Can you imagine what life was like 110 years ago? The land was not developed as it is today. There were lots and lots of trees/woodland, all the roads were dirt/unpaved, and most of the farm houses or tenant hours were unpainted. That was way of life at that time and our fore-parents were sharecroppers. They had to tend the land of the person who owned the house in which they lived. Blacks owned very few homes and land at this time, the early 1900s, but thanks to God the situation has now turned around.
The way most people got together was work or fellowshipping at prayer meetings or going to church. Churches were not as numerous then as they are now, and service was only once a month. After toiling, (hard manual work) all day, people would get relief by praising God the only way they knew how; by praying and singing the very meaningful hymns that we hear sometimes now. Let’s imagine what took place as we go from the old to the new.
This is a two part history from the old to the new church that we now know as St. John. It starts in the early 1900s;
Setting—an old farm house on a little narrow, country, unpaved, and unnamed road. A few people gathered to have prayer meeting and a discussion started while waiting for other to come. They talked for a brief moment then decided to table the discussion until later. When the others arrived, they could hear the songs being sung prior to getting to the house. Some of the songs were:
I Must Tell Jesus, Count Your Blessings, and Where He Leads Me; these hymns brought joy and comfort to the soul.
History—Through speculations, I can imagine some 110 years ago, after prayer meeting the discussion came up about the size or growth of the house. A church meeting date was set to continue the discussion about meeting in the old farm house. The talk was going to be about an overgrowth in which the house was getting too small. So, there was a need to make a change (build or relocate.)
The meeting was called to order.
The first song was AMAZING GRACE:
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
There was a scripture reading and then the prayer was prayed. The next song before the meeting was; A CHARGE I HAVE to set the atmosphere:
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify
A never dying soul to save.
And fit for the sky.
Now it’s time for the meeting Mr. Chairman, I have a proposition to make. Since we’re outgrowing this old house, I think it’s time for us to build our own church. So, we need to find some land on which to build. The members were in agreement.
The trustees, Cubit Perkins, Alfred Crandell and John Jenkins looked for and found the land. They found and purchased ¼ acre of land from L.T. and Lidia Perkins for $9.00 on September 12, 1903 for Missionary Church.
In 1904, Missionary Church was completed and renamed Piney Grove Baptist Church. For unknown reasons/ the name was changed to St. John Missionary Baptist Church.
In the early church the Deacons and other leaders were not identified. After the church became St. John the Deacons were: Buddy Perkins, Ananias Clemons, James Parker, Cellus Ward, Rufus Moore, Will Parker and Marcellus House. There were other leaders in the church which were elevated to a higher level. Through divine intervention, God inspired and elevated the following men to carry the WORD out of St. John. They were Robert Mobley, Ashley Daniels, James A. Daniels and Jesse Ray Roberson. Former Mothers of the church were Ella Parker, Annie Ward, Hattie Parker, Amy Daniels, Emma Barnes, Rosa Mae Perkins, Julia Tyson and Goldie Andrews.
Deacons Paul Moore and Dock Chance helped in leading and laying a foundation for us. Anthony Grice, Jesse Everett, and Jerry Little were the deacons in St. John which has only six pastors since its foundation, selected the seventh. We have had some modifications and additions during the years but the most recent changes you can now see.
The seventh Pastor of St. John is none other than Pastor Gregory V. Black. He is an anointed, God-fearing man, chosen and sent to us by God. He believes in preaching and teaching the WORD OF GOD whether you like it or not. THE WORD is delivered in such a way that I causes you to soul-search/examine yourself. It’s up to you to make the necessary changes. Just as we use an atlas/roadmap, Pastor Black uses the BIBLE as his guide and Jesus, his commander-in-chief.
After being at St. John for awhile, Pastor Black saw that two of our deacons were getting old in bad health and needed some help. In looking over the congregation, he sought God for direction. Donnie Brown and Jerry Smith were the first two deacons installed under his leadership. Later, Edward Clemons and Julius R. Perkins, (Bro. Jut) were installed. The following mothers were installed: Louvenia Askew, Catherine Ward, Marjorie Perkins, Eva Clemons and Lillian Morning under his leadership.
In 2001, a vision was given to Pastor Black. An interview was conducted.
Question: What is THE VISION?
Answer: THE VISION was given to me in 2001. God saw that the church was growing and we were in a dangerous location due to the heavy traffic on such a busy highway, (HIGHWAY 903.) Therefore, he was chosen as the SERVANT to oversee the completion of the Vision, which was to build a new church. Pastor then told the congregation about the VISION, and we gave him our support. What else could a congregation do? Our Servant/Shepherd spearheaded the project and things started happening.
