Our Church History
In 1886, Seaborn J. Collins organized a small Sunday school band of people who had found their way to Seattle. The study and worship gatherings were held in various homes, around the city, most of whom were at least familiar with the African Methodist Episcopal persuasion. In 1890, Mr. Collins, along with laity members I.I. Walker, John T. Gayton, Mr. and Mrs. Milton Roy, Fred Lawrence and C.H. Harvey, transformed the Sunday school band into an official church organization recognized by the national African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). The congregation purchased an old house located at 1522 Jones Street on September 2, 1890 for $2,000 and it served as both parsonage and primary place of worship for parishioners. First AME Church, Seattle was originally called Jones Street Church, taking its name from the street that is now 14th Avenue.
The first minister assigned to the local congregation was Reverend L.S. Blakeney and the church was incorporated on August 13, 1891. Signatures on the original corporate charter are those of Pastor Blakeney, Secretary Milton Roy, Treasurer George H. Arose and laypersons S.J. Collins, Alfred P. Freeman, R.R. Brown and J.C. Blocker.
The congregation continued to grow through the turn of the century. The original sanctuary was eventually replaced by the present edifice in 1912, and a separate parsonage was provided for succeeding pastors. In 1923, with an eye toward expansion, two lots located north of the original site were purchased.
World War II spurred enormous growth in the Puget Sound’s African-American population, primarily stimulated by the influx of military personnel as well as the abundance of civilian employment opportunities for workers at the Bremerton Shipyards and the Boeing Airplane Company. Many were enamored with life in the Pacific Northwest and decided to stay and put down roots. This migration increased the size of regular worshippers and by August 1955, at least $100,000 worth of major additions had been made to the building to accommodate the ever growing congregation. Included was enlargement of the sanctuary, a new wing for religious education, a kitchen, nursery and choir facilities. In 1959, property to the east and south of the building was purchased to make room for parking.
During the 1960s, First AME Church was looked upon as a beacon of leadership in the community and served as a guidepost for the African-American agenda in the midst of the social upheaval and racial unrest at that time in American history. Reverend Dr. John H. Adams was the pastor of FAME during much of this period and became known throughout greater Seattle community as a brilliant, progressive leader. He was an influential element in decisions that effected the entire city and its future course. He was co-founder of the Central Area Motivation Program (C.A.M.P.) and the Central Area Citizens Committee in 1964 and served as vice chairman of Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center (S.O.I.C.).
The early 1970s brought much economic growth to FAME and an expansion of its ministry into the provision of affordable housing. Guided by Reverend Solomon Hill (1969-1971) and Reverend Cecil Murray (1971-1977), the Imperial Apartments; a 15 unit complex located at 1427 E. Pike and the Texada Apartments; a 25 unit complex located at 1128 13th Avenue. FAME also embarked upon a joint venture with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build Bryant Manor; a 58 unit apartment complex located at 18th Avenue and E. Yesler Way.
In 1977, Reverend Dr. Fred Stephens was assigned to First Church. Dr. Stephens believed that our church reflected our love of God, so many improvements were made to the building and grounds. Reverend Stephens organized the Men's Brotherhood, Chancel Choir, Commission on Social Concerns and voter registration. He was also instrumental in creating the Prison Ministry Program; a program that has been an inspiration to all participants.
Reverend Dr. James H. Oxley's appointment as pastor of First Church in 1983 heralded a new program toward modernization and renewed community involvement. Under Reverend Oxley's leadership, the church completed $151,000.00 renovation of the sanctuary, the completion of a brand new fellowship hall and a much-needed educational wing along with the establishment of an educational enhancement program, made available to any and all middle school age students who desire help in their schoolwork.
Ellis H. Casson was appointed pastor of FAME in 1993. Reverend Casson led the successful effort to pay off the mortgage undertaken by the church body to do the renovations spearheaded by Rev. Oxley. He served as pastor until 1998 when he accepted the appointment to be Presiding Elder of the Pacific Northwest Conference. Elder Casson retired from active ministry in 2001 but is still very much an active and beloved member/minister/mentor/adviser of FAME Church.
On Easter Sunday 2003, under the leadership of Rev. John Hunter, First AME Church established a satellite worship body in Kent, Washington thereby continuing FAME’s testimony of community expansion and outreach. Our current pastor, Reverend Carey G. Anderson was assigned to First AME Church in 2004 and is continuing the expansion efforts of FAME launched by Rev. Hunter. Reverend Anderson embarked upon a major fundraising effort in 2008 to secure a permanent home for FAME South and simultaneously launched 21st century upgrade to the original First A.M.E. church site in Seattle. He also spearheaded the creation of a non-profit organization in 2010 that submitted the winning proposal to secure the acquisition of the Martin Luther King Elementary School from Seattle School District. The FAME MLK Community Center was opened to the public in 2011.
In summary, First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Seattle has a rich and deep history; steeped in tradition, focused on the future and rooted in Christianity as well as the A.M.E. doctrine of self-help, self-esteem and spiritual integrity. From a Sunday School band of 17 original parishioners, First AME’s membership rolls have grown to nearly 2,000.