About the year 1867, the pioneers of this community joined with those in Howard Town (Nichols Avenue area) and trekked to Good Hope, now known as Garfield and worshiped with Allen AME Church. They traveled by horse and buggy; old wagons; horseback and on foot through the woods over the ditches and rugged roads to work out their soul salvation. As time moved on many of the worshipers, being old and not too well, felt the distance to and from had become strenuous and decided to seek a closer meeting place. An old schoolhouse on Mt. Zion Hill known as Douglas Road, S.E. was made available. Later the Howard Town folk sought a closer place and began worshiping in the home of one of its members, thereafter building what is now know as Campbell AME Church, Nichols Avenue (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue) and Sumner Road, S.E. By that time the CME Church had come into existence. Those remaining at Mt. Zion continued to worship there until 1875, when they built a church at the corner of Stanton and Douglas Roads, S.E. and named it Israel Mission CME Church, later changed to Hillsdale Station CME and in 1920 changed to St. John CME Church.
Forty-two ministers have pastored St. John during these 137 years. The first pastor was Rev. W. H. Young. The actual founders were: Henry Jackson, Joseph Hall, Isaac Brown, Isaac Diggs, John Taylor, Gwinn Green, Henry Gwinn, Ann Smoot, Sophia Simms, Solomon G. Brown and Henry Grantum.
St. John moved from its original location because of condemnation procedures by the District Government to widen Stanton Road. The ground we now occupy was purchased in 1925. On January 1, 1932, a ground breaking service followed the 11:00 A.M. Worship Service. Shortly thereafter construction started, The basement was completed and made ready for service in August 1934. Rev. M. Wilcox and Rev. J. T. McClennon are credited with the completion. Bishop Henry Phillips was the speaker on that Sunday. The cornerstone was laid by Morning Star Lodge of Elks.
Rev. Haywood Threlkeld came in 1938 and moved ahead to complete the church, whose walls and roof for the upper structure was already completed. All interior work was done, furniture and Hammond Organ in place and was ready for service on a Sunday, April, 1939 at which time Bishop Charles Lee Russell gave the message.
In 1976, the Rev. Dr. William L. Austin was assigned to St. John. Brother Samuel J. Ficklin, Chairman of the Steward Board also chaired the Building Committee. Under his leadership extensive renovations were completed. The famous porch and steeple were dismantled. The main entrance now faces Douglas Road; there are two stairways leading into the sanctuary; new flooring; pulpit furniture and new pews with cushions; three aisles instead of two; pastor’s study; quiet room; new office for the secretary; rest rooms; new lights and security system at a total cost of $276,092.04. While renovations were taking place, services were moved to the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Robert Mason Funeral Home on the second Sunday in November 1979 through 1980.
In 1986, the Rev. Weldon G. Thomas was assigned to St. John. Under his leadership various ministries were started: Marriage Enrichment; Youth and Young Adult Choir; Acolyte Ministry; after school tutoring; Sharing with the Children’s Ministry; Tuesday Noon Day Prayer Services; reactivation of the Girl Scout Troop; Nursery Ministry; Manna Committee; and Ministry of Hope (under the leadership of Rev. Angeloyd Fenrick.)
The Capital Planning and Improvement Committee chaired by Bro. Julius D. Washington, spearheaded a campaign to liquidate the remaining mortgage of $100,711 from the 1979 building expansion. On Sunday, May 15, 1988, the church celebrated the mortgage burning ceremony. On June 9, 1996, the faith, prayers and efforts of the St. John Congregation led to the dedication of its new Education Building and renovated Sanctuary at total cost of $1,600,000. The new three story Education Building houses a day care center; a new fellowship hall; a new kitchen; five classrooms and a library. The old Fellowship Hall was converted into a new pastor’s study; church secretary’s office; conference room; new rest rooms; space for a religious book store; a multipurpose room and storage space. A grand foyer joining the present edifice with the new building includes an elevator, which leads to the sanctuary and other parts of the church. On March 16, 1997, St John dedicated its new stained glass windows. The symbols in the windows represent; the doves; the olive branch and flames of fire. Also, pictured in the windows are: Bishop William H. Miles, first Bishop of the CME Church; Rev. William H. Young, first pastor of St. John CME; Dr. Mattie E. Coleman, first president of the Women’s Connectional Society; Bishop Joseph C. Coles, Jr., son of St. John, 37th Bishop of the CME Church; Bishop Oree Broomfield, Sr., former pastor of St. John, 45th Bishop of the CME Church.
In 2001, the Rev. Wardell Bonner was assigned to St. John. Under his leadership, the church purchased the adjacent property and established the Saint John Community Development Corporation, which serves the neighborhood in many ways, including providing education, job training and HIV Awareness. The church was extremely active in bible study and other activities. We celebrated his retirement from active ministry in June of 2012.