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Greater St. Paul in Coconut Grove gears up for 118th Anniversary

4/24/2014, 9 a.m.
One of the oldest historical Black churches in Miami is preparing to celebrate its 118th birthday. The Greater St. Paul ...

One of the oldest historical Black churches in Miami is preparing to celebrate its 118th birthday.

The Greater St. Paul A.M.E. Church is a beacon of hope and acceptance for the West Coconut Grove community. Founded on April 27, 1896 by Jeremiah H. Butler, the church was originally built to serve a community of 300 residents and Bahamian settlers.

Today, the church is a thriving organization that offers numerous programs and services to thousands of residents and members. It is located at 3680 Thomas Avenue. To celebrate its rich history, a three-day celebration that includes a ‘Gospelfest’ concert has been planned to mark the church’s 118th anniversary. The main worship service will be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 27, the same day Greater St. Paul was founded.

The church's current leaders are Pastor Clayton Hodge, Sr. and his wife, first lady Shirley Hodge.

According to the church’s website, the church’s founder, late Rev. Jeremiah H. Butler and approximately twelve members of St. Agnes Church in Overtown withdrew their membership over cultural differences in the worship experience.

Established as the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in Miami-Dade County, Greater St. Paul AME Church was previously located on Evangelist Street that is now Charles Ave. today. Over time, the church became known as “the church up on the hill.”

 The parsonage, or clergy house was built in 1915 and the second one was constructed adjacent to the church in 1943 under Rev. F.A. Roundtree. Fellowship Hall, formerly known as the church annex, was started under Rev. I. D. Hinson in 1947 and completed under Rev. T. C. Kelley.

Groundbreaking for the church’s current building was held November 10, 1990. The following year, the older structure was demolished. While the new building was being built, church members worshipped at a temporary location in the chapel of the Bain/Range Funeral Home, 3384 Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove.

The first worship service at the new building was held on Easter Sunday in 1993. The church was renamed Greater St. Paul A.M.E. Church under Rev. T. C. Kelly’s pastorate.

Official church records dated November 21, 1986 show the names of Butler, members J.P. Brookins and Walter Burrows. In 1987, active members Murray Burrows, J.W. Gibson, William Counts Blackshear, James W. Williams and Theodore McCloud were added as trustees. Butler served as the pastor for a number of years as well as Rev. McBride. Member J.W. Malachi served as the church clerk. At the time, Albert Gibson was the church’s oldest member who lived 108 blessed years.

Over the years, Greater St. Paul created many programs and services for members and the community. The church also accumulated more than $8 million in property through the Community Development Corporation (CDC) to help developed the West Grove.