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ABOUT SMBC

The History of St. Matthew's Baptist Church


Rev. Jerome Harris organized St. Matthew’s Baptist Church on June 2, 1926, in the home of his sister, Miss Clara M. Harris, 626 Lenox Avenue, New York City.  His pastorate covered the period of June 1925-1927. The co-workers were Mrs. Josephine Harris, wife of Rev. Harris, Miss Clara Harris, Mrs. Ida Tullah, and Mr. James Desverney. Other members were received shortly after the organization of the church.

After the death of Rev. Harris, the following pastors provided spiritual leadership: Rev. Bonaparte (pastorate unknown), Rev. T. J. Herbert (July 1927, period ofpastorate unknown); Rev. David Licorish (1934 -1934); Rev. Otis Obotany
(1938-March, 1943); and Rev. John Tribble (1943-1946).  There were periods in which St. Matthew’s operated without an official pastor. Several dedicated members headed by the late Sister Bertha Simmons Blaylock, worked diligently to make sure that the Church remained active.

 

Rev. Dr. John J. Sass was called to the pastorate of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in September, 1946.  At that time the church
was located at 2777 Eighth Avenue and later moved to 43 Macombs Place.  Under the leadership of Rev. Sass, the church grew to such an extent that there was no longer enough space to accommodate the congregation.  The members agreed with
the pastor to build a new church on the existing property. 

 

As the years passed, Rev. Sass watched as many in his congregation (who shared the dream) went home to their eternal rest and reward.  Nevertheless, the dream came true.  St. Matthew’s Baptist Church, Harlem’s first modern edifice in one hundred years, became a reality.  The congregation marched into this edifice on July 21, 1967.  The edifice has a chapel,
balcony, off-street parking, full central air conditioning/heating systems, a complete kitchen, a fellowship hall, a soundproof nursery, administrative offices, and a seating capacity for approximately one thousand people.

 

For over thirty years, numerous ministers served under Pastor Sass.  Some were called to the pastorate, while others went home to be with the Lord.  The ministers included Rev. Francis Legree, Rev. Oscar Moore, Rev Irack, Rev. Clarence Butler, Rev. Sean P, Gardner, Rev. Jimmie Howell, Rev. M. Frances Manning, Rev. Isaiah Lewis, Rev. Richard Reeves, and Rev. Anthony Mann and Min. Tonya Mann.  Rev. Dr. John J. Sass served St. Matthew’s Baptist Church for fifty-four years. He pastored from September, 1946 to August 20th, 2000, when he retired.  The St. Matthew’s family was saddened on March
11, 2001, when the Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Dr. John J. Sass, passed from labor to reward.

 

Rev. Jimmie Howell was voted as the Supply Pastor on August 27, 2001.  After a search by the Pulpit Search Committee
and a vote by the members of the congregation, Rev. Jimmie Howell was called to the pastorate of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church on September 17, 2001.  

 

A Pre-Installation Banquet was held on Saturday, December 8, 2001 at Eastwood Manor, Bronx, NY. The celebratory Keynote Speaker for the event was Rev. James Stallings, the current Regional Minister of ABC Metro New York. This blessed celebration culminated on Sunday, December 9, 2001.  Rev. Dr. M. Francis Manning, Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Hackensack, NJ, delivered the Preached Word for the 11:00 a.m. service.  A luncheon was held in the Fellowship Hall following the morning service. After the luncheon, the congregation convened in the sanctuary for the
Installation Service.  The preached word for the installation ceremony was delivered by the late Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Tyler-Lloyd, Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church, Bronx, NY. The scripture used to deliver the word was Acts 3:6. His sermon was entitled “Look On Us”. 

 

Under Pastor Howell’s leadership the ministerial staff increased.  The ministerial staff consisted of the late Rev. Francis LeGree, Rev. Hyacinth Johnson (ordained by Pastor Howell),Minister Mary A. Nesbit and Minister Shirley Ruffin. Minister Nesbit and Minister Ruffin were licensed by Pastor Howell. Minister Mary A. Nesbit was ordained in the gospel on July 29, 2012. The ordinant was Rev. James O. Stalling. Minister Shirley Ruffin was ordained in the gospel on March 17, 2013. The
ordinant was Rev. Dr. J. G. McCann, Pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church, Harlem, NY.

