Evidence abounds attesting to the humble beginnings of Janes United Methodist Church, named for and ministering in the spirit of Bishop Edmond Storer Janes, the first Bishop of the New York area then Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Janes dedicated the present site and the first church building. Incorporated on October 15th, 1859, this church and its people have lived up to the strength of character and belief in liberty of, and for all, God’s people, as evidenced by the life of this great man.
From the first recorded meeting of the “male persons belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church [who] converted to incorporate themselves” on March 23rd of 1853, to October 15th, 1859, when they officially incorporated and held their first meeting in a schoolroom at the corner of Patchen Avenue and Madison Street, the men and women of Janes United Methodist Church have displayed legendary tenacity in their determination to keep the doors of the church open in this Bedford-Styuvesant community of Brooklyn. The cornerstone of the church building which stood for 101 years was laid in 1883, where it offered both a rich and vibrant pulpit and music ministry. The former was due to a Church School that produced many young missionaries and ministers as well as a pulpit graced by some of the great preachers of the world. The rich and musical tradition was due to its grand pipe organ built to meet the specifications of the great romantic organs of Europe. The magnificence of the instrument can only be described in terms of the fact that it was the choice of the American Guild of Organists for their New York performances.
As the church membership grew, plans were made to enlarge the sanctuary and its pipe organ and build an adjoining chapel. In 1889 the cornerstone was laid for the Janes Parish house adjoining the original building along Reid Avenue. During this renovation the pipe organ was rebuilt and enlarged. In March, 1903, the mortgage on the church was burnt and in 1907 the organ work was completed and the instrument was dedicated.
The parish was so active congregations were formed from its ranks including Bushwick Central Methodist Episcopal Church. Then, alas, one dark and dismal day in New York Methodism, the organ was silenced and the doors of the church were closed. But this indomitable group of congregants, led by Mrs. Maude White Hardy, petitioned Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, Resident Bishop, to send clergy, reopen Janes Church and allow them to worship there. The bishop appointed the Rev. Cyrus W. Perry as pastor to lead this most determined group of Methodist, now consisting of old stalwarts as well as the new families in the “changing community.” The church doors reopened on Sunday, October 3rd, 1948 and although it was a struggle to care for the massive structure, the congregation persevered and grew to become one of the most dynamic and influential in the New York area, most visible in the Civil Rights Era when Janes Church shared the captaincy of this movement with nationally known churches.
But on Saturday night, November 10th, 1984, in the midst of the congregation’s 125th anniversary celebration, a six alarm fire destroyed the century old building. Friends and neighbors stepped up to the plate: The Cornerstone Baptist Church of Brooklyn offered its community center in which to worship each Sunday; Bridge Street AWME offered its sanctuary for funerals and Hanson Place Central and Grace UMC, theirs for weddings. The Pastor and members of Janes will forever be grateful to our sister churches for their kindness to us.
Never lacking leadership, based on faith in God, Janes’ young Pastor, Rev. Robert Orlando Simpson, and the congregation began plans for a new church. The firm of Geppaul Architects was contracted to design the church at a projected cost of $3.1 million.
On Sunday, June 16th, 1985, ground was broken and on Sunday, May 31st, 1987, the cornerstone was set and the new Janes Church, like a phoenix, began its rise from the ashes. The first worship service was observed on Sunday, August 5th, 1990 and on Saturday, April 20th, 1991, the new Janes Church was formally dedicated by Bishop C. Dale White, Resident Bishop.
Janes United Methodist Church retained its reputation as a beacon of light in Bedford-Stuyvesant by offering seamless service to its members and the community – being there for those in need, giving comfort to those who seek it, solace to those who come to its doors, guidance to the lost and open arms to the youth and seniors.
To God be the glory!