It was in the early months after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, notably 1867, a group of black people met in East Raleigh in the home of one Major Lane, on Davie Street in mid-week to thank God for deliverance and to seek His guidance as they ventured into this new freedom.
The meeting took place in the kitchen of the home. It was only a prayer band. Somehow the African Methodist Episcopal Church had made itself felt in this community after the founding of St. Paul, so this group wanted to be a part of the same organization. Later the preacher who had served as a local preacher at St. Paul, so this group wanted to be a part of the same organization. Later the preacher who had served as a local preacher at St. Paul, and for that reason, the church was called "Little Methodist" Church.
Some of its earliest ministers included Reverends H.C. Nunn, Vander Worth and K.C. Holt. It was under the leadership of Reverend Holt in 1875 that the first choir was organized, and the first organ purchased.
The original building was an old building, which had stood on New Bern near Seawell Avenue. It was a hospital and had to be moved to the new location. The church understood the task of purchasing and reconditioning this building. Perry Hinton and his son Charles Perry were the carpenters assigned to the job. This church stood until 1910. The original church was a small frame building with an "A" roof and a steeple. In the years 1910 and 1911, the Reverend A.D. Avery came and completed a new church and held its first Annual Conference and cornerstone laying in 1912. Bishop L. J. Coppin was the Presiding Bishop.
In 1929, the building was torn down under the administration of Reverend R.E. Ligion and in 1930, we entered the basement unit of a new building. In 1948, Reverend L. M. Thompson's administration also witnessed the purchase of the parsonage on East Cabarrus Street. Some other ministers who have served included the Reverends Grey, Fairly, Upshaw, Williams, Troublefield and Epps.
The Reverend David L. Morrison led the church to a major remodeling project, lowering the ceiling in the sanctuary, adding carpeting, air-conditioning, and purchasing new pews and pulpit furniture.
Following Reverend Morrison, Reverend Ralph L. Stephens served as pastor from 1975-1992. During this time the church realized a new vision for its ministry in Raleigh. In 1980, four acres of land was purchased on Bennett Street, from Mrs. Rebecca Weatherford. The building project was stepped up under the leadership of the President Pro Tem of the Stewart Board, James C. Stewart, who organized many fund-raising activities, including chain letter solicitation, and banquets under the umbrella of "Project Build".
When the word went out into the community that St. Matthew was building a new church, the Lord sent Rev. Frank Summerfield, was was beginning his Word of God Fellowship in Raleigh, to buy the building on Davie Street. The last service on Davie Street for St. Matthew was held in October 1986. the church arranged through Mrs. Norma Haywood, principal of the Emma Conn Elementary School, to hold services in the school until the new facility could be built.
In April 1987, the Ground-breaking Service was held on Bennett Street. Bishop John Hurst Adams, the Presiding Bishop, described it as a "clear and worthy vision" that St. Matthew should build a new edifice to the glory of God. Mr. George Parker and Mr. James Stewart were the first to break the new ground. There weres a faithful few members who kept the faith while worshipping in the school They continued to tithe consistently and gave generously to the building fund--- demonstrating to the Mechanics & Farmers Bank that a mortgage could be serviced.
St. Matthew opened the doors of the new home in November 1990. The Fellowship Hall was dedicated to the memory of James C. Stewart, who had passed on before seeing the completion of the new facility. The kitchen was dedicated to Essie Dunmore, one who had worked long years in the church, and had given tireless support for the building fund, even as she grew in years. On Sunday, November 18, 1990, the formal dedication and unveiling of the cornerstone was held. The symbolic keys to the building were given to the Rt. Reverend H. Hartford Brookins, Presiding Bishop. Reverend Marion B. Robinson, who two years later, was appointed to serve as Pastor, presided at the dedication.
The church continued to realize the vision under the leadership of its present Pastor, Reverend Marion B. Robinson. New organizations have become an active part of the Ministry of St. Matthew, including the George Parker Men's Club, Women Empowered to Pray Together (W.E.P.T.), an Outreach Ministry, Couples & Singles Ministries, Teen Ministry, Saturday Enrichment Academy, After School Program, the Golden Circle, and the Bereavement Support Group.
The new church steeple was dedicated on January 23, 2003 by Bishop Vinton R. Anderson, Presiding Prelate of the Second Episcopal District.
Under the leadership of Reverend Marion B. Robinson, in the year of 2006, the vision continued to grow. We installed a state-of-the-art sound system and made renovations to the kitchen. Also, many other ministries as well as school programs were added. In the year 2007, with strong leadership, hard work, and through the grace of God, we were blessed to be able to retire the mortgage on the edifice at 1629 Bennett Street, ELEVEN years early.
On Sunday, November 11, 2007, the mortgage was burned during the celebration of the 140th Church Anniversary. Befittingly, Bishop John Hurst Adams, who presided over the Ground-breaking Service, officiated.
To God be the Glory!!
Reprinted from the 140th Church Anniversary & Mortgate Burning Sovenir Journal.