 

The Deacon and Deaconess ministries increased. During the church meeting of December 2009, Pastor Howell recommended eliminating the Deaconess Ministry and having Deacons only.  After questions from those in attendance, the recommendation was accepted. The Deaconess Ministry was dissolved.  The congregation voted on those selected to become Deacons-In-Training. Of the thirteen members in training commencing in January, 2010, eleven
completed the training. One of the two members who did not complete the training was ill, and the other passed away. The Deacons-In-Training were ordained by Pastor Howell in November, 2010. The Deacons Ministry increased from three
to fourteen.

 

Pastor Howell reinstated the Christian Education Ministry and the Leaders Council.  Sunday Morning Prayer at 8:00 am on the first Sunday of each month was instituted to encourage church and spiritual growth. St. Matthew’s Soup Kitchen was created as a 501(c)3 organization and serves hot meals to those in need every Wednesday. The church congregation continues to celebrate the Annual Men and Women’s Day and the Church Anniversary. Sunday Morning Service is at 11:00am.  Communion Service is the first Sunday of each month.

 

The church reached a new milestone when we celebrated the Octogintennial (80th) Church Anniversary in June, 2005.  The theme of the celebration was “Manifesting the Power of God Through Love and Dedication”.  The celebration included three nights of revival services (Monday, June 20th –Thursday, June 23rd; an Octogintennial Anniversary Banquet at Marina del Rey, on Saturday, June 25th at 11:00am. The keynote speaker was Rev. Sean P. Garner, Pastor of Eastward Missionary Baptist Church in NYC. His message entitled “Go” was based on the scripture of Matthew 28:18-20.

During the years of 2006-2007, Pastor Howell, with the support of the members, the Sass Family, and local political leaders, was instrumental in renaming a portion of Macombs Place to Rev. Dr. John J. Sass Place.  This historic occasion was celebrated on a Sunday afternoon in March, 2007. The message of God was delivered by Rev. Dr. Isaac B. Graham, Pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, NYC, and Moderator of the United Missionary Baptist Association. Invitations for the event were extended to churches, local leaders, and the community at large.  After the service, everyone gathered on the
corners of 151st St. and Macombs Place for the unveiling of the new street sign. Names of those who monetarily supported this endeavor were inscribed on a multi-name plaque commemorating the occasion. 

 

Maintaining the church’s edifice and employing the use of technology are ever present in the hearts and minds of Pastor Howell and the Trustees.  During his tenure as pastor, the roof was repaired; fire code standards were improved, as required by the FDNY, in the kitchen, sanctuary, and fellowship hall. Numerous changes were made to improve access to technology. In addition, a digital pipe organ and new sound system were installed.

 

In-house renovations consisted of dividing the chapel into two rooms. The rear portion of the room is used as a Diaconate Room. The heating and air conditioning systems were improved with the installation of a thermostat control system and three wall air conditioners in the sanctuary. The sanctuary carpet was also replaced. The men’s restroom located in the fellowship hall was renovated and is now handicapped accessible. Much needed commercial items were added to the kitchen, one of which was a new commercial refrigerator. In addition, we now have two church vans.  The most recent change was the replacing of the wooden doors, which separated the narthex from the sanctuary, with glass doors.  

 

Pastor Howell announced his resignation in June 2011 at our Bi-Annual Church Meeting.  A Pulpit Search Committee was formed and announced by Pastor Howell during a morning service.  His resignation was to become effective once a new pastor was elected.  We celebrated his eleventh anniversary on December 9, 2012.

 

On November 10, 2013 we installed Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins as the tenth pastor and the first woman to pastor St. Matthew’s Baptist Church. She was elected by the congregation in April 2013. We thank God for being with us through the years, for what He is doing now, and for what He will do for us in the future.  We know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Holy Spirit is leading us and therefore, we give thanks for his guidance, mercies, and blessings.

To God Be the Glory!