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In 1870, two CME Churches were organized in Hayneville (St. James Chapel) and Lowndesboro (Jackson Chapel), Alabama. The majority of St. James and Jackson Chapel's members migrated to Montgomery County and found no CME church to worship in; thus, a committed group of CME's conferred with the late Rev. T.H. Williams, Pastor of St. James Chapel about establishing a C.M.E. Church in the city of Montgomery. Rev. Williams conferred with Bishop Lucius H. Holsey, Presiding Prelate at the time, and in 1887 Rev. Williams served as the first pastor of Williams Chapel CME Church. The church was first located in a two-room frame building on Herron Street and was named Williams Chapel, in honor of Rev. T.H. Williams. Two years later, the city purchased the church’s property to build an elementary school causing a need for the congregation to move to South Ripley Street and from there they moved to Pelham Street. In the years that followed, Williams Chapel pastoral leadership was
served by Reverends Gamble Fonville, A.W. Grace, A.D. Young, L.W. Moore and in 1901 the church caught fire and was completely destroyed under Rev. Moore’s pastorate. Rev. T.S. Green quickly followed and in 1904 his leadership along with the members of Williams Chapel erected a new building on Jackson Street. As time went on, Williams Chapel's pastoral leadership was served by Reverends J.W. Murry 1907-1911, F.M.J. Shaw 1911-1913, J.M. Jones 1913-1915, C. A. Smiley 1915-1918, J.L. Grayson 1918-1920, R.J. Underwood 1920-1924 and Rev. C.A. Smiley returned again as pastor in 1924-1926.
During Reverend Smiley's second tenure as pastor, many of the members of Williams Chapel were living on the west side of Montgomery and dialogue pursued around an opportunity to organize a Mission on the west side. Bishop Henry Phillips was the Presiding Prelate of Alabama at that time and assigned Rev. J.B. Seals to help organize the mission and in the home of the Mrs. Mollie Y. Lucas, Phillips Temple, named after Bishop Henry Phillips, was birthed at 30 Grady Street. Although our congregation was small in membership, the members later secured a building on Magnolia Street where they worshiped for approximately three years and Bishop Phillips gave the church $12,000.00 to purchase a lot at the corner of Holt and Glass Streets. Rev. J. B. Boyd, Rev. G. S. Judkins and Rev. P.J. Jones followed as pastors of Phillips Temple and at Williams Chapel Rev. D. A. Smiley had been succeeded by C. A. Bailey, and A.J. Hicks.
In 1927, Bishop Robert T. Brown negotiated between Williams Chapel and Phillips Temple to merge as one strong church in Montgomery on the lot of Holt and Glass Streets. Bishop Henry Phillips gave his blessings for the merger and construction of a new edifice overseen by Rev. Judkins and in 1928 First CME Church was born. The Church was named by Mr. Leonard Hall who left Phillips Temple along with Mr. E.G. Jackson, Mr. W.H. Hollingshed, Mr. William Roughly, Mr. J.E. McCall, Mr. Van Golson, Mr. Henry Lane, Mr. George Chandler, Mr. Joe Andrews, Mr. Seborn Jones, Mr. Roy Thomas, Mrs. Sally Taylor, Mrs. Georgia Jackson, Mrs. Annie Lisa Green, Mrs. Hester Davidson, Mrs. Mattie Hill, Ms. Mary Lane, Mrs. Celia Owens, Mrs. Fannie Nesbitt, Mrs. Hessie James, and Mrs. Alma Upchurch.
The following ministers served First CME as pastor: Rev. G. S. Judkins 1928-1929 Rev. J.A. Jefferson 1929-1939, Rev. J.S. Humphries 1930-1933, Rev. E.D. Williams 1933-1935, Rev. E.J. Leach 1935-1937, Rev. C.W. Crawford 19371-1938, Rev. J.A. Hunter 1938-1940, Rev. C.C. Cowsen 1940-1942, Rev. J.A. Brodie 1942-1946, Rev. S.H. Belser 1946-1949, Rev. A. Hawk 1949-1951, Rev. R.O. Burthey 1951-1954, Rev. M.F. Jefferson 1954-1955, Rev.J.W. Bonner 1955-1957, Rev. J.A. Crumpton 1957-1958, Rev. W.R. Johnson 1958-1962, and Rev. Jessie L. Douglas 1962-1966. Under Rev. Douglas' pastorate Montgomery Urban Renewal and Interstate Highway construction began surveys and plans to reorganize the city which resulted in relocating the church. Rev. M.P. Littlejohn served as the next pastor from 1966-1971 and from 1969 to 1971, the congregation worshiped in Loveless Junior High School Auditorium on Jeff Davis Avenue.
