Sewickley's Oldest African-American Church to Mark 155 Years
St. Matthews AME Zion Church will have its anniversary celebration Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29.
"It's a rich history," said Hickey, who began as pastor nearly two years ago in July 2010.
The community is invited to mark the anniversary, “155 Years of Working In God’s Vineyard." The two-day celebration begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 28 with a historical reception at the Sewickley United Methodist Church at Thorn and Broad streets.
The celebration will conclude Sunday, April 29 with an 11 a.m. service at St. Matthews A.M.E. Zion Church with pastor and presiding Elder, the Rev. Robert S. Hickey, Sr. delivering the morning message.
A closing service will follow at 3 p.m. Sunday. Presiding Elder, the Rev. Glenn Grayson from Wesley Center A.M.E. Zion Church in Pittsburgh, along with his choir and congregation will be in attendance.
In celebrating the history, the church will also recognize its oldest member Mother Dorothy Butler, who is 101 years old.
"We thank God for His faithfulness and his favor and we thank your partnering with us in this great celebration of God," the church anniversary committee said in a letter to the community.
Pastor Hickey said it's been only "by the hand of God" that St. Matthews has survived throughout the years.
The church was established in April 1857 by the Rev. Daniel B. Matthew. Matthew, when the clergyman from the Philadelphia conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, established a mission in Sewickley with six members.
Hickey noted that this was about the same time as the Dred Scott decision, when the Supreme Court's majority determined that because Scott, a slave, could never become a citizen and therefore had no right to sue for his freedom. This was also two years before the largest slave auction in American history in March 1859 in Savannah, GA, Hickey added.
"It's just so clearly obvious, for any entity to last so long [is God's doing]," he said, "particularly when you know what the climate was like for African-Americans."
Hickey said God is still leading the church.
"That's what encourages us and gives us hope. He's not a God who's distant and uninvolved," he said.
Today, members are involved in ministries, fellowship and outreach programs in the community, in addition to programs aimed at youth. The pastor's "First Tee" program, for example, teaches children how to play golf while acclimating them to the golf club scene. Hickey said the program at Diamond Run Golf Club kicks off a new season on May 1.
For more information on the anniversary celebration, call St. Matthews A.M.E. Zion Church and leave a message or contact Sis. Rita Hickey at 412-726-2381.
A Brief Overview of the Church History
In April 1857, The Rev. Daniel B. Matthew, a clergyman from the Philadelphia conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, established a mission in Sewickley with six members in Sewickley.
Initially services were held in a log cabin on Centennial Avenue near Broad Street in Sewickley. Later, services were conducted in another log building on Walnut Street. In 1868, through the kindness of local citizens and through fund raising efforts of mission members, a plot of land at the corner of Walnut and Thorn Streets was bought for the purpose of a church. The church erected on this site was a small frame structure. In the 1880’s a frame house owned by the Christy family was donated to the church, and was moved from Walnut Street near Frederick Avenue to its present location at 345 Thorn St., and this house is presently rented out to a family.
In 1903 the church acquired a title by St. Matthews African Methodist Episcopal Church after a petition was signed by John P. Ward, David S. Curtis, William Mossett, T.E. Hines, and John Howard. The church was named in honor of the founder, Rev. Daniel B. Matthews.
The frame church was moved to a location facing Walnut Street and for the erection of the present brick church building and on Oct. 8, 1911, the cornerstone of the building was laid by St. John’s Lodge No. 50 Free and Accepted Masons.
The new church was dedicated on Sunday, March 3, 1912. St. Matthew's church is a charter member of the Ohio Conference of the A.M.E. Zion Church which was organized in September 1891 by Bishop J.W. Hood.
Members and pastors of this church have consistently been active in local religious and civic groups. Many men and women, who were once members of St. Matthews A.M.E. Zion Church Sunday School and Church, though they presently live far from the scene of their childhood, are nevertheless engaged in religious, educational, and business careers that better their communities which they now call home.
Many pastors have come and served diligently down through the years dedicated and committed with their time and talents to the improving and maintaining of this beautiful church and leading this congregation to always be a viable part of the Sewickley Community. Present pastor, the Rev. Robert S. Hickey Sr. came to lead this church fellowship in July of 2010 and as with past Pastors he has begun a good work meeting the needs of all those who come seeking the Lord.
Source: St. Matthews A.M.E Zion Church
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