To speak of the history of the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church is to tell the story of its people...The year was 1834 and there were just a few of them - God's servants, filled with the vision to lay the spiritual foundation for a church in Jamaica, New York. From house to house they met and they prayed. In the early 1840's when much of the nation was choosing sides in the abolitionists' debates regardiing the enslavement of Blacks, in then quite a rural part of Jamaica, (Washington and South Streets, now 160th Street and South Road) a place of worship was built. The original edifice, an 18x30 foot structure was constructed in 1842 and called Allen.
Very little information is available relating to the church that existed throughout the era of the Civil War. Much of what has been discovered was taken from a few handwritten documents of unknown authorship. An excerpt of a note from an unidentified trustee alludes to the fact that the original church structure was enlarged in 1869. That facility occupied 30x40 feet of space. The Rev. W. Davis was the first pastor, and the Rev. Henson Davis was the pastor when the second structure was built. What can be determined however is that the community of faith called Allen stood its ground through the turbulence of the North/South struggle.
At the turn of the century, the membership of Allen grew quite quickly. Many of them migrated from the southern states, especially the Carolinas. The Rev. Joseph Stiles was named as pastor in 1900. During his tenure, the Senior Choir, Stewardess Board, Usher Board, Board of Trustees and the Willing Workers auxiliaries were organized. A small home organ was purchased to further enhance the quality of music during worship services. Shortly thereafter, again in response to the growing congregation, a hand pump organ was installed in the rear of the sanctuary.
The life of the church throughout the early 1990’s was characterized by both “mountain” and “valley” experiences. The blessings of God were apparent during the pastorates of men such as the Revs. Walter Mason, C.E. Wilson, Tom G. Clarke, George Coverdale, Joseph Stiles, S.W. Gumbs, and G.P. Coles, as the congregation grew numerically and spiritually.
The church also experienced serious financial hardship during that time. The members came to fully understand what it meant to “walk by faith and not by sight.” Eminent foreclosure was avoided by the personal sacrifice of a few members who gave of their resources to keep the doors of God’s house open.
A new pace was set during the post-Depression and pre-World War II years. Allen experienced a revitalizing surge in the Sunday School Department and more emphasis was placed on worship and programming for youth. This gave rise in 1933 to the founding of the Children’s Youth Choir, the sponsoring of Girls and Boys Day, and many athletic activities.
In 1944, the Allen Church suffered a devastating fire, which brought total destruction to the sanctuary. The fire, however, did not have the capacity to destroy the faith of the many who, with the determination of the prophet Ezra, set out to “rebuild the temple”. With the help of God the congregation was able to raise the necessary funds needed to rebuild the church. The Rev.William McKinley Dawkins who is remembered for the spiritual fervor that he brought to the church, led the congregation during this period of rebuilding.
As the body grew, new clubs and organizations came into existence. A fourth stewardess board was added as well as the Allen Goodwill Circle, the Flower Guild, the Get Together Club and the Helping Hand Club. Their primary function was to raise funds so that the church would avert the possibility of another financial crisis.