St. Joseph African Methodist Episcopal Church (“St. Joseph”) was established in 1869, as a congregation affiliated with the connectional African Methodist Episcopal Church (“AMEC”), the oldest predominately black, Protestant denomination in existence. The AMEC traces its origins back to the Free African Society of 1787, a faith-based, self-help organization that led to the establishment of the AMEC with Richard Allen becoming its first elected and consecrated bishop. The AMEC is geographically comprised of 20 Episcopal Districts, each of which operates under the leadership of a bishop. St. Joseph is within the AMEC’s 2nd Episcopal District and is under the servant leadership of Bishop James L. Davis.
Members and pastors of St. Joseph have served in various leadership roles throughout the AMEC, as well as in academic, political, business, and civic leadership in the city of Durham. In more than 150-years of faithful service and active civic engagement, St. Joseph has enjoyed the steady leadership of 31 dedicated pastors. Our current servant leader is the Reverend Dr. Jonathan C. Augustine.
ABOUT OUR PASTOR:
The Reverend Dr. Jonathan C. Augustine (“Pastor Jay") was appointed senior pastor of St. Joseph AME Church on May 4, 2019. He also serves as national chaplain of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Immediately prior to St. Joseph, Dr. Augustine was senior pastor of Historic St. James AME Church in New Orleans (1844), the birthplace of African Methodism in the Deep South and oldest predominately Black, Protestant church in the city. His ministry is filled with a history of leadership and service, addressing some of the twenty-first century's most pressing social issues, bringing the church into the community and community into the church. He was an adjunct professor at Southern University Law Center and Jarvis Christian College, and a visiting lecturer at Louisiana State University.
Pastor Jay authored The Keys Are Being Passed: Race, Law, Religion and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement (2014), a book that was featured at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Forum, the Harlem Fine Arts Festival at Martha’s Vineyard, and the Essence Magazine music festival. He has also authored numerous scholarly articles appearing in national publications including the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal, Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal, Richmond Public Interest Law Review, and the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal. His written scholarship has also been cited by the Louisiana Supreme Court in published opinion.
He successfully represented a class of plaintiffs in Carter v. St. Helena Parish School Board, one of the oldest desegregation cases in the United States, having originally been filed by Thurgood Marshall, then-counsel for the NAACP. He served Louisiana’s 55th governor as executive counsel & director of legislative affairs for the Louisiana Workforce Commission and in elected office as vice president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. He is a former judge ad hoc of the Baton Rouge City Court, a silver life member of the NAACP, and life member of Alpha Phi Alpha.
He was named “Outstanding Alumni Brother of the Year,” by Alpha Phi Alpha (2017), having also won the fraternity’s “Belford V. Lawson National Oratorical Scholarship Contest” while in college (1994). He received President Barack Obama’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” (2016), the National Bar Association’s “Forty Lawyers Under 40” Award (2011) and Ebony Magazine’s “30 Leaders of the Future” recognition (2001).
Pastor Jay earned an economics degree from Howard University, along with an active duty commission as a U.S. Army infantry officer. Following four-years of decorated, active-duty military service, he earned his Juris Doctorate from Tulane University and served as a law clerk to Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice (then-Associate) Bernette Joshua Johnson. He later earned his Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary, as a Beane Fellow and National Rainbow-PUSH Foundation Coalition Scholar, before completing a fellowship at Princeton Theological Seminary. Pastor Jay also earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Duke University.
Dr. Jonathan C. Augustine is married to St. Joseph’s First Lady, Sister Michelle Burks Augustine, his partner in life and ministry. They have two children.
ST. JOSEPH AME CHURCH HISTORY:
A Brief History of St. Joseph African Methodist Episcopal Church:
(1869-2019)—150-years of Excellence!
The Reverend Edian Markum (later Markham) and his family came to Durham in 1868 and purchased a parcel of land from Mrs. Minerva Fowler that he used for preaching and prayer meetings. People sat on boxes and homemade stools in a church that was nothing more than bushes and long poles fixed in the ground. Shortly thereafter, a log cabin was constructed.
