St.Paul A.M.E African Methodist Episcopal Church Serving Christ By serving all

St. Paul History


Rev. William Peterson organized St. Paul AME Church in 1863. At that time, it was located on South Street (now part of Freeway Drive) in Orange, NJ. Between 1863 and 1922, the Church was led by 19 different ministers. The Church was a strong pillar in the then “colored” community of Orange. 

It served as host to the New Jersey Annual Conference for the 27th Session and in May, 1918, again hosted the 46th Session. Four years later, in 1922, Rev. Henry H. Thomas was appointed as Pastor. He served for 27 years until his death in 1949. For some reason during his tenure, he severed relations with the NJ Conference and the 1st Episcopal District. 

On December 14, 1924, the Church on South Street was destroyed by an early morning fire, which also damaged six homes on the street as well as a few on Hill Street and Kenilworth Place. The fire also destroyed the Church records from the prior years. An insurance policy settlement only provided $50,000 and Rev Thomas used that sum to begin his mission of rebuilding the Church. The Church purchased a lot at Ogden Street and Central Ave and the foundation was poured. Since there was insufficient funds to complete the structure in a timely manner, a top was installed on the basement foundation and the Church continued to operate in that facility for many years. 

After the death of Rev. Thomas, the Church returned to the 1st Episcopal District and Rev. A.D. Tyson, Sr. was appointed as Pastor. Rev. A.D. Tyson was determined to fulfill the dream and finish building the Church. Elaborate architectural plans were developed and everyone thought, the dream was coming true. But that was not the case. The City of Orange created insurmountable roadblocks to prevent construction. Rev. Tyson gave his all to change the minds of the Orange bureaucrats, but his efforts were in vain. 

In 1954, Rev. James W. Waters became Pastor. Under his leadership, the Church purchased a house at 251 Odgen Street and moved the parsonage from its former South Street location. During his tenure, the City of Orange dealt the final blow. The incomplete basement structure was condemned and Rev. Waters was forced to move his congregation to the Y.M.C.A. on Oakwood Avenue where services were held for over seven years until the present edifice was purchased under the leadership of Rev. William C. Cook. 

The congregation moved into this present location on Sanford Street in East Orange on March 1, 1963. The building (built before 1905) was purchased from the Methodists and rededicated as an African Methodist Episcopal Church. One month later, the beloved Rev Cook died after 5 years of extraordinary vision and service. 

Rev. James C. Choice was then appointed as the 28th Pastor and remained here for the next 26 years. The growth of the Church under his leadership was phenomenal. The parking lot was purchased and paved. The kitchen was renovated. A new furnace was purchased and the organ was rebuilt. A new parsonage was purchased on Fuller Terrace. All of these and other projects were paid for during his tenure, leaving the Church virtually debt free. Rev Choice retired in 1990 and for a brief period of time, the Bishop assigned Rev. Jefferson who stewarded the congregation until Rev. David B. Cousin Was appointed in 1991. 

Rev. Cousin served for the next four years and the Church membership grew. Under his leadership, we renovated the sanctuary and purchased the present parsonage on Briar Court, South Orange. 

In 1995 Rev. Cousin was assigned elsewhere and the Bishop appointed as Pastor, Rev. Donald C. Luster. He became the 30th leader of this congregation. Rev. Luster was independent and strong willed and a perfect example of a spirit-filled sincere Christian leader. 

In 2008 the Rev. Dr. Leonard Santucci, J.P., a former Senator and Pastor from Bermuda, served St. Paul and revitalized many of the ministries of the church.  Under Dr. Santucci’s leadership the church became a leader in community involvement and service.  From the halls of government to the street of East Orange Dr. Santucci represented the church with distinction and pride.  Under his guidance the churches Community Development Corporation was established to provide vital services to the needy of the city.  

In 2013 the Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Hooper was assigned to St. Paul to steer the church towards a higher level of praise and worship.  Under his leadership St. Paul’s music ministry was enhanced with the New Generation Young Adult Choir, and the media ministry was established.  The church began to utilize its social media outlets as a means to reach more youth & young adults.  The sound system of the church was upgraded and many of the debts were paid.

In 2015 the Rev. Jerome Stembridge was assigned as the current pastor of the church.  Rev. Stembridge stabilized the finances of the church during his early days at St. Paul and continues to work to make the church self-sufficient and financially free.  He engages all areas of the church and desires to bring us to the fulfillment of the great commission to impact our community.  Under his time the church has invested heavily in technology and media as a means of evangelism & witness along with creating a space for learning.  Bible Study has been resumed and the focus is on the biblical truth of the text and its relevance in the 21st century.