A Baptist Mission was founded in a store at the corner of Prospect and Pacific Streets, now known as 159th Street and 109th Avenue, on February 27, 1916. The organizers were Rev. J. Wilson, Mrs. Helen Merrill, Mrs. Catherine Allen and Mrs. J.W. Wilson felt that a Baptist Church was much needed in the south side of Jamaica. Rev. Brodie preached the first sermon at 3 P.M. and Brother Samuel Ellis and Sister Susan Ellis offered prayer. Rev. James Ellison preached the evening sermon. On March 17, 1916 the Mission was organized as the Amity Baptist Church of Jamaica. On April 13, 1916 at a regular church meeting, Rev. Wilson was called as the first pastor of the Amity Baptist Church. A council was called to consider the recognition of the church and at a meeting held on May 16, 1916, a motion was made by Rev. James Ellison, seconded by Rev. Lee and carried to extend the right hand of fellowship to the Amity Baptist Church. Rev. Lucas of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Flushing presided as the Moderator. Membership at the time was eighteen. After its recognition, Rev. Frederick of Jamaica gave the charge to the church and Rev. H.T. Baton of Shiloh Baptist Church of Jamaica charged the Officers. On June 11, 1916, this newly recognized group joined the New England Convention raising their fee by donations from members. Rev. J. Wilson served as pastor until March 18, 1917.
On March 18, 1917, upon vacancy of the pulpit, a call was extended to Rev. James Ellison to become the second pastor of the Amity Baptist Church. After prayerful consideration Rev. Ellison accepted the call. Under the leadership of Rev. Ellison the church moved to larger quarters in the home of Mrs. Helen Merrill on Norris Avenue, on July 16, 1917. Due to a growing membership the first building fund program was begun and $1,500.00 was raised for future expansion. Rev. S.A. Hersey was called as an assistant pastor to serve while Rev. Ellison was away raising money for the church. A committee was then appointed to look for a site for the church. Appointed to the committee were Sisters McNicols, Archer, and Thomas, Brother Wilson and Rev. Ellison.
On August 20, 1917 at a regular meeting a motion was made and carried to establish Deacon and Trustee Board, as they were much needed. Appointed as Deacons were Peter Archer, George O. Cox and Charles Stovall. Appointed as Trustees were G.D. Staton, William Cox and C.F. Wilson.
The Church Sunday School was organized on February 15, 1918 and its first Acting Superintendent was Mrs. A.H. Thomas and its Treasurer Mrs. S. Ellis.
On April 16, 1918 the church was incorporated and the following Trustees elected: Frances Cox, Mary Reaves, Georgie Wilson, William Cox, Peter J. Archer and Lucy Archer.
On May 28, 1918, a call was extended to Rev. Plummer Alston as assistant pastor, pending the resignation of Rev. Ellison. Rev. Alston was elected as the third pastor of Amity Baptist Church on July 1, 1918. On October 10, 1918 the Missionary Circle was organized as follows: Lucy Archer, President; Phoebe Jasper, Vice-president; Georgie Wilson, Secretary; Mary Reaves, Treasurer; Frances Cox, Chaplain. The first organist was Josephine Campbell and the first Church Clerk was Lucy Cox. Rev. Alston served until September 11, 1919.
On October 22, 1919 a call was extended to Rev. B.E. Simmons to become the fourth pastor of the Amity Baptist Church. He accepted the call. The church at this time was unable to pay a pastor and Rev. Simmons agreed to serve until they could pay him, as he was interested in the work of the church. The church having out-grown their place of worship came together and purchased the property at 174 Washington Street, now known as 160th Street which is the present site of South Jamaica Housing office. Amity, with less than 200 members remodeled the building, transforming it into a beautiful edifice at a cost of $2,000.00. On November 14, 1920 the Odd Fellows of Jamaica laid the cornerstone and Amity had its first real house of worship. During these years of steady growth, a membership that was unable to pay Rev. Simmons when he first accepted the church, increased its giving, organized church auxiliaries, liquidated two mortgages, and continued to grow in the grace of the Lord. Rev. Simmons served faithfully until his resignation on September 6, 1928.
