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Church History

"A Servant Church: God's Love for God's People"

Recover ~ Refresh ~ Renew ~ Restore

Our Story

A small group of public and spirit minded male citizens known as the J. Garfield Tynes Men's Club was organized on May 14, 1941 to render a more efficient type of Christian service in the community. The members were Gardner Smith, Chairman, Charles Congleton, E.L. Edmonson, David Beasley, William Reed, Nolan Dunn, William Weaks, Walter Davis, Clarence Lee, James Carraway and John Boykin. On June 12, 1942, the ladies united with the men and out of this union came the Unity Circle.

In the fall of 1942, the club took on a new aspect, and it was decided to form a new church in the Oranges. "To the Glory of God and the African Methodist Episcopal Church." With this in mind, the Saint Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1942 in the home of Mr. Gardner Smith by the Reverend Thomas L. Puryear. The first service was held November 15, 1942 in the St. Luke's Hall, 148 Central Place, Orange, and the first pastor was the late Thomas Puryear, appointed by Bishop David Simms at the 71st Annual Conference.

Throughout our history, Saint Matthew has been blessed by awesome preachers, teachers and pastors, who have truly left their mark in shaping what Saint Matthew is today in the year . Most notably, our ninth pastor, Rev. Reginald T. Jackson not only made a positive impact within the local church, community and state but also our Zion, as he was elevated to the office of Bishop of the AME Church.

The Rt. Rev. Reginald Thomas Jackson, was appointed in 1981 by Bishop Richard Allen Hildebrand. During his pastorate the congregation had grown tremendously requiring the erection of a new edifice in 1985 and expansion of that sanctuary again and construction of a community life center in 2002. The Rt. Rev. Jackson had the church adopt the theme, "The Servant Church of the Oranges", leading the church to provide more than 20 ministries that serve both church and community. Special interest had been placed in children and their education along with social justice, and political and economic emowerment. Bishop Jackson pastorate ended in November 2012, upon being elected and consecrated as the 132nd Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.


The Rev. Dr. Lanel D. Guyton was appointed on November 17, 2012, by Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram. During his pastorate, in addition to administering changes to Saint Matthew's operations and ministry engagement, Rev. Guyton embraced the community by fostering relationships on the local, county and state level. He also worked tirelessly in partnering with local political leaders and the community on initiatives to end Black on Black Crime. Through Rev. Guyton's leadership and vision, Saint Matthew proudly open the doors of our non-profit (501c3) Community Improvement Association of the Oranges (C.I.A.O.) in effort to provide a host of community services. Rev. Guyton’s pastorate ended in June 2018, upon being elevated to Presiding Elder.

A Bright Future

The Rev. Melvin E. Wilson was appointed on June 16, 2018, by Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram, becoming the 11th pastor of Saint Matthew AME Church. With his appointment, Saint Matthew began a new chapter. Pastor Wilson continues to lead and champion the charge of Saint Matthew being “A Servant Church.” Under his pastorate, Saint Matthew continues to engage and serve the community. Saint Matthew was a key strategic partner with local, county, state, and federal agencies during the coronavirus pandemic from 2020 – 2023 being the first faith-based institution in the State of New Jersey to offer COVID-19 testing. Saint Matthew was one of the ten FEMA sites in the State to offer the first COVID-19 vaccine.


Under Wilson’s leadership, Saint Matthew provided over 15,000 free dinners to the community as well as various services to the homeless, unsheltered, and working poor. Issues of mental health and health and wellness are an important focus of Saint Matthew’s ministry, as well as a strong emphasis on biblical teaching. Saint Matthew has purchased a box truck for use in the weekly food pantry, a 40-passenger coach bus, and property for the development of housing. Pastor Wilson shares in this ministry with Rev. Leslie Wilson, who is the First Lady and Minister to Women.

Saint Matthew Pastors

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