would have at their home church, because the pastors follow a mutual curriculum.

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