In 1915, a small group of Blacks met in a home in the Orchard Street area of New Haven. They had recently migrated from the “South” and longed for the Christian fellowship of their culture. A Prayer Band was formed and soon progressed to become a church with the late Rev. E.M. Hardy as its first minister.
By 1918, the Prayer Band was meeting at its first home in a storefront at 148 Henry Street (which is presently Estes Barber Shop). They became chartered as Saint Matthew’s United American Free Will Baptist Church.
The late Mother Matilda Gorham provided funding for the charter. Rev. Thomas O. Gorham was the 1st pastor; other officers were Deacon Square J. Holmes, Trustee Major Smith, Secretary John Johnson, Treasurer Dennis Daniels, Mother Matilda Gorham and Effie Holmes.
In the 1920s, the church moved to 80 Webster Street. During the 1930s, St. Matthew’s moved to Charles Street.
The succession of pastors following Rev. Gorham was:
Rev. R.W. McNeil 2nd Pastor,
Rev. Steven Robinson 3rd Pastor
Rev. Jake (JK) Davis, 4th Pastor
Rev. Robert W. Pitts (who later founded Pitts Chapel)5th Pastor
Rev. John W. Henry 6th Pastor
Rev. Jake Davis (again)
In 1945, Rev. Dr. Lloyd Taylor succeeded Rev. Jake Davis as pastor of St. Matthew’s and became its seventh pastor. Under his leadership on December 15, 1960, St. Matthew’s purchased the Olivet Baptist Church, 400 Dixwell Avenue and relocated there. Rev. Taylor served until his death on June 29, 1977.
Rev. Robert J. Gay (Bishop) was elected in August 1977 becoming the eighth pastor of St. Matthew’s. He preached his first sermon on the second Sunday in January 1978. His subject was “UNITY.” Rev. Gay has done great things through Jesus Christ in continuing the up-building of St. Matthew’s Church. Bishop Gay served the church for 37 years and retired December 31, 2014.
Elder Kevin C. Hardy was elected on June 21, 2014 becoming the ninth pastor of St. Matthew’s Church.