⦁ First, he looked and found land (to accommodate a building, with adequate parking and to allow for expansion when needed.)
⦁ Purchasing of 5 acres of land from Ed Warren in January 2001.
⦁ Had land surveyed.
⦁ Contacted Smith Engineering & Design Co. to draw up plan/blueprints of the building.
⦁ Church records had to be in order to obtain finances for the building from Southern Bank in Bethel/Greenville.
⦁ Transactions were completed on July 15, 2004.
⦁ Groundbreaking ceremony occurred September 25, 2005.
⦁ C.A. Lewis, contractor along with others were then instructed to get started. The building actually in October 2004 and continued until September 2005 with the finished product.
We can now safely say “THE VISION HAS COME TO PASS.” The St. John Missionary Baptist Church has not changed its name but added SOUL-SAVING CENTER, Stokes, NC this 25th day of September 2005. This SOUL-SAVING CENTER is about winning souls.
Question: Pastor Black how many days did you come here while the construction was going on? A quote, “I missed no more than 10-15 days while this building was being built and that included Saturdays and Sundays.” In spending time here Pastor Black was not just sitting idle. He was busy working and inspecting the work that was being done. He made sure that there were no short cuts being taken.
We, the members are proud of this beautiful building, proud of the one who was sent and inspired by God and given the VISION. It took many long hard hours of work, prayers, love and dedication to complete this vision. We are appreciative to God for the Visionary, he has placed over us, to lead, guide, teach and direct us. “THE VISION IS NOW IN PLACE.”
On September 25, 2005 at 8:00am, we the St. John Church family met at the old church on Highway 903N and walked to the new sanctuary on Briery Swamp Road. The march was led by our leader, Pastor Gregory V. Black. There were approximately 100-125 people who walked the 1.7 miles. Some of the older members and those with various ailments were able to ride. A special limousine was donated by Granelle’s Limo Service for non-walkers. At 3:00pm there was a ribbon cutting ceremony. It was followed by the Dedication Service in which the sanctuary and all its contents were dedicated to the Lord. The service was well attended. The Moderator of the Middle Ground Union/Association, Rev. Walter Cherry, Jr. delivered the message.
God is still working on Pastor Black, revealing to him that the church will become a LIFE-CHANGING CENTER through the WORD, songs and prayers. This will be a place set aside for the purpose of winning souls, counseling, teaching, healing, etc. It will reach the needs of the people regardless to who you are.
In March 2006, the 14th Anniversary was given by the church to our Pastor, Gregory V. Black. One of the most important gifts of the many in which he received was the naming of the fellowship hall. We no longer have just a fellowship hall, but we have the GREGORY V. BLACK FELLOWSHIP HALL. It was justly named for his services, and as the visionary/overseer of the building project.
The history continues. We celebrated our fourth Women Conference on August 7-13, 2006. Sis. Patricia Black had been laboring, trying to make this the best conference we had ever had. Our theme was “Women Walking in Destiny: Created for So Much More.” In her planning, praying and fasting about the conference, the Lord gave her the vision of a “PRAYER GARDEN.” She decorated the room and it was set aside for prayer for the week. The Pastor went in prayer and it was revealed that the Prayer Garden would become a permanent part of the church. So, as of August 8, 2006, we now have a prayer room. A PRAYER GARDEN is a sacred room set aside for prayer only. The atmosphere is one of silence and tranquility.
History is added as it arises. In August 2007, the research was done for the cornerstone of the church. The cornerstone was made and delivered Thursday, September 20, 2007. We found that the measurements were off by a fraction of an inch, therefore it could not be installed until the following Monday. It reads as thus,
St. John Missionary Baptist Church
Founded 1903, rebuilt and relocated September 25, 2005.
Rev. Mack Cotton 1904-1906
Rev. Cornelius Brown 1907-1909
Rev. James A. G. McNair 1910-1949
Rev. John Chance 1950-1980
Rev. L. D. Bizzell 1982-1984
Rev. M. A. Riddick 1985-1991
Pastor Gregory V. Black 1991-
According to our records and calculations, St. John was 101 years old on September 12, 2005 and we moved into the new sanctuary on September 2005. In December 2014, while still under the leadership of Pastor Gregory V. Black, the mortgage for the new sanctuary was paid in full after only nine years since the vision was given to Pastor Black. To God Be The Glory.