In 1956, Rev. Dr. J. Oscar Jones was called to pastor the Mt. Pleasant Mission Church, then located on New York Boulevard (now known as Guy R. Brewer Blvd.) in Jamaica New York. Expanding his ministry, Dr. Jones envisioned a new church home for his mission and purchased the property formerly called First Baptist Church, a white congregation, on which the old original Saint Albans Baptist Church stood. This was a hallmark, for in doing so Saint Albans Baptist Church became the first black church in the area.
In December 1956, Dr. Jones held a meeting with a few members of the mission, the Chairman of the Board of Deacons, Deacon John Miles and other officers who agreed to change the church name from First Baptist Church to Saint Albans Baptist Church, Inc. The first officers were: Deacon John Miles, Chairman of the Deacons; Sis. Alberta Morrison, President of Deaconesses; Sis Laura W. Brown, Minister of Music; Sis. Lewoner Wright, Church Clerk; Sis. Ruby Matthews Treasurer and Dr. J. Oscar Jones, Pastor. Sis. Mary Aarons who was a member of the First Baptist Church was named Mother of the church. The first services were held December 31, 1956, New Year’s Eve with a membership of seven people. In January 1957, Deacon and Sis Charles Eason were the first members to unite with Saint Albans Baptist Church.
In May 1957, Rev. Jones and his few members took title to their new home with an $800.00 a month mortgage which was paid off in record time in July of 1962. Two years later in 1964, the mortgage was burned in a glorious ceremony and the cornerstone was laid.
St. Albans continued to grow and under the leadership and charisma of Dr. Jones, the following ministries were augmented: The Board of Deacons, Board of Trustees, The Missionary Circle, The Usher Board and the Choir (known as the Celestial Choir) In January 1967, Dr. Jones and the Officers instituted a Budget Fund to purchase property for future expansion. In about four years the church raised $26,000 dollars for the fund.
Several assistant ministers were licensed by Dr. Jones: The late Rev. Randolph Mayo, Rev. Freddie Bottoms, Rev. A.R. Nelson, Min. Randolph Dean Min. Bobby Hodges and Rev. Mitchell R. Oleavia who would later become St. Albans’ second pastor. Deacons ordained by Rev. Jones were; N. Aarons, C. Eason, Earlie Jenkins, James Johnson, John Miles, Caesar Williams, T. Williams, and Oliver Young. The Deaconesses consecrated by Rev. Jones were; Eliza Carty, Gloria Cook, Maggie Diggs, Minerva Green, Clarissa Jenkins, Dolly Johnson, Cleo Miles, Alberta Morrison, Melvie Scott, Corrine Williams and Ernestine Young.
Dr. Jones who had been sick for some time was called, February 11, 1970, from labor to rest. The members of St. Albans who were caught up in “the dream” of the late Pastor Jones vowed to continue this great work. On December 31, 1970, Sis Hazel Jones, the late Pastor’s widow, was moved to sell her property to St. Albans Baptist Church at cost to help foster the vision of a new St. Albans Baptist Church.
Rev. Mitchell R. Oleavia served as acting pastor until he was called to the pastorate in February, 1971. Having answered God’s call to preach the gospel, Rev. Mitchell R. Oleavia, tutored by Rev. Jones was ordained in 1969 and became Rev. Jones assistant where he served faithfully until Rev. Jones was called from labor to rest.
St. Albans Baptist Church mourned over a year and called Rev. Mitchell R. Oleavia as the new and second pastor. He served as pastor for 12 years and during those years, the following ministries were added: The Helping Hand; Busy Bees and The Busy Bees Children’s Choir. In spite of the new additions, the other ministries continued to flourish. Rev. Oleavia loved to teach Bible Study, especially the Adult Sunday School Class, and his tenor voice alone was enough to stir up the gift in others. Rev. Oleavia was a counselor, not only to the members of St. Albans Baptist Church, but to the community as well. In 1980 Rev. Oleavia was responsible for obtaining a federally funded lunch program for St. Albans and the community. In 1976 he appointed Sis. Ruby Lowman Minister of Music over the Young Adult and Senior Choir and Sis Jesse Stillwell was appointed the president.
