Our Church History

The Community African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church had its beginnings in the summer of 1975, by the moving of The Holy Ghost and the divine inspiration of Sister Ellen Thompson and Sister (now Rev.) Helen McCall. Out of the friendship of these Christian women, the idea of a church took a major step toward reality when contact was made with the Presiding Elder, The Rev. L. J. Thompson, of the A. M. E. Zion Church in Portland, Oregon.


On July 27,1975, five persons: Brother Cordie Smith, Sister Ellen Thompson, Sister Charlene Thompson, Sister Valerie Thompson, and Brother (now Rev.) Dayton Smith joined the First A. M. E. Zion Church in Portland, Oregon, under The Rev. George Maize, Sr. That following week, the organizational meeting of the Community African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was held in the home of Sister Ellen Thompson. Initially, the new Church had bible study at the home of Rev. and Mrs. Dayton Smith. The first worship service of the newly formed Community African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was held in what was then known as the “Harney Center” on the fourth Sunday in August, 1975. This edifice was being used by the community as a recreation center and several community groups had their offices there. In 1977, Bishop George J. Leake appointed The Rev. B. Leon Carson as Presiding Elder and The Rev. L. J. Thompson succeeded The Rev. McCall as Pastor. As a veteran pastor, Rev. Thompson instructed the new congregation in the polity, history and doctrine of Zion Methodism. Rev. Thompson motivated the congregation to lease and eventually buy the property where the church was worshiping. An initial contract to purchase the property was signed in September 1980.

In June 1981, Bishop Herman L. Anderson appointed The Rev. Charles S. Bebelle as Community’s Pastor. Rev. Bebelle took a particular interest in the Senior Choir and in the organization and administration of the Church. At that time, the ministerial staff included as associate pastors: The Rev. Joyce M. Smith, who was Pastor of the Pauline Memorial A. M. E. Zion in Salem, Oregon; The Rev. Theodore Cunningham, Sr., who recently retired from the pastorate of a church in Virginia; The Rev. Robert F. Kemp, (now Presiding Elder) succeeded Rev. Bebelle in 1984. Our current pastor is The Rev. Joyce M. Smith, who succeeded The Rev. Robert F. Kemp in 2009.

The Church finalized the purchase of this facility from the City of Vancouver on January 11, 1994. On March 13, 1994, we celebrated the burning of the “mortgage” with a glorious celebration. The Presiding Prelate of the Western Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Bishop Clarence Carr, preached an inspiring message. In December 1998, Community Church purchased a house at 3610 East McLoughlin Boulevard, directly behind the Church. This facility was renamed in February 2006 as the Jennie T. Kemp Outreach Center. It is currently being used as a rental facility. In January 2004, the Church purchased a duplex at 3710/12 East 11th Street, which also adjoins the Church’s campus. Under the leadership of The Rev. Joyce M. Smith; our membership has increased steadily and diversified. A new choir has been formed and capital improvements have been made. We give thanks to Almighty God for all of the many blessings He has bestowed on us. We are especially thankful for our dedicated, hardworking members who lovingly support our endeavors as a praying church, a family church, a community church and, ultimately, a victorious church through Christ Jesus. Community African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s Theme is WE’RE GOING SOMEWHERE…THE CHURCH OF TODAY!