God gave The Rev. James A. McMillon, the founder and first Pastor a vision to start a church in South Norwalk, CT. Subsequently, St. James Missioninary Baptist Chuch was established on July 12, 1957. Rev. and Mrs. McMillon were members of the Grace Baptist Church in South Norwalk; where the Rev. John P. Ball was Pastor. They sought his approval and he gave his blessing for the new mission to grow and prosper. He delivered the afternoon dedication sermon on that first Sunday and was accompanied by the entire Grace Baptist Church family. When the invitation to discipleship was extended, Eugene Derry, Sr., Joseph Lyons and William Shiggs joined and later became the first members of the Trustee Board. Several members of the community, including Ms. Mary A. Brown, who later became a member, spent many weeks getting the facility together; it had previously been the storage basement in an old factory.
Reverend McMillon was a man of vision, vocation, and a strong soldier in the army of the Lord. He utilized all of his contacts to help nurture the mission. Mrs. Gloria Sead, a close family friend, volunteered to provide music for the children of the church on Christmas, Easter and Children’s Day. She later became a member of the church and she served for many years as the organist of the Senior Choir.
The Senior Choir was founded in September of 1958. Mr. Willie Louis Prince was the first organist. The Gospel Chorus was founded on Sunday, November 11, 1961, and Sister Naomi Steeley was the organist and Director. She later played for the first Junior Choir, directed by Barbara (Derry) Sherwood.
Sister Arminta Darling became the first Mother of the Church and the first President of the Pastor’s Aide Society. She was succeeded by Mother Reather McMillon. Upon Mother McMillon’s triumphal return home to glory, she was succeeded by her daughter, the current Mother of the church, Sister Elizabeth Derry.
The first church Ushers were Willie and Mattie Moore. They began ushering as children; Willie went on to become the President of the Usher Board. Mattie grew in grace and wisdom and was later ordained to preach.
The mission outgrew the facility on Ann Street and moved to 18 Concord Street in South Norwalk. In November of 1961, St. James Mission was recognized by the Council of the Connecticut Baptist Union as a Baptist Church. The official recognition service was held on January 28, 1962. The Reverend Richard H. Woods, Pastor of the Grace Baptist Church, South Norwalk, CT officiated and preached the recognition sermon.
The first ordained Deacons were: Deacon Eugene Derry, Sr., who served as chairman of the Deacon Board for thirty-eight years until he was succeeded by his son, Eugene Derry, Jr., in 2005; Deacon William Moore, who served until his passing on July 16, 1987, and Deacon Leroy Washington, who served for ten years and passed away June 7, 1986. They were ordained on September 2, 1962, by the Rev. Samuel J. Williams, Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, which was located across the street at 21 Concord Street, South Norwalk, CT.
The membership thrived and grew tremendously in 1962. Rev. McMillon’s complete vision and goal was to build a church deep in the inner city and provide religious services that were convenient and close for the residents of a community housing project. A site was purchased on Rockland Road and the Rev. McMillon and the members held a ground breaking ceremony in May of 1963.
Under the principle leadership of Trustee Jasper Jones, the men of the church worked diligently to build the edifice on Rockland Road. Their dedication and service paid off. On August 7, 1966, the church was dedicated. Rev. McMillon was joined by his congregation and community members as they triumphantly marched from Roodner Court to the new church built on Rockland Road.
“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Matthew 16:16-20 (NIV)
The Lord spoke to Rev. McMillon and told him to build a physical and spiritual church on the rock and it would prevail. The only difference was the Lord to told Reverend McMillon to spread the good news, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God.
Saint James Missionary Baptist Church purchased the house next door to the church on May 20, 1967, to serve as a parsonage. As the membership increased, the church was enlarged. The work began in June 1973 and was completed in 1977. The mortgages on all the church properties were paid off on July 19, 1987, and a Mortgage burning service was held. God has been mighty good to Saint James Missionary Baptist Church.
The first Assistant Pastor was the Rev. H. Rogers; two of his sons later became deacons of the church: Deacon Hosea Rogers and Deacon Roy Rogers the next Assistant Pastor, who served until his retirement to Florida was the Reverend Roosevelt Robinson.
On August 7, 1988, Rev, McMillon licensed B. Patricia Quinones, Leora Reasor and Mattie Floyd as evangelists:
On May 16, 1989, the man with a vision, whose hope was built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and righteousness, The Reverend James A. McMillon was called home to rest from this labor.
Deacon Eugene Derry, Sr., with God’s guidance, the assistance of the ministerial staff and the members kept St. James together for a year and a half without a Pastor.
On October 16, 1990, the St. James family voted to call, Rev, Jerome W. Terry as Pastor. Rev, Terry accepted and on November 11, 1990. He preached his first sermon as Pastor –Elect.
Rev. Jerome W. Terry was officially installed on Sunday, April 18, 1991. Under his leadership, the membership grew. Seven deacons have been ordained, five Associate Ministers have been added to the Ministerial Staff; the JWT Yong Adult Choir was formed, an Intermediate Missionary Society was developed, and a Combined Choir was created.
The Church also underwent many major repairs and upgrades in order to provide the membership with a comfortable place to worship.
The Lord has shown favor upon the Pastors, Officers and Members, and with God’s grace; Reverend McMillon’s vision and dream became a reality. Rev. Terry assumed the leadership as “keeper of the dream” for the church that was built on the rock on Rockland Road in South Norwalk, CT.
After serving 18 years as Pastor, Rev. Jerome W. Terry retired in December 2008. His loving wife, 1st Lady Joan Vann Terry, passed away on July 12, 2009. Rev. Jerome W. Terry was called home January 30, 2013.
After Rev. Terry’s retirement, history repeated itself, this time Deacon Eugene Derry, Jr., with God’s guidance, the assistance of the ministerial staff and the members kept St. James together for one and a half years without a Pastor.
In June 2010, The Rev. Kenneth K DuBose, Sr. was called to Pastor. Rev. DuBose. preached his first sermon as the Pastor of Saint James Missionary Baptist Church was Father’s Day 2010. Rev. Kenneth K. DuBose, Sr. was officially installed October 2, 2010, The Rev. Marshall J. Jenifer, Philips Metropolitan CME Church, Newark, NJ preached the installation service.
Under the leadership of Pastor. DuBose, the church has grown physically and spiritually. Two deacons were added to the ministry, one ordained by Rev. Kenneth K. DuBose, Sr., one Associate Minister, Reverend Brian S. Hampton and one minister in training, Sister Annie Smith. Minister Smith was ordained Minister of the Gosepel on Sunday, January 31, 2016.
St. James Missionary Baptist Church looks forward to many more years of fellowship, love and ministry as Pastor and people work to advance the Kingdom of God.