St. James AME readies for 120th anniversary
ANNIVERSARY – Rev. Johnny Baskin, who currently serves as pastor at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, stands outside the church that celebrates its 119th anniversary. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Ida Brown / religion editor
Rev. Johnny Baskin, who currently serves as pastor at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, stands outside the church that celebrates its 119th anniversary.
For more than a century, the congregation of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church has overcome many obstacles and prospered through an unfaltering commitment of faith, hope and love.
In anticipation of the church's 120th anniversary in 2004, the congregation is kicking off the milestone year with a 119th Church Anniversary/Family and Friends Day.
The celebration of Meridian's oldest AME church will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday. Guest speaker is the Right Rev. Cornal Garnett Henning, bishop of the Eight Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal District, which includes Mississippi and Louisiana. "119 Years Church, Family and Community United in Praise and Worship" is the theme.
A native of Memphis, Henning is founder of the Black Clergy Coalition; has served as chairman of a political action committee; and founded the Superintendent Advisory Committee, which interacted with the Superintendent of Education on matters related to quality education for residents of St. Louis, particularly the black community.
According to the church's written history, St. James AME began in a brush harbor.
Under the leadership of the Rev. J.W. Watson, a Sunday School and church were organized. The church's current site at 3704 Davis St. James was purchased, and the first building erected in 1884.
In 1913, at the prompting of then-pastor the Rev. S.P. Washington, the church moved to a new building. As stated in the church's history:
In 1950, under the pastorship of the Rev. W.L. Jones, St. James' congregation returned to its old church site after the building was demolished and the current structure erected. Throughout the years, the church's building has undergone several renovations and membership has steadily grown.
to the community
In the same vein of its commitment to faith, hope and love, St. James' congregants have dedicated themselves to community service and involvement.
This has been accomplished through grants from the Meridian/Lauderdale County Keep America Beautiful Commission. Members pick up trash, as well as plant ground coverings in the community.
The church has purchased neighborhood property and plans to purchase adjacent lots to construct a playground.
While the whole church is involved in community service, Baskin said the youth are a main focus.
St. James currently has 200 members. Sunday services are held weekly, with Sunday School at 9 a.m. and worship service at 11 a.m.