On August 20, 1869, the church’s six members officially organized as Union Bethel AME Church. Mrs. Molly Markum, the founding pastor’s wife, diligently placed an emphasis on missionary endeavors until her death in February 1941. Rev. Markum was succeeded by the Reverends Lewis Edwards and George Hunter, respectively. Rev. Hunter initiated construction of the first frame church building, which was later replaced by a more stable edifice. The second building was completed by the Reverends Ofley, Edwards and W.D. Cook.
Under the leadership of the Reverend Andrew Chambers, in 1892, the corner stone was laid at 804 Fayetteville Street. The church’s name was also changed to St. Joseph African Methodist Episcopal Church. A successive line of pastors, The Reverends W. J. Jordan, W.E. Walker, D.J. Beckett and J.E. Jackson, led the completion of the stately brick edifice. Its basement was completed to street level during the pastorate of the Reverend J.A. Valentine.
On November 28, 1948, the Reverend David Johnston, his wife, Mrs. Verdelle Johnston, and their daughter arrived at St. Joseph. Rev. Johnston established the Edian D. Markham Memorial Educational Building, built a new parsonage, and organized a Nursery School and a First Grade. While at St. Joseph, the Johnstons also expanded their family by welcoming another daughter.
The Reverend Melvin Chester Swann, along with his wife, Mrs. Dorothy Swann, succeeded Dr. Johnston as pastor in 1958. Under his leadership, the Lay Organization at St. Joseph was established in 1964.
In September 1965, the Reverend Philip R. Cousin, Sr. and his wife, Mrs. Margaret Joan Cousin, came to St. Joseph, with their sons. A new parsonage was constructed in October 1968 and seven acres of land, at the corner of Fayetteville Street and Burlington Avenue, were secured for a new edifice. A dedication service was held in 1974 and the cornerstone laid in October 1975. February 15, 1976 marked a historic milestone, as the congregation marched from 804 Fayetteville Street to 2521 Fayetteville Street. The new facility was officially dedicated on April 11, 1976. June 1976 also marked another milestone in St. Joseph’s history. Rev. Cousin was elected the 96th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at the General Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first AME Bishop elected from North Carolina.
Bishop Cousin was succeeded by the Reverend William Webster Easley, Jr., with his wife, Mrs. Ora Easley, and son, on August 15, 1976. During his tenure, St. Joseph continued to grow in membership and programs. The church installed and paid for a new Reuter pipe organ, and the Sarah Allen Missionary Unit was formed. Rev. Easley served as pastor for 16 years.
On August 16, 1992, the Reverend Philip R. Cousin, Jr., the eldest son of Bishop and Mrs. Philip R. Cousin, Sr., was presented as St. Joseph’s pastor. He completely renovated the church’s parsonage, initiated a Van Ministry, and in 1993 an aggressive plan to liquidate the church mortgage was instituted. Under Rev. Cousin’s leadership, the Church celebrated the burning of its mortgage in 1996.
On June 16, 2013, the Rev. Dr. Ronald L. Owens became St. Joseph's Senior Pastor. Dr. Owens, along with his wife, Mrs. Gwendolyn Owens, and daughter, Ronnise, embraced the rich history of the church and implemented a twenty-first century vision and commitment to the St. Joseph church family and the surrounding community. Notably, he initiated a progressive community outreach ministry, instituted programs and resource networks for seniors, and established a college connection ministry with students at North Carolina Central University.
On May 4, 2019, at the conclusion of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, Bishop James L. Davis appointed the Reverend Jonathan C. Augustine as St. Joseph's 31st pastor. In successfully leading St. Joseph through its 150-year anniversary, he instituted #Social JusticeSunday, quarterly events that recognized the “Royal Ice Cream Seven” sit-in of 1957, United States Senator Kamala D. Harris, a then-candidate for president of the United States, and the Honorable Andrew Young, a former member of Congress, United States ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta. He also strengthened St. Joseph’s relationship with North Carolina Central University, welcoming its chancellor and many students for #NCCUSunday, a quarterly philanthropic ministry to raise scholarship funds for students. Reverend Augustine, along with his wife, Michelle, and children, are leading St. Joseph’s 150-year old tradition of excellence and service to the community.