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St. James A.M.E. Zion, built in 1833, is believed to be the oldest church structure in Ithaca and one of the first of the A.M.E. Zion churches in the country.

An Underground Railroad station, St. James is located in a community that was an important transfer point for fugitive slaves en route to Canada. Many of these slaves, impressed by the support of the local community, decided to stay in Ithaca and constructed homes in the area surrounding St. James. The congregation officially expressed its anti-slavery sentiments through the writings and preaching of its pastors, including Thomas James who was known to have provided assistance to fugitive slaves. Famous leaders in the Underground Railroad are associated with St. James. Harriet Tubman, who played an active role in A.M.E. Zion church affairs in Central and Western New York, often visited St. James. Frederick Douglass is documented as visiting the church in 1852, and Jermain Loguen, an active participant in the Underground Railroad, served as St. James’ third minister.

Between the years 1765 and 1796 the number of Black members increased greatly. However, caste prejudice forbade their taking the Sacrament until the white families were all served. This, as well as the desire for other church privileges denied them induced Black members to organize among themselves. Among the leaders of the movement was James Varick, the first Bishop and who has been attributed as the founding father of the Zion Church.

The first A.M.E. church organized in 1796 and built in 1800 was called Zion. The founders chose this name because it was the name most frequently used in the Bible to designate the church of God. This is also seen in the naming of Zion Hill before there was a worship house.

Zion church was incorporated in 1801 under the name “The African Methodist Episcopal Church in New York.” Methodist Episcopal was always in the title to exhibit the retention of the doctrine and form of church government under which the denomination originated. “African” was prefixed to the rest of the title of this church because it was to be controlled by descendants of Africa, in the interest of humanity, regardless of race, color, sex, or condition. Therefore, these people of African descent, with an indubitable pride in the Fatherland and abiding love of kinship, desired to maintain their identity, their ancient cultures and background for posterity. Because another organization came into existence around the same time, with the same title, and so much confusion was brought about, the General Conference of 1848 voted to make “Zion” a part of the denominational name, henceforth, to be known as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church.

From the very outset the Zion Church has been at the forefront in the battle for full citizenship and freedom in this country. The A.M.E. Zion Church encompasses all of the United States, Canada, Caribbean Islands, England, Africa, India and South America, and it is under the supervision of twelve (12) elected Bishops. The Western New York Conference, of which we are a part, is a part of the North Eastern Episcopal Area. This Episcopal Area includes New York, Western New York, New England and The Bahamas Conferences.
The Reverend

Terrance A. King

Pastor of St. James A.M.E. Zion Church
Rev. Terrance A. King was born in the South Bronx and raised in Mount Vernon, NY. He is the oldest of three brothers and over fifteen grandchildren. In 2003 he graduated from Mount Vernon High and embarked upon his collegiate career at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY. While at Le Moyne he had a son named Jaylen King. In 2005 Rev. King gained salvation and became a member of People’s A.M.E. Zion Church, where he took part in the music and armor bearer ministries. It was in 2008 that he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a Criminal Justice minor, becoming the first person in his family to graduate college. In the summer of 2013 Rev. King relocated to the Bronx, to further his employment opportunities and later pursue and receive a Master’s Degree in education with dual certification in general and special education at Metropolitan College of New York.

While in the Bronx he continued his service and participation in Church at Caldwell A.M.E. Zion Church. It was at this juncture in his life where he decided to respond to the call of preaching and did his trial sermon on March 13, 2013 under the leadership of the church’s former pastor, the Rev. Dr. Monte Witherspoon Brown. A man of many hats, Rev. King held a few positions and participated in a lot of church activities. He was the C.E.D director, member of the choir, praise and worship team and Children’s choir Director.

In August of 2017 Rev. King returned to Syracuse to take care of his first ministry, obligation and responsibility, his son, Jaylen. Currently he has ended his sixth year teaching general/special education at the middle school level. In his spare time Rev. King is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity incorporated, through which he is the Vice-President of his grad chapter and the Chapter Advisor to undergraduate Alphas on the campuses of Syracuse University and S.U.N.Y. Oswego.

In August of 2020 he began PhD studies in special education through a full ride scholarship at Syracuse University.

Rev. King has dedicated himself to being used by God, setting examples for others to follow, and being self-less while mentoring many young boys he comes in contact with, primarily, students. As a result of his passion for youth and assisting them with tools to be successful both academically and personally, he adopted a former student turned mentee, Justin Scott, and considers him a Son beloved.

It was in July of 2020 where he was appointed his first pastorate under the appointment of Bishop Dennis V. Proctor to serve the city of Ithaca, NY and the congregation of the Historic St. James A.M.E. Zion Church.

Rev. King strives daily to make sure that his work in academia, among friends, family and the church will create a sound legacy and be pleasing in God’s eye.
Rev. King has dedicated himself to being used by God, setting examples for others to follow, and being self-less while mentoring many young boys he comes in contact with, primarily, students. As a result of his passion for youth and assisting them with tools to be successful both academically and personally, he adopted a former student turned mentee, Justin Scott, and considers him a Son beloved.
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Non-profit / Charitable Organization

Historically St. James has represented and continues to represent the place where community members sought/seek universal and spiritual help. The church continuously looks for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations. We welcome all sources considering donating and pouring into the church, but most significantly, the Ithaca community! As a 501(c)(3) organization we can appeal to and receive resources to ensure that we remain viable and sustainable for the next 190 years to come.

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St. James’s A.M.E. Zion Church’s Capital Restoration Campaign

St. James is in urgent need of immediate repairs and significant restoration work that adheres to historic preservation standards. To preserve this landmark symbol in the history of Black struggle and in the Finger Lakes’ rich map toward freedom and abolition, we need your help!

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