Oak Street AME Church was founded in 1897, one of the first AME churches established in Baltimore City. Bishop James A. Handy of the AME Church, Baltimore Conference purchased the property for $700 from the Baltimore Baptist Extension Society. The church took its name from its street location, which was changed to Howard Street in the 1940's. Located in Charles Village, the church was situated in the midst of Goucher College housing and laundry facilities, Chesapeake Bakery and School #136, a segregated vocational school for male students. The building was originally built for former slaves by one of the presidents of the college. By 1900, the church had paid off the mortgage and by 1905, the members had completed renovations and laid the cornerstone. Oak Street opened its doors with 50 members on the roll.
In our over 125 year history, we have welcome 26 pastors to our pulpit. The church's retrievable records were church minutes. These entries portray Oak Street as a small, close knit, neighborhood church, founded, oriented to and operated by families living on Oak Street and surrounding streets. By 1936, it was recorded that Oak Street had 65 members, four probationers, 14 conversions, nine accessions, and seating capacity for 250 people. The church became known as "the little church with the big heart." Many of the descendants of the founding and early families are members of Oak Street today.
In the 1940s, the church obtained a Moeller pipe organ, a major acquisition for the church . The pipes filled the entire back wall of the sanctuary. Ms. Helen Harris, one of the few African American graduates of Baltimore's Peabody Institute at that time, was one of the first organists. In 1957, Oak Street embarked on one of the first major construction since the early 1900s. Under Rev. Perry M. Tilghman, the church outhouses were removed and an annex was constructed, which included a dining hall, kitchen, meeting and classroom facilities and rest rooms. The youngest pastor at Oak Street also served the shortest time. Rev. Harrison Bryant came to Oak Street in 1960. He served four months before he took ill and died while pastor of the church. In November 1976, fire nearly destroyed the church prior to its annual Homecoming celebration. Undaunted, the church , under Rev. James L. Hill, was restored by 1977. In the 1980s, under Rev. Albert Thompson, the Inspirational choir was formed. In 1986, Rev. Dr. Vashti McKenzie became the first woman to pastor an AME Church in Baltimore City. and under her leadership, plans were made to purchase and renovate our current location for a new church sanctuary. In 1987, the Harris-Mills Missionary Society implemented the Power Center, a program that provided training and counseling to individuals seeking their GED or high school diploma, assistance with career and college planning and financial aid assistance.
In 1990, Rev. Paul R. Ball, Jr. came to pastor. Under his pastorate, the former School #136 was purchased and renovated and we moved there in 1992. A bond drive was implemented to fund the renovation (one of the first churches in the country to use this type of funding to fund the renovation), achieved substantial growth of the church's Sunday School and Bible Study, the initiation of the AIDS ministry, the creation of the Morning Glory Choir. In 1996, the church became computerized, published the first newsletter, initiation of the Christian Singles and Alcoholics Anonymous ministries.
In November 1996, Rev. Sandra Moore-Phillips became the second woman to pastor Oak Street. Under her pastorate, the church celebrated its Centennial (100 years serving and worshiping in the community), initiated a Unity Service on the first and fifth Sundays, initiated the Epistle Ministry, a correspondence ministry to sustain fellowship and contact with members and friends of Oak Street who are away and initiated the Oak Street Mobile Outreach Center.
In November 2004, Rev. Richard L. Greene became the pastor. Under his pastorate, he initiated a computer learning center and had a elevator lift installed. In January 2007, there was a mortgage burning ceremony with Bishop Adam J. Richardson presiding.
In April 2014, Rev. David W. Young became the pastor. He came with the vision to faithfully serve and preach the Word of God. An outreach ministry was started called The Samaritan Ministry, a daily prayer call line has been initiated and a youth choir, The David's Starlights. In July, 2020, Rev. Will and Lydia Kenlaw became the Pastors of Oak Street during the Covid-19 pandemic and introduced worship, bible studies and church meetings at Oak Street utilizing Zoom technology. In September 2022, the church celebrated its 125th Anniversary