On September 6, 1928 a call was extended to Rev. James R. Moore, who had been serving as the assistant pastor of Union Baptist Church of New York City under the pastorate of Rev. G. Sims, to become the fifth pastor of Amity Baptist Church. The call was taken under consideration by Rev. Moore, and after a short while he accepted the call in November 1928. Rev. Moore moved to Jamaica to take full charge of the church. The church took on new life, increasing both its membership and finances. The edifice, which so nobly served for many years, could no longer accommodate its members and friends, with many regrettably having to be turned away.
Under the leadership of Rev. James R. Moore, a youthful and energetic young pastor, the alarm was again sounded, “room, room, more room, that all may enter in.” A new building committee was appointed and the Pastor and officers came together to map out a course of action. The trustees were authorized to locate a suitable site and were instructed to sell current property.
The little church, dear to the hearts of so many, passed from Amity’s hands on February 5, 1931 to the Greater New York Seventh Day Adventist. Through the efforts of Deacon C. E. Stovall, a most beautiful site was procured on the corner of 108th Avenue and Brooklyn Avenue, presently known as 164th Place/Rev. James R. Moore Place, which serves as Amity’s current location. On June 7, 1931 amid pomp and splendor with bands playing and banners waving, ground was broken and the cornerstone for the new building was laid by the Masons of Jamaica. Due to the war and the depression, there was a delay in completing the building however, these events did not hinder our progress. Sixty members of the church served in our country’s Armed Forces during World War II. During that time we were continually praying for the time to come when these members would be in our midst again. Thanks be to God, our prayers were answered. The first unit of the church costing $18,000 was paid for between 1932 and 1941 and $35,000 toward the completing of the building was on hand.
In 1944, the property directly across from the church was purchased, which became the Parsonage. The beginning of 1945 the plot of land adjoining our church was purchased with hopes of building a Community House.
In June 1946 the church moved its worship services to 106-54 160th Street, until completion of site located on 108th Avenue and 164th Place. Many discouraging predictions had been made that we would never return to our present location. However, souls were continually added to the membership. The limited space seemed to bring a firmer and warmer fellowship with one another. Pastor Moore kept the membership informed of the progress being made on the new structure and he continually asked and prayed for ongoing support and loyally to the building program.
By mid-September we were able to return to our quarters on 108th Avenue. As winter set in, Amity members suffered many hard trials. Through such a test, there was spiritual warmth that existed that could not be denied, even though many of the members had left leaving the responsibility of building fund raising to the faithful few.
At the close of Sunday morning services on May 14, 1947, in an atmosphere seasoned with fervent prayer, and with the assistance of the Baptist Church Extension Society of Brooklyn and Queens (American Baptist Churches), and the Queens Federation of Churches, the Amity Baptist Church was able to secure its first mortgage for this site through Richmond Hills Savings Bank. This bank, in granting the mortgage to Amity, effected as commitment from Pastor Moore that he would remain pastor of Amity throughout the life of the mortgage.
The congregation moved into the new sanctuary in the spring of 1948 and officially dedicated it in 1950. On May 5, 1961 the last mortgage on the present sanctuary was burned. The membership at this time was 1,400. Under the leadership of Rev. Moore the church continued to forge ahead fulfilling the spiritual needs of the community and desirous of erecting a community center to serve the needs of the community. As the church continued to grow spiritually and numerically under Rev. Moore’s pastorate the church also sponsored the following groups: Church Sunday School, B.T.U., Cub Pack, Adult Clubs, Home and Foreign Mission Society, Leadership Training Classes, College Scholarship Fund, First Aid Unit, Music Department and Men’s Club. In anticipation of completion of Community House other prospective groups to be enacted were an Athletic Association, Pre-School Nursery, Inter-Racial Forum, Social Service Commission, Home Maker’s Class, Christian Voters League, Christian Business and Professional Men’s Club, Week-Day School of Religious Education, Youth Fellowship Council and Negro History Club. Under the leadership of Pastor Moore, Amity was truly a beacon light in the community. Rev. Moore served until he was called home in 1983 after 55 years of pastoral leadership at the Amity Baptist Church.
