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The oldest historically Black church on the West Coast was founded during the Gold Rush

(NEXSTAR) Some traditions haven’t changed much in the 173-year history of the St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sacramento, like the singing that moves the soul.

With a new pastor, leadership at St. Andrews A.M.E. Church hopes to use the institution’s long history to build a better future for the Sacramento community it serves. 

Pastor Dr. Rev. Jason Thompson is probably the newest addition to the church, which dates back to the Gold Rush era.

“The one thing I hope we never lose is the spirit that started this church”, said Thompson. “It’s surreal that someone has selected you to be the leader.” 

As the new leader of St. Andrews, Pastor Jason hopes to build on its impressive foundation. 

“This isn’t just a place to learn about God, this is a place to say now that we have learned about God, how do we go out and make that difference,” says Thompson. 

A walk down the halls with the historical committee of St. Andrews tells of an incredible story.

St. Andrews was formed in 1850, originally just a place for Black settlers, gold miners and pioneers to meet in peace.

It quickly became so much more. It was a place for some of the first organized political activity by Black people in California, focusing on civil rights and voting rights, and even hosted major events like the California Colored Citizens’ State Convention.

The church’s original site in downtown Sacramento was at 715 7th St., where a historical plaque is placed.

When it was first founded, it was known as the Methodist Church of Colored People of Sacramento City before being admitted into the A.M.E. Church one year after its founding.

It was first known as Bethel, but later changed its name to St. Andrews.

It is currently located at 2131 8th St., a block to the east and just over a mile south of the original site.

Dr. Patricia Jones Penn is on the St. Andrews Historical Committee and says, “When I come here there is a connection to denomination between the people.” 

For those who grew up at St. Andrews, like Kimberly Washington, it is not just a church, it’s home.

“And that for St.  Andrews has been the same thing today as it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 40 years ago and beyond, when my grandmother first walked through those doors,” Washington said.    

But time has a way of changing things and it’s noticed here at St. Andrews. More and more people are coming back to the faith.

“I do feel as though there are people who come to worship every week, who feel very much alienated, they feel beaten down by the systems. And they come to find a space where they belong and they are free. I think the message that we give is that we have to be kind,” Thompson said. 

While their past is historic, it’s the future of St. Andrews that deserves attention.

St. Andrews has services every Sunday at 11 am at the church on 8th street between U and V streets in Sacramento.

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