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Going Public: St. James A.M.E. Church In Cape Girardeau Celebrates 160 Years in Sept. 2023

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St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau
Skye Marthaler
St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau

On this week's 'Going Public', we spoke with Leslie Washington, discussing the upcoming 160th Anniversary of St. James A.M.E. Church of Cape Girardeau. She serves as Women's Missionary Society Vice President, among many other roles at the historic church in Cape Girardeau. She is also a volunteer with other organizations throughout the community.

On Sunday, September 10th, 2023, St. James A.M.E. Church will celebrate this monumental anniversary as a part of the community in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The current Pastor of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau, Minister Geneva Allen-Patterson, will welcome guests at the event, beginning at 3 p.m. The guest speaker will include Pastor Ben Porter of Gateway Church in Cape Girardeau. Mayor Stacy Kinder is also expected to present a proclamation honoring the historic celebration.

During our interview, Washington also discussed the more recent history of the church, which includes 'The People's Shelter', serving the unhoused population of the area, which began on January 10, 2017. Later however in 2020, due to COVID restrictions, they were not able to use their space as a warming center, but were still able to provide hotel rooms for those needing shelter.

Currently, the 'People's Shelter' continues its ministry to the region through the 'Community Lunchbox', operated by The Women's Missionary Society and other community partners, who make lunch bags with donated non-perishable food items for those in need.

On Wednesday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., guests can come take showers and receive toiletries and/or gently used clothing if needed, weather permitting. Hotel stays are also made available for those seeking shelter during inclement cold weather as funds allow, according to their website.

According to the church's history, in 1863, the St. James Society, or Station, was organized by Rev. Winston, Rev. Burks, Prog. Samuel Newton, and Jesse Stanton.

In the early years, the Society met in the building across the street from its current location on North St. in Cape Girardeau. For the next three years, Rev. Kirkman, Rev. James Madison, and Rev. George Gains served this Station.

Then, in 1867, St. James Society became St. James A.M.E.—or African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1875, under the leadership of Rev. Spotswood Rice, the current facility was built.

St. James now stands as the oldest African-American church in the city of Cape Girardeau and 'has served the community in numerous ways under God-sent leadership'.

In 2014, St. James A.M.E. in Cape Girardeau was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.

John is a proud 2006 Alum of Southeast Missouri State University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication – Radio option, with a minor in Management. He has been a life-long listener of KRCU Public Radio, but began his radio career as a student DJ on Rage 103.7 KDMC-LP in 2003.
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