The Chronicles of The Greater Saint Mary Church
The seeds of the Saint Mary Church grew out of the desire and tireless efforts of those brethren who left the South in 1929 to settle in New York. One only has to reflect, read or talk to those who strived to exist during this period to realize the difficulties and obstacles that were encountered. But these were disciples, fortified in the teaching of the bible and the church. They believed and knew that God would provide.
It is with gratitude and Christian Love that we owe our beginning to Brothers Isaiah Atkinson, and Freeman Atkinson, in whose home regular prayer meetings were held; Elder O. S. Lucas, who conducted many of the prayer meetings and Sister Chartie Collins. It was these individuals and others who God put in their minds and hearts to “Go out into the vineyard and work, spread the gospel and build God a Church.” And with God’s direction and mighty hand, they did.
On December 1, 1929, our founders sent to North Carolina for a Pastor, after many successful meetings and a special ten day prayer vigil, the Church was organized and named Saint Mary Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ. The following have served this ministry as pastors: Reverend H. T. Williams, from 1930 to 1945, Reverend J. W. Atkinson, from 1945 to 1950, Reverend Z. Anderson, from 1950 to 1952.
During this time the church moved from the sight of its original location on Ralph Avenue to 1777 Atlantic Avenue and then to 1239 Bedford Avenue. It was at this location in October 1952, that Elder James Wilburt Gardner, was appointed the fourth pastor of this congregation.
Throughout the pastorate of Bishop James Wilburt Gardner, the church made rapid progress. The church moved from the site of his appointment, to 237 Sumner Avenue, and then to our present location, 493-5 Monroe Street. This property was purchased in 1959. With constant hard work by the few faithful members, the church grew and was able to burn the mortgage, and laid the cornerstone on July 19, 1970. In 1980 at the celebration of the church’s Golden Anniversary, payment of the Fellowship Hall was made.
In August 1989 Bishop James W. Gardner, was called home to be with the Lord. November 14, 1990 Elder James Ronald Chambers, was installed as the fifth pastor of this congregation. As Bishop Gardner was to us for a season a “MOSES” leading us out of Egypt, Pastor Chambers is to us a “JOSHUA” bringing us into Canaan, and conquering new territory. The church has grown and matured spiritually. The sick have been healed, the bound delivered, and many have been added to the church such as should be saved. The pastoral staff consist of two assistants, who assist in the management of the day to day operation of the church, and their designated areas of ministry.
In 1992 the church affiliated with the United Pentecostal Churches of Christ (now known as The United Covenant Churches of Christ International). Elder James R. Chambers, was appointed as the Overseer of the Northeastern Province of the Church, and was consecrated as a Bishop in the Lord’s Church on 21 August 1993, in Cleveland, Ohio. Bishop Chambers now serves the National Church as the Secretary-General, Secretary of the College of Bishops, Military Vicar and a member of the General Board.
We have come this far by Faith!!! Now the call upon this ministry is to build the City of Hope. The project entails completing the renovations of our present worship site, expansion of ministry initiatives through the Community Development Corporation – SaMar Community Development Corporation (CDC). The Community Development Corporation will open a Day Care Academy from which we will establish an elementary school, Sober/Transitional Housing, Crisis Intervention Center, The Mary Elizabeth House for battered women, and much more. Zechariah 9:12, “Return to the fortress, you prisoners of hope. For I declare to you, I will give you two mercies for each one of your woes.”
Having obtained help of God, we have continued from 1929 unto this day. We are excited as we enter the New Season of favor. We envision that the God of our founders, who did great things for them, will also do the same for us, and for our children, and our children’s children.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” Philippians 1:6