A celebration marked the anniversary for the oldest African American church in New Roads, pastored by Rev. Floyd Womack.

Messages of worship and praise highlighted the 188th anniversary service Feb. 23 for St. Peter African Methodist Episcopal Church of New Roads. A message from its guest pastor, Rev. Carl D. Terrance Sr., served as the cornerstone for the celebration, which also included songs from the St. Peter AME Church Choir and Greater St. Peter’s Church Choir.

Diamond Scales served as mistress of the service, while Dane Barra Jr. and Keretrice Chisley presented a history and tribute for the church.

St. Peter’s AME began in 1833, but its roots date back a decade earlier on a plantation located near the Mississippi River.

The exact location is not known, but the general area of the plantation was between Waterloo Subdivision and the present location of Cajun Electric, according to a historical synopsis of the church.

Allen, along with Absalom Jones, was pulled from his knees by white ushers at St. George’s Methodist Church.

This incident in 1794 led to the founding of the AME, and the Doctrine of Methodism remained the same with the organizing of AME churches in other cities and states.

Frank Yearby is believed to have been the pastor who guided the church in its early days. Gatherings were held in the woods away from the main plantation yard in what was called a “bush harbor.”

Yearby was born on the same day hs his master’s son and was given to the young son as his personal slave.

Yearby was taught by the young master to read and write, and helped him direct the early congregation, originally named Macedonia AME Church.

Open worship began in 1833. A land donation in 1876 by Fontana Fontenot paved the way for the building of the church. Rev. Peter Robinson was sent to organize and direct the new church, which was renamed St. Peter Anchor AME.

A migration of members to the New Roads area in the early 1930s triggered a decline in membership, which necessitated a relocation for the church.

A land purchase in the Waterloo area paved the way for construction and rebuilding of the church, under the leadership of Rev. Albert Southall.

“Anchor” was dropped from the name of the church, which became known as St. Peter African Methodist Episcopal Church in New Roads.

A renovation project began in 2003 under the leadership of Rev. Harry Snearl Jr.

It was completed under the leadership of Rev. Gwendolyn Snearl. It was rededicated in 2004 and included a new fellowship hall.

The $140,000 mortgage associated with the renovation was retired in 2014, four years ahead of schedule.

Over the years, the church as served as a public school for minorities, a meeting place in the 1950s for the voter registration, a community meeting place and a shelter in time of storms.