St. Mary AME ZION History

In August 1941, the late Reverend Elliott Travalee and 7 people met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Green for the purpose of organizing a church in Gordon Heights, Long Island. At that time, there were no other churches in the community. For two months they worshipped in the casino (known as the social establishment/community center at that time) on Granny Road and later they began having meetings at the homes of various members until they were able to obtain a building to worship in.

Reverend Travalee secured a building for which he personally paid the sum of $125.00. The members worshipped in that building until 1949. With the increasing number of new members and the untiring efforts of regular members, they were able to raise $950.00, with which the present structure was started. The 50’x100’ track of land on which the church now stands was donated by the late Sister Mary Brodie. They began to lay the foundation for what was then know as the Gordon Heights Mission. The Gordon Heights Mission was a simple basement structure and the members worshipped in that basement for 9 years until the upper level of the building was completed.

In 1959, The Gordon Heights Mission came into full connection with the New York Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. On May 10, 1959, Dr. S.H. Williams, Presiding Elder of the Brooklyn District met with the members and explained the by-laws of the A.M.E. Zion Church. On May 21, 1959 the membership met and voted to name the church St. Mary A.M.E. Zion Church in memory of Sister Mary Brodie.

The legacy of pastors of St. Mary A.M.E. Zion is a proud one. In 1966, Reverend Travalee, the original founder, became ill and was no longer able to perform his pastoral duties. The Reverend David S. Woodson was appointed as pastor in June, 1966. Reverend Woodson served for 5 years until his health began to fail in June 1971.

In July 1971, the late Bishop Herbert Bell Shaw appointed Reverend Snell van King as pastor of St. Mary A.M.E. Zion Church. Reverend King worked fervently with the members to continue forward in Christ. In December 1976, Reverend Arnold D. Wright served as pastor for 7 months (December 1976 – June 1977).

The Bishop then appointed Reverend Donald C. Christian who served from June 1977- June 1982. In June 1982, the Rt. Reverend William Milton Smith appointed Reverend Walter Brightman, Jr. Reverend Brightman served as pastor for two years.

Reverend Freddie Stroman, Jr. was appointed in 1984 and served until 1989. In 1989, the Reverend Classtine Pendarvis was appointed. Reverend Pendarvis served the St. Mary church family for four consecutive years.

July 4, 1993, Reverend Leonard A. Edwards was appointed, and served until June 22, 1997. On June 29, 1997, God blessed St. Mary with Rev. Dr. Odessa Henry, who served until her untimely death in 2000.

In 2000, the Rt. Reverend George Washington Carver Walker, Sr. appointed the Reverend Marvin Dewitt Hooks Sr. to serve as the pastor of the St Mary African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Reverend Hooks has moved and stirred the very soul of St. Mary A.M.E. Zion church. With the increased growth of our membership, his vision for expansion, and his love for pursuing the work of God, he plans to take this congregation to a new level of obedience in God’s word.

In 2011, St. Mary received a new pastor. Rev. Thomas Gortman  Rev. Gortman’s vision of Consistancy, Focus and Dedication  is preparing St Mary for it’s next steps in expanding the building to accommodate the growing numbers.  Rev. Gortman is a true spiritual leader who believes in leadership by example.

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