Submitted by Mrs. Patricia Wilson
Ohio Conference – Cleveland District
In 2020, COVID-19 struck the world, and a pandemic was declared. We locked ourselves in our homes and didn’t go out unless it was urgent. In 2023, the world returned to some sort of normalcy. However, many of us still only venture out when necessary, staying away from large groups of people, known or unknown. But, on Sunday, March 26 many of us despite still wearing masks, using sanitizers, and not getting too close to people outside of our circle, ventured out to honor and recognize a man of God! A person who has faithfully served God for over 50 years! We came out in large numbers to the Embassy Suites in Beachwood, Ohio to celebrate the Reverend Doctor Audie Vincent Simon I.
The afternoon began with an hour of enjoying appetizers and catching up with those who have not seen each other since the pandemic. Hugs and conversations were plentiful. Our toastmaster for the afternoon was Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker Sr., the pastor of Beth-El A.M.E. Zion Church. Rev. Anthony L. Flowers (pastor of Emmanu-El A.M.E. Zion) welcomed the attendees and shared why this occasion was so special. Brother and sister, Luis Irzarri and Lillian Irzarri, members of Emmanu-El A.M.E. Zion sang “Even If” by MercyMe.
Following their duet, remarks were given by Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker Sr., Rev. Randy Reed (pastor of The Rock A.M.E. Zion), Rev. Anthony L. Flowers, and Rev. Dr. Rebecca Stitt (pastor of St. Peter’s A.M.E. Zion). Each expressed thanks and shared memorable times with Dr. Simon. The four pastors of the Cleveland District; Revs. Flowers, Reed, Stitt, and Walker formed a choir and sang “My Tribute” by Andre Crouch. They were so good that they received invitations to sing for other occasions.
It was a very special moment when a card was shared. The card was from Dr. Simon’s childhood Sunday School teacher’s family at New Jersey A.M.E. Zion Church in Lexington, North Carolina. Proclamations from the City of Richmond Heights, Bedford Heights, and the NAACP were acknowledged, and an engraved plaque was presented to the honoree. Also in attendance were Rev. Dr. Vergel Lattimore, retired brigadier general in the United States Air National Guard and the current President and Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Counseling at Hood Theological Seminary, Salisbury, North Carolina, Rev. Dr. Michael Posey, Presiding Elder of the Columbus-Cincinnati District, Rev. C. Jay Matthews, pastor of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and Rev. Terrance Jones, formal AME Zion General Officer and current pastor of Baum Temple A.M.E. Zion in Summerville, South Carolina.
Long-stemmed glasses were at each place setting to lift as Rev. Eli Smith (pastor of Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Jersey City, New Jersey) gave a toast to Dr. Simon. Rev. Smith said he could not just toast his friend but needed to share how the two of them became friends. He and Dr. Simon were classmates and roommates at Livingston College in Salisbury, North Carolina. Since that time, they have been close friends. Close enough that Dr. Simon’s children call him uncle and when Dr. Simon’s daughter Anicka married, the two of them were cabin mates on the cruise ship.
Our bishop, the Right Reverend W. Darin Moore gave remarks. He shared how he knew the person who baptized Dr. Simon at New Jersey A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. Dr. Belvie Jackson Jr. He knew him as an honest and humble man. He sees the same traits in Dr. Simon. He believes that Dr. Simon has a God-sized heart because God dwells within him. Bishop Moore quoted Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. He stated that Dr. Simon is still doing a good work. He appreciates what Dr. Simon has done, and is doing, and that Dr. Simon has inspired others.
Before Dr. Simon made his remarks, his son Audie Vincent II spoke on behalf of their family. He told us of life as a preacher’s kid (PK). Being a pastor is not a 9-5 type of job. He recalls the sacrifices made by the family. Being a shepherd called by God is something completely different. He remembers a time before cell phones when the house phone would ring at all times of the day and night. Calls were from family members to come to the hospital or to pray for someone. Dr. Simon received a call a long time ago, the “Commission Call”, he answered and continues to answer. He thanked all the clergy and his father who answered the call and encouraged others to answer the call for one day they will not be able.
Dr. Simon’s remarks were brief. This was a very emotional and humbling experience for him. He wanted us to understand that he didn’t go, he wasn’t sent, he was CALLED! He shared that if he never gets to preach again, that He has been faithful. He has been blessed throughout his ministry and thanks God. He knows that one day he will stop pastoring, but he will never stop preaching or proclaiming God’s Word. Dr. Simon's final remarks were to thank everyone present for taking the time out to share this very special day with him.
Dr. Audie V. Simon I is a native of Lexington, North Carolina, and attended the Lexington City School System. He was baptized at his home church, New Jersey A.M.E. Zion by Rev. Dr. Belvie Jackson Jr. and his father in the ministry is Rev. John H. Partee. He has been affiliated with the Zion church all his life and proudly boasts that he is “Zion born and bred”.
Young Simon started preaching at the early age of sixteen (16) and was ordained a deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1974 and an elder in 1975. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Livingston College (A.M.E. Zion College), Salisbury North Carolina in 1977. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Hood Theological Seminary (A.M.E. Zion College), Salisbury, North Carolina in 1980. Dr. Simon continued his education and earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1985.
All his pastoral appointments are with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and include:
· 1974 – 1976 Zion Chapel in Hiddenite, N.C./Mt. Vernon in Stoney Point, N.C.
· 1976 – 1978 Hickory Grove in Clemmons, N.C.
· 1978 – 1980 Third Creek in Cleveland, N.C.
· 1980 – 1982 Marable Memorial in Kannapolis, N.C.
· 1982 – 1988 Mt. Lebanon in Elizabeth City, N.C.
· 1988 – present St. Paul in Cleveland, OH
At each of his pastoral appointments, Dr. Simon’s goal is to leave each one more improved than when he received the pastorate. This remains evident today in the massive building fund efforts undertaken at St. Paul.
Dr. Simon has served as the Presiding Elder (1991 – present) of the Cleveland District of the Ohio Conference and is also the senior Presiding Elder of the Ohio Conference and Mid Atlantic Episcopal District (MAED). He authored a book in 1986, entitled, “A Project in Christian Stewardship”. Dr. Simon was sought by various religious denominations throughout the United States and Europe where he conducted workshops and lectures on Christian Stewardship.
Dr. Simon has served as a General Conference delegate in every General Conference since 1984. During the General Conference, he has been selected numerous times by his episcopal leader to serve on the Episcopal Committee. This committee helps determine the episcopal district a bishop will be assigned. He has served on the following Zion Administrative Boards:
· Publishing House
· Brotherhood & Pension Service
· Ministerial Relief
· Committee on Compilations
He is the C.E.O. of Simon Enterprises and has served on numerous boards and committees with the City of Cleveland, such as the Methodist Minsters Alliance and Credit Union Board. Dr. Simon is a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., a Mason, and a 32nd Degree Shriner.
Realizing that innovation was crucial to the progress of St. Paul, Dr. Simon made and implemented substantial organizational changes. He created a Physical Healing Drive (a more than two-million-dollar project) to repair the church’s physical plant, appointed women in leadership roles including members of the Trustee and Steward Boards, and appointed the first woman Superintendent of Sunday School.
Dr. Simon is overjoyed to be the father of fraternal twins: Audie Vincent Simon, II and Anicka Vareen Simon Seymour and four grandchildren: Genevieve, Audie III, Amir, and Zuri.
Congratulations Dr. Simon on 50 years in Christian Ministry.