Rev. E.H. Hicks served as pastor from 1971-1978 and in October 1971 our current edifice was purchased from the United Methodist Church at 4358 Oak Street. The pastoral leadership continued with Rev. W.C. Flanagan 1978-1979, Rev. C.E. Spears 1979-1982, Rev. J. W. Moffett 1982-1993, Rev. J.A. Jones 1993-1995, Rev. J. T. Edwards 1995-1996, Rev. W.C. Williams 1996-2006, Rev. William C. Larkin 2006-2011, Rev. Lynn Hargrow, Sr. 2011-2012, Rev. Nicholas T. O'Neal 2012-2014, and Rev. Keenan K. Winters, 2014 to present.
We owe God our utmost love and affection for allowing First CME Church to be what is is from her humblest beginning and we are ever so grateful for the work of the pastors and members from 1870 until now. However, we would be remissed if we did not recognize those Presiding Elders and Bishops who helped in the success of First CME. Presiding Elders: Rev. H.W. Madison, Rev. C. Montgomery, Rev. A.L. Jackson, Rev. J.E. Coley, Rev. S.J. Elliot, Rev. J.D. Dowdell, Rev. R.W. Rowe, Rev. J.A. Jefferson, Rev. R.W. Underwood Windhim, Rev. G.W. Ford, Rev. V.L. Bailey, Rev. C.J. Coleman, Rev. J. A. Brodie, Rev. M.C. Jackson, Rev. L.H. Smith, Rev. G.M. Frazier, Rev. R.L. Harrington, Rev. Matthew Trim, Rev. Leo Douglass and currently Rev. Richard E. Hassell. Presiding Prelates Bishop L. H. Holsey, Bishop N.H. Holsey, Bishop, Bishop N.C. Cleaves, Bishop R.S. Williams, Bishop Elias Cottrell, Bishop C.H. Phillips, Bishop G.W. Stewart, Bishop R.T. Brown, Bishop J.W. McKinney, Bishop H.P. Porter, Bishop R.L. Young, Bishop B.W. Doyle, Bishop E.P. Murchison, Bishop C.A. Kirkendoll, Bishop Dotcy I. Isom, Bishop Richard O. Bass, Sr., Bishop Paul A. Stewart 1998-2002, Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick, III 2002-2010, Bishop W. E. Lockett 2010-2011 and Bishop Teresa E. Snorton 2011-present. We are blessed as a church to have Bishop Teresa Snorton, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church's First Female Bishop and the First Episcopal District in America as Presiding Prelate.
Rev. Keenan K. Winters is a native of Chicago, IL. He graduated from Elementary school in Birmingham, AL at Ephesus Jr. Academy and graduated high school from Chicago S.D.A. Academy. Keenan was licensed as a local preacher in the C.M.E. Church in December 2008, admitted on trial in July 2009 in the 3rd Episcopal District by Bishop Paul A.G. Stewart Sr., ordained a traveling deacon in July of 2010, traveling
elder in 2012 and admitted into full connection in 2013. Rev. Winters worked as the Lay Activities Director and served in the role of an assistant and temporary supply at the Greater St. Paul CME Church in Bessemer, AL. He was a regular bible study teacher, Youth and Young Adult Vacation Bible School Instructor, as well as Youth & Young Adult Day Speaker at numerous churches during his collegiate years in the 5th Episcopal District.
He is a graduate of Miles College (Fairfield, AL) with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science, and attended Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, MO. Rev. Winters served as
pastor of Bowers Memorial CME Church which he coined “The Rock on Park.” On July 4th 2012 in Orlando, Fl. Rev. Winters was elected President of the Connectional Young Adult Ministry of the C.M.E. Church. In 2014 he became pastor of First CME Church in Montgomery, AL. He has been recognized as a Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholar by the Chicago-Kent School of Law and was the first recipient of the New York Life/ Push Excel Scholarship. Pastor Winters is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. He is married to Natalya B. Winters and together they have an energetic 2 year old, Gray Elle. Above all other accolades and commendations, Rev. Winters is a humble servant of the living God.
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