Faith & Family: Coconut Grove's 116-year-old church

Greater Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrates 116th anniversary

Published On: May 19 2012 11:57:05 PM EDT   Updated On: Jan 04 2013 02:37:35 PM EST
MIAMI -

It's one of the oldest churches in South Florida and a staple in the Coconut Grove community.

And Greater Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church on Thomas Avenue just celebrated its 116th anniversary.

The church was originally built for about 300 people; it now serves more than 3,000.

Elyce Jennings has been a member for more than 85 years.

She said the church has been in three different buildings. The most recent one was built more than a decade ago.

"The church has always been the center of everything in the community," said Jennings. "One like this, we did not have the shopping malls, movie house, things like that we had to distract us."

The church serves as a second home to many, giving them a place to build relationships.

"We all one. Everyone looked out for everybody," said Jennings.

Jimmie Imgraham has also been a member since birth. He remembers the long Sunday services.

"We had three different services. After each service, they would feed you cake and homemade ice cream. It was a fun thing," he said.

Elyce said she'll be there serving as long as she can.

"I just love my church and I do whatever I can do or not. I will be there if it is the will of the maker," she said.

The church focuses on its outreach program that provides clothes and food for the homeless in the community.