Under the pastorate of Rev. Oleavia the following deacons were ordained: John Boyd, Jr., H. Darby, W. Meadows, Horace Miles, Samuel Snyder and Kevin Woods; Deaconess Charlotte Allen, Ruby Boyd, Lula Campbell, Mary Clark, Sadie Darby, Lessie Evans, Josephine Freeman, Lizzie Graham, Bessie Highsmith, Mary Hooker, Thelma Ross, Christine Seabrooks, Gloria Snyder, Maggie Stamps, Martha Starks, Blanche Stevens, Dorothy Walker and Rosie Williams were consecrated.
As our church continued to grow under Rev. Oleavia’s leadership, the dream of building a new edifice continued. He continued focusing and nourishing that dream. The building fund increased from $26,000 to almost $300,000 by June 1983. Unfortunately, Rev. Oleavia was stricken by sickness and was unable to continue the ministry which God has laid to his charge. After many stays in the hospital he deemed it necessary to step down. So, in October 1983, Rev. Mitchell Roy Oleavia retired as the second pastor of the St. Albans Baptist Church and subsequently was bestowed the honor of Pastor Emeritus. His wife, Sis. Ethel Oleavia remained a member until her passing.
It was in the month of August during the summer of 1983, Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Harding Jr who was an itinerant minister at the Allen AME Church, came to St. Albans as an interim pastor for the ailing Pastor Oleavia. After rendering a good service to the members of St. Albans and because of the retirement of Pastor Oleavia, Rev. Harding was called on February 13, 1984 by the congregation by a unanimous vote. Rev. Harding was ordained by a council called by the late Rev. Bobby Hodges, Pastor of Scriptural B.C., who preached the ordination message. On May 6, 1984, at the Majority Baptist Church, Rev. Harding was duly installed as the new and third pastor of the Saint Albans Baptist Church by the Rev. Charles E. Betts, pastor of the Morningstar Missionary Baptist Church.
Even though Rev. Harding knew we didn’t have enough money to build, he had faith that God would see us through. Under his teachings, preaching and example to motivate the people trust God in giving their tithes and offering, the people of St. Albans Baptist Church raised over ½ million dollars in 3 ½ years. Prior to the building of the new church, Deacon Early Jenkins, Deacon Caesar Williams, Trustee Wallace Brown and Deacon Trustee Oliver Young realized that additional money was needed for the contractors, and thought it not robbery to mortgage their homes for the loan to build the edifice. On November 9, 1985, St. Albans Baptist Church had a Ground Breaking service for the new church and Sherman Industries, Ltd, the contractors started digging the foundation in December of 1985. The cornerstone of our new edifice was donated by Min. Stephanie Swain and dedicated on September 18, 1994.
The Hospitality Ministry was formed in August of 1984 and Sis. Inez Harding was appointed president. The Nurses Unit Ministry was organized in September 1984 with Sis. Mary Clark as president. Sis. Mary Fair and Sis. Maggie Young were appointed as the first female associate trustees in October 1984. Sis Maggie Young later was voted a full trustee in October of 1986. In addition, the following ministries have been formed under Pastor Harding’s guidance; The Christian Men’s & Women’s Ministries, The Conquerors (Stepping Ministry), Evangelism Ministry, Food Pantry Ministry, Kitchen Ministry, Married Christian Couples Ministry, Multimedia Ministry, Naomi & Ruth Mentoring Ministry, Security Ministry, Transportation Ministry, Tutorial Ministry and Worshipping Hands Ministry.
The Youth Choir was named the St. Albans Victory Ensemble with Bro. I. Bell as musician and the Children’s Choir was named the I.L.H. Children Choir, named after Sis. Harding. The Gospel Chorus has grown to more than thirty members and is now known as the CTH Mass Choir. The Male Chorus was formed.
In February of 1985, Bro Julius Allen was appointed president of the Youth Department. Pastor Harding took charge of the Youth Department after his ordination because he knew that the children would bring their parents to church. Then came Deacon Clarence Brown, Sis. Norma Waithe and Rev, Caprice Nesbitt. In 2001 Kalima Holleman (That’s Minister Kalima Wilson to you) became the Youth Leader and has been doing a wonderful job.
