The primary source of unity and encouragement in Eastside life from 1890 to World War II appears to have been worship in one of three churches—Second Baptist Church, Park Avenue Baptist Church, and Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Allen Chapel AME, which built this structure, was the first predominantly African American church in Riverside. It is on this basis that our church building was placed on the California Historic Resources Inventory in the early 1970’s. It was founded in November, 1875 when a group of people met in the home of Mrs. Dobbs on Seventh Street to become a visible religious community. Occasionally the group would convene in a white Congregational Church located downtown. Most often they met in their homes, a practice which continued until they were able to build a church structure in the late 1870’s. A lot was purchased on the corner of Sedgwick and 10th Street, and a one room structure was built for worship and church school. In 1893 the Congregational church donated a building to the Allen Chapel. This building was moved to the 10 th Street property in sections to enlarge the original one room structure. In 1973 Allen Chapel moved to a new church located on Locust Street. The building was later purchased by St. John Missionary Baptist Church.
On May 9, 1973 a meeting was called to organize a new church. It was motioned by Sis. Annie Ross and seconded by Sister Martha Johnson, the Bible was accepted as the sole book of authority. The name of the church was to be called “St. John Missionary Baptist Church”, located at 2433 Tenth Street, Riverside, California. Rev. J. Linzie Whitmill served as Pastor from May 1973 through June 1979. During his leadership the church building was paid in full.
From June 1979 through November 1979, Rev. Albert Riley served as interim Pastor. On November 18, 1979, Rev. H. R. Landry was installed as Pastor. He served through March 17, 1981. In March 1981, Rev. Riley, again served as Interim Pastor. From April 1981 to September 1981, Rev. Conway James served as Interim Pastor and subsequently was appointed as Senior Pastor on October 17, 1981. Under the leadership of Pastor James we experienced both spiritual and physical growth. After much prayer, Rev. James retired in February 1996 and relocated to the state of Texas.
After organizing a Pastoral Search Committee, the church appointed Rev. Kevin E. Brown as Interim Pastor. At the end of a one-year search by the Pastoral Search Committee, the church appointed Rev. Kevin E. Brown as Senior Pastor. The installation was held January 12, 1997. Under the leadership of Pastor Brown, the church developed many new outreach activities to fulfill the vision of the church including casting his vision of F.E.D. (Fellowship, Evangelism and Discipleship). This vision inspired the Director of Music (Bro. Mark Massey) to write the song F.E.D.
In the late 90s the church relocated to 3279 Trade Center, Riverside and subsequently moved its worship site to 4491 Kansas Avenue, Riverside on October 8, 2000. In December 2005 a decision was made to return to full use of the Tenth Street property. This action required serious maintenance and repair efforts. It included re-stucco of the exterior, carpet replacement and the church was richly blessed with the donation of new church pews and pulpit furniture.
Over the next few years the church experienced growth in many areas. Some of the areas of growth included: Mission Sponsorship, Women’s Worshipfest, Monthly Youth Jams, Vacation Bible School, Harvest Festival, Male Chorus, Power of a Song Production, Bridges Concert (Songs that Brought Us Over), Community Outreach Men’s Shelter, Community Outreach Fairmount Park Feeding, Senior Adult Ministry, True Love Waits Training, Married Couples Fellowship, Brotherhood, “Stephen’s Care Ministry” - “See a Need, Meet a Need”, Graduates Banquet and Spring Concert and Silent Auction, Easter and Christmas Productions, “Miss Linda’s Toy Drive” “40 Days of Purpose” Study, Tanzania Mission Support, and Quarterly Community Feeding.
In May 2010 Pastor Brown resigned his pastoral position with St. John. Many changes in membership occurred in the months following. In 2011 a Pastoral Search Committee recruited Pastor Ralph Rivers as Interim Pastor. Rev. Rivers kindly led our membership from June 2011 to November 2011. Our second Interim Pastor during this time was Pastor Christopher McShan who served from July 2012 until March 2013.
Eventually Pastor Cory Rogers was selected to become our new Senior Pastor and was installed June 9, 2013. Unfortunately theological and ministerial differences between Pastor Rogers and the congregation became irreconcilable and he was dismissed by majority vote in 2014.
Again St. John was blessed by visiting pastors during a new pastoral search. In March 2015 Pastor Corey Singleton was recruited to be our new Interim Pastor. Over the next 12 months Pastor Corey led, loved and served St. John faithfully. In March 2016 the St. John family voted for Pastor Corey to become our new Senior Pastor. His installation service was held on May 29, 2016 at Loveland Church in Ontario. Under his leadership we’ve begun to focus all of our efforts on understanding our identity in Christ as members of St. John and celebrating being united in Christ by the gospel. To do this we WORSHIP God with our entire lives, UNITE in love as God’s family, CONNECT with our neighbors thru love, and PROCLAIM the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone we can. Watch as God continues to guide St. John in achieving his mission!