After two years of laboring, through prayer, guidance of the Holy Spirit and instructions from the late Rev. James R. Moore, the church elected Rev. Dwight McCauley Jackson as its sixth pastor in September 1985. Subsequently, Pastor Jackson accepted the call to the Amity Baptist Church and was installed as its under shepherd in April 1986.
Under the leadership of Pastor Dwight McCauley Jackson over 1,000 souls were brought to Christ and the first female minister was ordained – Rev. Jean Cumberbatch-Williams. The following ministries were organized/reorganized: DayTime/Christ Time; Amity Baptist Church Bible Institute in 1987; Resurged the Men’s Council; New Members Church Sunday School Class; Human Service Commission; Sanctioned the institution of the Arts, Heritage & Culture Forum; Expanded Summer Vacation Bible School and Day Camp; Youth Summer Exposure Program; Ongoing Bulletin Board; Land Acquisition; Accounting Committee; After-school Tutorial Program; Friday Night Youth Ministry; Progressive Ushers; Spiritual Link; Amity Church Choir; Amity Men’s Choir; Amity Church Ushers; Long Range Planning Committee; Leadership Training.
Through continued guidance from the Holy Spirit and committed skillful leadership from Pastor Jackson, the church continued to grow. On July 22, 2002 our Heavenly Father called Pastor Jackson home. To God be the Glory for our rich heritage and the wisdom of Pastor Jackson for the growth of Christian life in the church and in the community.
Once again Amity was in need of an under shepherd and the call was extended to Rev. Dwight Early Shanklin who accepted the call in October 2003 and was installed as the seventh pastor on March 21, 2004. Under Pastor Shanklin’s leadership the James R. Moore Annex was dedicated. He continued leadership training classes for Deacons, Deaconesses and Trustees. He was instrumental in paving the way for the women of Amity to fellowship with the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church of Fort Washington, Maryland at its annual Women’s Spiritual Retreat. Rev. Shanklin remained as pastor until May 1, 2006.
In March 2008, The Amity Baptist Church extended the call to Reverend Jeffery Shawn Thompson, then serving as Associate Pastor of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ of Brooklyn, NY, under Dr. Gary V. Simpson, to serve as its eighth Pastor. He assumed the Pulpit on the 2nd Sunday of April 2008 and was installed Sunday, November 2, 2008.
Pastor and people, working together, assisted the Constitution and By-Laws Committee in revising, for the first time since 1928, the Constitution and By-Laws of the Amity Baptist Church, which included the uniting of Deacon and Deaconess Boards under a unified Diaconate Ministry Under the dissolution of the Pulpit Committee, Pastor Thompson instituted a Pastoral Relations Committee. He also instituted a Children’s Ministry. Having recently completed his third year as Pastor of Amity Baptist Church, Pastor Thompson also serves as a Trustee of the Eastern Baptist Association of New York; and as Area Vice President (Queens) for the E.B.A. Congress of Christian Education; and also serves on the Board of Directors of Queens Federation of Churches, an Ecumenical Ministry in Queens County, New York.
As we celebrate this anniversary and continue “Building Upon 95 years of Worshipping, Witnessing, and Working for the Kingdom”, let us as Pastor and people be united and on one accord as we continue this great legacy by forging ahead as Amity endeavors to remains a beacon of light in the Jamaica community living out our mission as the “Christ-Centered Church for Community-Centered Living.”