Reflections through the history of
Clair Memorial United Methodist Church
The restoration of Clair Memorial United Methodist, the first black church in Jersey City founded by African Americans, was completed in April 2011 after a raging fire gutted the church and parish home. This historic church on Communipaw Avenue was designed by architect Abraham Davis of Jersey City, New Jersey in 1917. The church cornerstone indicating a “1920” founding does not represent its formation by the current congregation.
Clair Memorial UMC is the product of a merger between two Jersey City congregations, Thirkield Methodist Episcopal Church and St. Mark Zion Methodist church that took place in 1945. St. Mark Zion Methodist church was an outgrowth of the African Methodist Zion church, which was founded in November 1849. Thirkield church began in 1917, when several interested persons, led by Dr. William Beck and Mrs. Della Williams, were interested in starting a church for people of the Methodist faith.
In 1944, with both churches moving several times since their beginnings in the early 1900s, Rev. Douglas M. Collins was appointed to St. Mark and Thirkield. Both churches were experiencing internal and financial difficulties. Under the leadership of Rev. Collins the two churches merged. The officials decided against keeping either name and instead selected a new one, “Clair Memorial”, in honor of the memory of the late Rev. Mathew W. Claire. St. Mark brought 161 members and Thirkield brought 60. Rev. Collins officiated as pastor of the congregation.
Under the leadership of many great Pastors, beginning with Rev. Collins, Clair Memorial thrived in the neighborhood and was identified as “one of the most stable institution in the city’s working class, largely black Bergen Lafayette neighborhood since it was built in 1920.”
After the fire in April 2001, Temple Beth El at the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Harrison Avenue invited the parishioners of Clair Memorial to hold their Easter Service the following day at the synagogue. This invitation was extended for Clair to hold its regular Sunday services in the temple’s social hall until they could find a space to worship. The church worshiped there for 10 years. In recognition of the interfaith cooperation and willingness to open the synagogue to their neighbors, The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) presented the two congregations with its 2001 Harmony Award celebrating amicable relationships between whites and blacks”.
On April 18, 2011, Clair Memorial reopened. Nine years of praying, praying, hoping, keeping strong, being faithful and listening to the Lord had brought us to that day. The congregation marched from the Temple to the newly rebuilt church amid songs and shouts of joy.
Currently under the leadership of Pastor Dawrell Rich, we are strengthening our programs here and moving forward as a brighter light in this community. All are welcome.
Compassion, Openness, Personal Integrity, Social Justice, Hospitality, Excellence, Community, Forgiveness, Faithfulness, and Prayer.
Our vision is to be a healthy, growing church of Spirit-led disciples of Jesus Christ, passionately sharing our faith and the love of God,
in ways that transform our communities and the world.
Certified Lay Servant - Mr. Kenneth Pinnock
Church Council Chairperson - Mrs. Mollie Smith
Nurture Chairperson - Mrs. Dorothy Tisdale
Outreach Chairperson - Mrs. Rosalind Grant
Witness Chairperson - Mrs. Peggy Simmons
Finance Committee Chairperson - Miss Lois Martin
Treasurer/Finance Secretary- Mrs. Sally Malone
President of Board of Trustees - Mr. Marcus Wilcher
Sunday School Superintendent - Mrs. Dorothy Tisdale
Membership Chairperson - Mrs. Peggy Simmons