St. Matthew Baptist Church came from Friendship Baptist Church of Stratford through it's Founding Pastor, Rev. Aaron M. Best. Pastor Best began his discipleship at Friendship Baptist Church of Stratford in January 2003. As God called him closer to the ministry, he became an Associate minister of Friendship Baptist Church for seven year, from August 2008 to May 2015 before the Lord called him out to plant a new ministry to be called St. Matthew Baptist Church. On June 14, 2015, at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, at 9 am, Pastor Best delivered his initial sermon as the Founding Pastor of St. Matthew Baptist Church; launching the first worship service of the ministry.
The launch of the praise and worship service was conducted by the first Director of Music, Sis. Brittany Stewart; with approximately one hundred in attendance. Pastor Best's sermon was "Are You Going to Do It or What?" and the scripture was on Matthew 14:18-23/NKJV. On this day, Sis. Judy Geyer became the first to join St. Matthew Baptist Church; and Sis. Alona James served as St. Matthew Baptist Church's first usher. Upon receiving the Right Hand of Fellowship, she was voted as the first President of the Pastor's Aide Ministry.
Throughout the summer of 2015, the ministry began to grow. In October 2015, the women's ministry, The Women's Auxiliary Council, recognized the first "Women in Ministry" for the month of October. The first guest preachers where Rev. Dr. Betty Fludd, Associate Minister at Messiah Baptist Church; Minister Carol Perkins, Associate Minister at Friendship Baptist Church of Stratford; Minister Renata Johnson, Associate Minster at East End Baptist Tabernacle Church; and Rev. Dr. Dawn C. Snells, Associate at Union Baptist Church.
The "First Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive" of 2016, St. Matts fed 62 families and in 2017, this drive fed 78 families; this marked the beginning of the ministry's outreach initiative to the Bridgeport community.
As the ministry began to out grow it's forty person capacity ballroom at the Holiday Inn, in the late winter of 2015, St. Matthew Baptist Church began negotiating the purchase of Holy Rosary Parish from the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese. As the contract was close to expiring with the Holiday Inn, a vote was taken not to renew the contract but to resume services once the negotiations with the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese is completed. Unfortunately, the negotiations with the Roman Catholic Diocese was poorly negotiated and led to a great deal of miscommunication, mistrust, tedious, and frustration. After a long twenty-six months of tumultuous negotiations, St. Matts walked away and became a church without walls; holding worship service at any place available to the ministry. The congregation numbers slumped but that did not stop the ministry from doing what God had in plan!
In the spring of 2017, St. Matts partnered with the University of Bridgeport to host a religious tolerance symposium. This symposium's panelists was: Father Reginald Norman, Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Wilton; Rev. Dr. Lindsay Curtis, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Norwalk and President of the Connecticut State Missionary Baptist Convention; Mr. Ahmed Ebrahim, President of the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center; and Rabbi Michael Farbman, Rabbi of temple Emanuel; with the facilitator as Rev. Cass Shaw, President and CEO of The Council of Church of Greater Bridgeport. The symposium was attended by nearly 115 participants.
Also in the Spring of 2017, St. Matts collaborated with Messiah Baptist Church men's ministry, Men of the Kingdom; Deacon Tyrone D. Thompson, Chairman and Deacon Ceasar Irby, Vice Chairman; and Yale New Haven Health Bridgeport Hospital for the first men's health symposium. The panelist were: Dr. Charles Morgan, Dr. (Deacon) Ceasar Irby, Robert Mithell, Deacon Tyrone D. Thompson, William Jennings, former CEO; Ms. Martha Judd, Maria Alicea, Joseph Petreycik, Dr. Keith Churchwell, and Dr. Raimund Herzog. In the Spring of 2018, St. Matts partnered with Yale New Have Health Bridgeport Hospital for a health symposium on mental health. This event was hosted by Warren Harding High School.
Still being a church without walls, on July 3, 2018, Pastor Best met with the Operations Manager at The Klein Memorial Auditorium. The Klein Memorial Auditorium was seeking to host a house of worship and St. Matts was looking for a location. Both, The Klein and St. Matts came to a mutual understanding and on September 2, 2018, Communion Sunday, St. Matthew Baptist Church will re-launch at The Klein Memorial Auditorium, 910 Fairfield Avenue; unfortunately, because of scheduling conflicts the arrangement did not last.
In October 2019, St. Matthew Baptist Church and the historical First Baptist Church of Bridgeport have reached an agreement to have St. Matts lease space in the church for one year to grow the congregation; January 5, 2020, St. Matthew Baptist Church will resume worship services. During this time, St. Matthew Baptist Church was faced with a worldwide pandemic, COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, the church was closed for six months and on September 6, 2020, St. Matts began hybrid worship service, livestreaming from the sanctuary over Zoom and the church social media pages.
Being medically advised by our medical team, Dr. Rockman Ferrigno and Dr. Greg Buller, Yale New Haven Health Bridgeport Hospital, Pastor Best presented a plan of strategy for full in person worship service beginning June 6, 2021; as the pandemic cases slowed; and on June 6, 2021, in person worship service resumed at St. Matts, now the rebuilding begins!
St. Matthew Baptist Church
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:15-18/NKJV).