In the year 1869, a group of 10 believers began worship in the home of Peter Kelly on Chelsea Street (now Summer Street). Feeling the need for a place for communal worship, they organized; and in the fall of 1870 they built a chapel on Race Street just east of 58th Street, naming this mission Kelly’s Chapel. In 1877, this independent mission joined the A.U.M.P. Annual Conference. Ten years later, they built a church at 58th and Vine Streets and named it St. Matthew A.U.M.P. Church where they worshiped for twenty six years. As the congregation increased they needed a larger edifice which was erected at 57th and Summer Streets, and was dedicated on November 16, 1913. In the spring of 1916, the congregation became a part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
St. Matthew A.M.E. Church steadily grew under the splendid leadership of the following pastors: Revs. B.B. Fisher, George Dickerson, E.T. Bruce, H.H. Cooper, I.H. Ringgold, J.H. Watkins, H.P. Anderson, and H.F. Tyree. For twenty three years, St. Matthew benefited from the service of these eight pastors. At the close of the Philadelphia Annual Conference in 1939, Rev. Mahlon M. Lewis was appointed as the ninth pastor of St. Matthew A.M.E. Church. Under his dynamic leadership the decision was made to build the present edifice, and two years later it was completed free of debt. This building was dedicated in May 1941 by Bishop David H. Sims.
Following Rev. Lewis, Rev. E.B. Williams and Rev. Roscoe Henderson served as pastors. In 1955, Rev. T. E. Harper assumed the pastorate, and under his 25 years of leadership, the church grew and regained her place not only as the first church of the West District but also as the “number one” church of the Philadelphia Annual Conference. The tenure of Rev. Harper is highlighted by the installation of the 39 rank Grand Wicks pipe organ.
In April 1980, Reverend Doctor George Turner Sims, Jr. was assigned to St. Matthew and served successfully for thirteen years. In 1981, under his leadership, St. Matthew was incorporated, more than three quarters of a million dollars of major improvements were achieved and paid for without any loans or indebtedness, and a 58 Unit Senior Citizen’s Housing Project was built diagonally across from the Church.
At the 177th Session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference, Rev. George T. Sims was appointed Presiding Elder of the West District and Bishop Philip R. Cousin appointed Rev. Richard Franklin Norris as pastor. Rev. Norris served this congregation faithfully until his election and consecration as the 116th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In October 2000, Bishop Donald G. K. Ming appointed Rev. Ellis I. Washington as pastor of St. Matthew, where he continued the great tradition of those who served well before him. In June 2009, Bishop Richard Franklin Norris assigned Rev. Roland C. McCall, a native Philadelphian, to Pastor this “flagship church”. Under Rev. McCall’s leadership, the church had a period of spiritual and physical restoration.
In June 2017, during the First District Planning Meeting, Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram assigned Rev. Vernon R. Byrd, Jr. as pastor. Under his leadership, the church is experiencing a spiritual renaissance in Christ as we continue to grow in love, faith, and purpose.