About Our Church

St Charles A.M.E. Zion Church

The Community Church

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The origins of the St. Charles A.M.E. Zion Church of Sparkill, New York can be traced to the “Swamp Church” which existed in the County of Bergen, New Jersey in a section known as Harrington Township.  The church at Skunk Hollow was on a site that would today be found on the present Route 340, in the Town of Orangetown, in Rockland County, New York, a few miles southwest of the site of the current church.  The swamp church site had been acquired in the early 1850’s.  Records show that after the church was built, Reverend William Thompson deeded the land to the “trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Coulored people of the Township of Harrington” in 1856.  Reportedly named St. Marks Church, the swamp church was pastored by the Reverend Thompson, popularly known as “Rev. Billy”.  He was ordained at the Central Presbyterian Church in Haverstraw, New York.  He was said to have been the most prosperous member of the Skunk Hollow area, also known as “The Mountain “ Community, where the members of the early congregation lived.  Tradition has it that Rev. Thompson fell in love with a young slave girl, bought her and married her.  This girl was named Elizabeth Thompson who became affectionately known as “Aunt Beccie or Betsy”.  She lived to be 102 years old, dying in 1907.  Rev. Billie was the pastor of the swamp church until his death in August, 1886.

In 1889 a search was undertaken to locate the appropriate site in sparkill on which to relocate the church.  Probably this came about due to the decline in the population of the community known as Skunk Hollow.  Five trustees, William Brown, Jr., Charles Gaskin, George H. Williamson, Thomas Stewart and Robert James were selected by the congregation to undertake this responsibility.  Though the site on which the ST. CHARLES A.M.E. ZION CHURCH now stands was at the time thought by some to be unsuited for the purpose because of the growth of underbrush, it was acquired, cleared, and construction began.  The rocks of the rough stone foundation are said to have been hauled by Robert Lawson, the grandfather of one of the church’s current members, Bro. Benjamin Lawson.  Funds ran out before construction was completed and work on the edifice ceased.

Legend has that a Mrs. Charles Kinsley Taylor, who passed the location regularly on her way to the railroad station, noticed that work on the church had stopped and inquired why.  When informed that financial problems had caused the halt to the construction, the story goes, Mrs. Taylor is said to have offered to provide the necessary funds if a parsonage would first be constructed and she be allowed to live in it and watch the building of the church.  Reportedly the church was then named St. Charles A.M.E. Zion Church in memory of the late husband of Mrs. Taylor.

A written agreement between Clarence G. Tilt, a builder, and George H. Williamson and William Brown, trustees of the church, affirm that Tilt agreed to supervise the work of construction of the church for the consideration of $350.00 to be paid at the start of work and $389.00 on completion.  Trustee Brown, popularly known as “Poppy Brown” is known to have been a skilled mason and  was no doubt the person who did the substantial masonry which went into the edifice.

On the 11th day of January, 1910, a meeting was held between the members of the Methodist-Episcopal Church of Colored People, in the vicinity of Upper Piermont, New York and the Members of St. Charles A.M.E. Zion Church of Sparkill, New York, both unincorporated churches and religious organizations, to consolidate and become incorporated as a religious corporation, under and by virtue of the laws of the State of New York.  The trustees who executed said certificate were John T. Matthews, Robert Lawson and William Brown, Jr.

Substantial building repairs and improvements were undertaken in 1957 during the pastorate of Rev. S. N. Dunbar, who served this church faithfully for 29 years (1940 - 1969).  These included installation of new wiring, new heating system, stained glass windows, new pews, purchase of an organ, restoration of the floor supports in the main auditorium and installation of new flooring.

Rev. Louis E. Sanders was appointed to the St. Charles A.M.E. Zion Church in 1981 by Bishop William Milton Smith.  Under the pastorate of Rev. Sanders, the membership has increased significantly.  A new parsonage was purchased and the mortgage for the same was burned with great glory on May 3, 1998.  Historical Moments - Church Mortgage Burning Celebration was held on May 27, 2001.  The liquidation of this mortgage was made possible through our benefactors, members of St. Charles A.M.E. Zion Church, Bro. Laurence H. and Sis. Rose Holland.

In 1994 the original parsonage was destroyed by fire and in 1999, hurricane Floyd caused the Sparkill Creek to overflow its banks, flooding the sanctuary of the church.  There was extensive damage but the people of God never lost their faith or their hope that all would be well.  Through prayer and heartfelt donations from friends all over the county, the church was restored to even greater glory than before.

 Upon the official retirement of Rev. Sanders on June 23, 2017, St. Charles was blessed once again. On Sunday June 25, 2017, the Right Reverend Dennis V. Proctor, Bishop (Presiding Prelate) of the Northeastern Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Zion Church, appointed the Reverend Brandon D. McLauchlin's the new Pastor of the church.

Reverend McLauchlin and his lovely wife Nicole Butler McLauchlin were welcomed to the church with much anticipation and love.  Under their leadership the congregation has experienced growth in old and new ministries, the blessing of completing major renovations to the parsonage, and necessary repairs to the church sanctuary and fellowship hall. In addition church attendance has also seen an increase.

          Pastor McLauchlin’s theme for this his first year of leading this flock is "Great Things”.  As he builds upon the foundation which was laid by the previous pastors of this wonderful church, he trusts and believes that God will continue to do “Great Things” here at St. Charles.

Through the fire and the flood, still faithful and fruitful with God, yesterday, today and tomorrow.