After a 113 years we, Saint John United Methodist Church is still serving
The Church History
St. John started in the year 1904. The church was named Saint John Methodist Episcopal Church and was located on the east side of the “railroad track” and east of Andrew Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Dade County). Two disasters, the 1926 hurricane and a church fire in 1962, destroyed all early documents of the church.
All streets in Fort Lauderdale had names, not numbers at that time, for example: Third Avenue was known as Nugent Avenue, Fourth Avenue was called Cunningham Avenue and Fifth Avenue was called Metcalf Avenue North.
There are several gaps in the records because of the 1962 fire incident, however, the following were some of the pioneering members: Sylvia Aldridge, Eliza Robinson, W.P. Robinson, and Emma McCoy were joined by Annie Williams and Savannah Hurst under the pastorate of Rev. W.P. Johnson on the east side of the tracks. They were later joined by Tempie Ellison and Geneva Scott. The second location of Saint John United Methodist Church to later become Saint John United Methodist Church (the May 1939 General Conference deleted the word Episcopal) was located on Metcalf Avenue North, now known as Fifth Avenue. This land was given to the church by a member, Mrs. Wright-Austin. Mrs. Austin was the sister of Elija Robinson (grandparents and relatives of several descendants who are present members of Saint John and Sister church Harris Chapel United Methodist Church). As stated earlier, this building was destroyed by fire in 1962. Prior to the destruction of the church by fire the members realized that the present site was inadequate.
A vision of a new church was born. Although small in number a search committee located and purchased the property of the present site. During the interim period without a church, services were held at the Northwest Branch YMCA now LA Lee Branch located at 408 NW 14 Terrace. The years of 1960—1964 were very challenging. With the strong leadership of Rev. Banks and a membership of approximately 150, endowed with Christian principles, faith and determination, marched from the YMCA into the sanctuary at the present site, 1520 NW 5th Street (now Marjorie Davis Street) in January 1964.
It is worth mentioning that Rev. Horace W. Lewis, a member of St. John for about thirty years became a Lay Pastor and was assigned to Harris Chapel and Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church.
In 1969, the Central Jurisdiction and the Southeastern Jurisdiction merged. We became the United Methodist Church; Saint John was the recipient of a new parsonage erected at 449 NW 15 Avenue through cooperative efforts of SUM Ministries and members of Saint John United Methodist Church. Mr. Dewy Hummel, General Contractor and Mr. James J. Gardner, Chairman of Trustee Board were cited for their untiring efforts in this endeavor. In the recent years St. John had purchased additional properties around the present church to give it the space it now has both for parking and an envisioned multipurpose building to be built very soon.
The Florida Conference meets annually to assign and reassign ministers to various churches. Below is the list of those dedicated woman and men:
Lawrence J. Little, 1904; Henry W. Bartley, 1905; Nathan A. Grimes, 1906; Albert Emmanuel, 1907; W. Pericles Pickens, 1908; Niger R. Armstrong, 1909-1911; William Madison, 1912; C.H. Napoleon, 1913; Robert A. Reid, 1914; Filmore M. Spicer, 1915; Jacob J. Johnson, 1916-1917; Joseph S. Bartley, 1918-1919; William Brown, 1920-1921; Jacob J. Johnson, 1922; John S. Cameron, 1923-1929; George T. Tyer, 1930; William P. Johnson, 1931-1933; Sandy B. Wilson, 1934; John A. Simpson, 1935; Anthony T. McCaskill, 1936-1937; Sandy B. Wilson, 1938-1939; Norven J. Currington, 1940; George W. Alexander, 1941; William P. Holmes, 1942-1945; Ernest H. Johnson, 1946-1950; Clarence R. A. Banks, 1950-67; Eugene J. Sheppard, 1967-73; Robert Dell, 1973-77; David Russell, 1977-78; Eddie J. Rivers, 1978-86; Laurence E. Hall, 1986-91; Elston R. Perry, 1991-96; Ann L. Davis, 1996-2005; Simon K. Osunlana, 2005-present.
Each one demonstrated strong leadership and gave invaluable services to the church and community. St John may be a small congregation but its’ ministries are impacting the community in big and powerful ways.
St John’s ministry to the Youth, Singles and Seniors is making a significant difference in the community. Down through the years St. John has ministered and continue to mister our brothers and sister suffering from HIV/AIDS, homelessness, financial problems and marital problems to mention a few.
St John is one of the Pioneering Congregations to start BOLD JUSTICE and the pastor of St. John served as BOLD JUSTICE president for two terms since its inception. St John was the Distribution Center for Food Share for many years. St John provided a space in our facility to the city of Fort Lauderdale where they coordinated and conduct part of the 2010 Census and a special Certificate of Recognition was given to the church.
St. John is in active partnership with Walker and North Fork Elementary Schools and support the school children and staff in various ways. St. John continue to be a place that people come for to receive emergency food service and a big food drive and distribution is carried out every Thanksgiving.
All these activities led the City of Fort Lauderdale to declare October 25th as St John United Methodist Day by Proclamation. Our best days are still ahead of us, not behind us. Happy 113th Anniversary ST JOHN!!!