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Monday August 8th

St. Paul AME Church celebrates 150 years with new project

Christine Jones smiles prior to Sunday's Duhart-Clark Annual Women's Missionary Society Day. St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church turns 150 this year and in celebration they will be hosting these kinds of special services several times a month.
Buy Photos Christine Jones smiles prior to Sunday's Duhart-Clark Annual Women's Missionary Society Day. St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church turns 150 this year and in celebration they will be hosting these kinds of special services several times a month.

St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church has come a long way in 150 years.

In the beginning, the church consisted of 10 African-American families worshipping together under a grapevine at the corner of Franklin Street and Merritt Mill Road.

This year, the church will break ground on 48,000 square foot housing development and a surrounding village.

The Rev. Thomas O. Nixon of St. Paul said the town of Chapel Hill pitched the idea to the church and has been reviewing the development through its extensive approval process ever since.

“This project is not about St. Paul,” he said. “It is meant to bring the masses together for a common cause.”

St. Paul has been providing money for the consultants, architects and any tests and studies that have been a part of getting the village approved.

“There are a couple more hurdles to cross before the project is fully approved,” he said. “Then we will be looking for help through grants and partnerships.”

Three phases of development

The construction of St. Paul Village will take about 10 years once it is fully approved.

The village will be built in three phases. The first phase will provide a 600-seat Fellowship Hall, an administration building, a day care center, a gymnasium, a sales office, memorial gardens and 36 independent living apartments.

Phase two will provide a wellness center, sanctuary and a youth and senior center. The final stage will top off the village with an assisted living housing development and a health center.

The village will allow the church to relocate, expand its congregation and extend ministry to the community.

The goal of the three phases is to balance spiritual and physical health and bring youth and senior citizens together, while preserving the social, economic and cultural stability of the neighborhood.

St. Paul Village will not only bring housing and accommodations, but also jobs for people in the area that members of the church have been serving for years.

“We are very proud of the way we have moved our faith and actions beyond the confines of our building to the community,” Nixon said. “We have done a lot so far, but there is more to be done.”

The church will also help build a museum at the corner of Rogers and Purefoy Roads that will commemorate the historically black neighborhood that housed the county landfill for more than 40 years.

Bringing people together

Stephanie Perry, a member of the church’s communications committee, has been attending St. Paul for about a year.

“There is a great family atmosphere here,” she said. “It really brings people together.”

Bringing people together has been Nixon’s inspiration since he was appointed by the bishop to be pastor of St. Paul in 2004.

The church will be having community events to commemorate its 150th anniversary all year long.

In March, the church will host its second annual 5K, which will help fund St. Paul Village . U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina will visit in April, and May will feature a gospel concert headlined by Luther Barnes.

Though the groundbreaking ceremony for St. Paul village is slated for this October, it could be 12 months before construction begins.

“There’s still a lot of work to do before we start seeing bulldozers,” Nixon said. “It’s going to be a long journey, but it is going to provide so much for the area.”

city@dailytarheel.com

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