The Praise Dancers were organized with Sis. Robin Harding as leader. In 1991, when his daughter went to college, Pastor Harding appointed Kalima Holleman (now Wilson) as leader. The Praise Dance Ministry now consists of The Women of Wisdom Dance Ministry, The Sanctuary Dance Ministry, The Young Ladies of Miriam, Psalms Dance Ministry, Angels Dance Ministry, and The Male Praise Dancers and Shake the Foundation Prison Ministry. Out of the Praise Dance Ministry a flower bloomed and Tawanna Thompson started the Conquerors (Steppers).
Bro. Martin Watson was appointed to spearhead the “J. Oscar Jones Scholarship Committee” June 22, 1986. But in 1995 Sis. Barbara Prentice, Sis. Hattie Smith, Bro. Deighton Waithe, Sis. Norma Waithe, Sis. Margaret Holmes and Bro. Clymesol Dantley were led to organize The Scholarship Ministry and held the first Scholarship pageant at Antun’s. Every year they encourage our youth to excellence through scholarships. A scholarship has been established in memory of Sister Norma Waithe.
Many ministers received the call to the Ministry: Bro Arthur Lee Wright and Bro. Johnny Holmes in 1986. Min. Rosa Cummings, Min. Martin Watson, Min. Peggy Holly, Min. Ava Marie Springer, Min. Morna Lamb-Harrington, Min. Kalima Wilson, Min. James Gilmore and Min. Robin Williams. Ministers who were added to the Ministerial staff included Rev. Dr. Loney, Rev. Joseph Thomas, Min. Viola Brown-Pringle, Min. Stephanie Swain, Rev. Caprice Nesbitt-Turane, Min. Robin Williams, Min. Shante Basset, Min. Julius Allen, Min. Wayne Graham and Min. Leslie Mitchell.
The following Deaconesses were consecrated March 13, 1988; Viola Brown, Louise Ceran, Margaret Holmes, Isabel Kelly, Jeanette Mangum, Hattierea Smith, Gail Watson, and Olivia Young. Martin Watson and Thomas Young were ordained as Deacons on the same date. In 1990, Deacons James Basemore, Clarence Brown, and Henry Robinson were ordained. Roselle Robinson was consecrated as a deaconess. In 1993 Dea. Louise Ceran was appointed Mother of the Church. On March 25, 2001, Veneta Samuels, Ava Marie Springer, Monet Springer, Juanita Teal, Beverly Witherspoon and Brenda Yates were added as Deaconesses. Deacons were also added on that date. Joseph Gilliam, Thomas Hubbard, George Smith, Allan Springer, and Joseph Yates. On November 22, 2009 Rev. Harding ordained three Ministers to Reverends, Inez L. Harding, Ava Marie Springer and Kalima Wilson along with eight Deaconates, Anthony & Renee Bates, Russell & Clara Bethea, Keith & Hazel White, Barbara Prentice and Ollie Towns.
In 1998 our beloved Sis. Maggie Beverly passed on to glory. She loved her church so much that she provided a $30,000 endowment in her will for a church library. The Maggie Beverly Library was dedicated in her memory in October 2003. It houses 10 computers for training and use by our members.
In February 2001 we purchased the property on the corner of 197th St and 119th Avenue and named it The St. Albans Baptist Church Community Outreach Center. However, in 2006 the name was changed to The St. Albans Community Center for Social Economic Empowerment, Inc. to better reflect our mission. It houses the Food Pantry, The exercise program, a game room and many other programs.
Other programs that were started under Rev. Harding’s leadership are; The Youth Retreat, The Men’s Retreat, The Women’s Retreat, The Angel Tree (Prison Ministry), Hoop Heaven (basketball camp), Summer Bible Camp, Men’s Coffee House, Women’s Prayer, Men’s prayer, Daily Prayer, Bible Study, New Members Class, Youth Night. The Seniors Sewing Group was started in 2001. They made knee warmers and quilts, which were donated to various Nursing Homes.
All one need to do is look around them and they can see that the work Rev. Harding has done and is doing speaks for him. And yet he recognizes the fact that “one plants, another waters, but it takes God to give the increase.”