JOHN STREET BAPTIST CHURCH, 1884 - Present
To God be the glory!
In 1884, a few families who migrated from the South and settled in Worcester found the need to come together to share the word of God. They began to hold prayer meetings from house to house. A few of them, in looking for a church home, united with Pleasant Street Baptist Church while about two of them placed their letters with First Baptist Church. The need to have a stable church home led to the founding of Mt. Olive Baptist Mission in 1885. On February 1, 1885 a call was issued for the formation of a church by members of the Mission and former members of Pleasant Street and First Baptist Churches. The notice was as follows: "To any and all persons who have been and now identified with Mt. Olive Baptist Missionary hereby notified that the first regular meeting will take place at the Reform Club Hall, 460 Main St, Wednesday evening, February 4, 1885 at 7:30 pm to take action on the following articles:
1. To choose a moderator.
2. To take action on the adoption of articles of faith and church covenant.
3. To elect the officers to maintain and further the progress of a regular Baptist Church and transact any other business that will be necessary. - Alexander F. Heminway, Secretary."
On February 4, the members met. The meeting was called to order by Brother Heminway with Brother Charles Simmons as the moderator. Brother Phillip Brooks read the scriptures and prayed while Brother Heminway was chosen Clerk. Next was the adoption of Faith and Church Covenant according to the Hiscox Directory for the foundation and structure of "our belief and be our guide for days to come." The name Mt. Olive Baptist Church was chosen as the name of the new church. The following officers were selected as the first officers of the new church:
Alexander Heminway - Clerk
Phillip Brooks, Robert H. Johnson, Washington Cox - Deacons
Maria Brooks, Pauline Cox, Maria Lamb, Lena Powers - Deaconesses
Andrew Jackson, Phillip Brooks, Bro. Bailey - Trustees
Andrew Jackson - Treasurer & Collector
The founders, initially numbering sixteen, secured 34 Front Street as their place of worship. The first year was very successful and they celebrated their 1st Anniversary in September 1886. Deacon Andrew Jackson invited Rev. Hiram Conway of North Cumberland County, Virginia to Worcester. Rev. Conway accepted the invitation. He attended Richmond Theological Institute under the scholarship of Pleasant St. Baptist Church. Upon his return from school, he assumed duties as Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Due to added expenses of renting halls, Rev. Conway and Deacon Jackson decided to look for a place that the church would call their own place of worship.
In 1885, the name Mt. Olive Baptist Church became John St. Baptist Church. Although the 1st Anniversary celebration was held in September 1886, the church took 1884, the date the mission was formed, as the birth date of John Street Baptist Church beginning with the 97th anniversary.
On January 1, 1887, the first money was raised and in April, they received the deed for the land and dwelling house located on this present site. The little house was remodeled into a church and dedicated in June of the same year.
In four years, they paid off a mortgage of $1,500. This small group of earnest-hearted Christians decided that, with God's help, their vision of a larger church for the future generation would be realized. Their vision became reality in 1891 when the present edifice was erected at the cost of $4,500. In 1910, the mortgage was burned. Under the leadership of the Women's' Club, the first pews were installed in place of chairs.
The church has had seventeen pastors in the past 132 years with Rev. Hiram Conway as the first Pastor to the present pastor Rev. (Dr.) Roosevelt Hughes as the current pastor since August, 1983. Former pastors include: Rev. M.E. Hunter, Rev. William M. Gibson, Rev. C.C. Blake, Rev. Edgar Clarke, Rev. Joseph Dancy, Rev. Toussaint Davis, Rev. Joseph Lewis, Rev. Rudolph Featherstone, Rev. Adolphus C. Ross, Rev. Richard Wright, Rev. Eugene Belcher, and Rev. Alton Pollard III.
The history of John Street Baptist Church would not be complete without mentioning the spiritual leadership of Pastor Hughes, who continues to preach and teach the Word of God.
The church has also been going through a lot of physical changes in conjunction with its spiritual renewal. In 1999, renovation work began to convert the church parsonage to an Education Wing. Work was completed in 2003 and the facility was formally dedicated for use later that year. The facility provides a more structured setting and conducive atmosphere for teachers as well as students to the teaching and learning of the Word. It is further attestation to the high priority Rev. Hughes and the leadership of the Church attached to the teaching of the Word to our children.
Vacation Bible School (VBS), under the leadership of the Sunday School Dept., is held the last week of July. It provides spiritual teachings and nourishments to students of the Word. It was restarted in 1993 after a short break and was initially held at First Baptist Church on Park Avenue with student enrollment of about 15 to 20. In 1994, the Bible School returned to John Street Baptist Church. Through partnership with Mt. Olive Pentecostal Church in 1999, the school has recorded even more success in teaching the Word to more people in the community. The enrollment has substantially increased to an average of 55-60 students per night for the past several years. In conjunction with VBS is the annual church picnic which was started in 1995 as a summer church family picnic to mark the end of VBS. The church picnic has now become a social outreach program. In 1997, the picnic was moved to a new location at the Buffumville Dam in Charlton, MA. The highlight of the church outing is the sacred baptismal service held each year prior to the meals. Many brothers and sisters have been baptized during the service at Buffumville Lake. The event has been so successful and inspiring that Buffumville officials look to our return every year.
Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." John Street Baptist Church understands the importance of spiritual growth in inculcating the teachings of the Bible into our children as future leaders of the community at large and the church in particular. Consequently, the church has created programs geared specifically for the spiritual nourishment and rectitude of our children. The Children's Church Ministry was revamped to meet this need. The Ministry has been a permanent part of our Sunday Worship Service for a number of years. The main purpose is to train and teach our children between 3 and 12 years old how to have a meaningful relationship with God. Classes are held 2nd and 4th Sundays. Structure is given to the younger students while applied courses such as "How to use the Bible" is given to the older students.
In addition to Baptist Youth Fellowship (BYF) that has existed for over 50 years, expanded youth programs include Youth Basketball, Drama Ministries and the J.S.B.C. Youth Newspaper. The church also recently added the Puppet Ministries, the Clergy/Police Mentoring program, Missions and summer enrichment activities. These programs encourage our youths to use their skills and talents to positively influence others to learn about Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives.
Another vibrant ministry within the church is the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Scholarship Program. This ministry awards scholarships to qualified, deserving students (young and old) of John Street Baptist Church who enrolled in college full-time. The program has awarded many scholarships over the last several years. Other ministries geared to meet the needs of our members and the community includes the Music ministry, Bible Study seminars, Men’s & Women's ministries, weekly prayer, Thanksgiving and Christmas Outreach to name a few.
John Street Baptist Church not only makes every attempt to take care of its members but also provides services to the City of Worcester and the community at large. Of significant mention is the Soup Kitchen Ministry. The Soup Kitchen Ministry was started in February 1983 with the initial amount of $40 by ten women missionaries including a young lady from Becker College (who hatched the idea of a soup kitchen) Linda VanStory, and our own Majorie Wilson. Fourteen members of J.S.B.C. currently belong to the Soup Kitchen Ministry. The Soup Kitchen, in partnership with other area churches, has grown in leaps and bounds and has done a remarkable job in feeding about 50 to 70 people every Saturday morning. Even more remarkable is the fact that the Soup Kitchen has only been closed 3 times since its inception.
Throughout the years a number of distinguish individuals have served the midst of this membership. Rev. (Dr.) Martin Luther King, Jr. preached here while a student at Boston University. Marshall W. "Major" Taylor, the famous cyclist, whose statue is erected at the Worcester Public Library, along with his sister were members of this church. We have had generations of families become members and remain members over the 132 years.