History of the

St.   John Missionary Baptist Church/

St. John Praise & Worship Center

Pulaski, Illinois

 

St. John was founded in a village that originated from an Illinois Central Railroad Camp whose workers were given the task of constructing the railroad from Cairo to Centralia, IL.  Only sharecroppers, lumbermen, newly freed slaves, drifters, labor seekers, and a few landowners existed in nearby settlements.  The camp grew rapidly due to the railroad employment, and was incorporated as a town named "Pulaski" after a Polish Count who became a Revolutionary War Hero.  A store, post office, black smith shop and depot were erected.  The railroad depot served as a social meeting place for the farmers as they marketed their products to St. Louis and Chicago.  Employment increased and prosperity flourished in the community.

In 1876, a group of Christians, (who knew that "where two or three are gathered together in Christ's name that He would be in the midst of them), proposed to assemble as a body.  They organized St. John Missionary Baptist Church and established their wise leader, the Rev. W. Thompson as the founding pastor.  His administration included Elijah Harrell, C. W. Williams, Clem Lily, William Flakes, Walter Thompson and Thomas Alsobrooks as deacons and trustees.  Jody Bell, Church Secretary, and Etta Mae Humble, Sunday school secretary, assisted them.  They constructed the sanctuary and with much rejoicing and thanksgiving, they dedicated this edifice to God.  They, as Christians, knew that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." (Psalm 127:1)

During the early years, all-day rallies were held, and visiting ministers gave brief, spirit-filled sermons.  Families served basket dinners, "soda water" and "home-made" ice cream on the church grounds.  Baptisms were conducted by bathing newly won souls in the North town creek.  Traditions began and a culture of praise, worship and genuine love among the members of the church family were firmly established.  They celebrated the Lord and Christian fellowship on family days, holiday programs, and pastoral appreciations.  With other believers, and community members, they married, buried and enjoyed district meetings and ice cream socials.

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St. John Missionary Baptist Church

In January of 1937, the Ohio River broke through a levee in Massac County, and roared into the Cache River.  Flood waters swept through Karnak, Perks, Ullin and Pulaski as the river sought to join with the Mississippi River.  More than 8,000 people were forced to flee.  The evacuation was led by the National Guard, Illinois Emergency Relief and WPA workers.  The Church, built on the highest peak in town, became a place of refuge for food and safety.

In 1941, the church was destroyed by a terrible storm that also destroyed many homes in the town.  Services were held in the Bannaker School.  A year later, the second church was erected by a congregation whose spirit, trust and determination could not be hindered.

The building underwent many renovations from 1941 to 1985.  This includes modernization of a furnace from a pot bellied stove, and a bathroom from an outhouse.  Through it all the church remained a place in Pulaski where everyone could worship and fellowship together.  Many dedicated their energy to the Lord's work, adding souls to the harvest with the words of Paul under girding their efforts: "wherefore comfort yourselves together and edify one another, even as also we do …" (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

From 1946-1948, the Rev. Jarrett pastored, followed by Rev. S. A. Miller.  The 15th pastor was Rev. R. T. Ship, Sr., who was succeeded by Rev. W. L. White.  The deacons and trustees at that time were Jim Love, Grayer Mallory, Edward Tucker, Tommie Gray, Curtis Tucker, Obadiah Cooper and Fred Foulks.  When Rev. White's health failed, Rev. Robert James took the mantle as the 17th pastor.  He organized the St. John brotherhood, with his deacon and trustee board of Ben Murray, Jim Love, Grayer Mallory, Obadiah Cooper, Edward Tucker, Tommie Gray, Buster Jennings, Curtis Tucker and Fred Foulks.  In 1985, Rev. Larry T. Barnett, Sr., became the 18th pastor.  Our First Lady is Carol (Grundy) and their children are Cala, Shaya, T. J. and Sean.

One on Saturday morning in 1993 during regular church business meeting at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, our Pastor, Rev. Larry T. Barnett, Sr., and the St. John Deacon Board brought to the congregation the idea to build a new facility.  The members present all agreed to step out on faith.  Truly this was a walk of faith because the church's income did not reflect this possibility.  But the dedicated, faithful members, under the leadership of a spiritually lead pastor, set their hearts, time, energy, and finances to work.  With the theme "For we walk by Faith and not by sight."  II Corinthians 5:7.  The congregation agreed to pay tithes, offerings, and some made special pledges to accomplish the vision that had been given to our pastor. 

Our next feat was to find a lending institution that would loan us the money necessary to build.  Still praying and walking by faith, our Pastor and deacons set out to meet with various banks.  Surprisingly enough, the bank we had been dealing with for years did not loan us the money.  Needless to say, we sought other banks and eventually secured a loan with Community National Bank in Mounds, Illinois, where we transferred all our funds. 

We then went into a period of 40 days of fasting and praying where someone was in the sanctuary each day offering prayer to the Lord.  But, before the loan was secured, we purchased property to build on.  On Saturday, November 16, 1996 at 9 a.m. E.M.C. Construction Company of Carbondale erected a sign on our building site.  On April 29, 1997, we held our groundbreaking celebration (although a loan still had not been secured).  Rev. James Hailey was the speaker at the celebration. 

Still walking by faith even though we had selected one contractor, God sent us another, Bro. Tommy Gentry, to bid on the project, and he was selected.

After securing a loan for the total project, our faithful and spirit-filled deacons - Edward Tucker, Sr., Buster Jennings (now deceased but got to see the completion of the sanctuary and worship in it) and our youngest deacon Gregory Tucker, Sr., went to the bank and signed all the necessary papers and we were ready to erect the building.  Still trusting God, the construction began.

Saying we would build on God's Word and through the vision given to our Pastor, Bibles were placed throughout the foundation.  Therefore, we were truly building on God's word. 

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Bible foundation layout

 Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Barnett was instructed to change the name from St. John Missionary Baptist Church to the St. John Praise and Worship Center.  In order to be more organized, the Ministerial Staff (known at that time as office heads) went into a two-day retreat at Touch of Nature in Carbondale, Illinois.  There, we defined the functions of officers and roles of Pastor and Deacons and defined functions and expectations of auxiliaries.  We also developed our mission statement, which is, "A word church, reaching out to the spiritual, physical, emotional, economical, and social needs of the total man.  A ministry based on the Holy Word of God, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth.  Unconditionally, sharing genuine Christian love as God has given to us.  We are not perfect; only forgiven as every man can be in the eyes of God."

On April 11, 1999, we had our 11 a.m. morning service in the new facility to give our members the opportunity to worship together in the new sanctuary marking the beginning of a newness and evidence of our faith.  The doors were locked and everyone went to the old St. John Missionary Baptist Church for one last time where we marched from our old building to the new facility.  Upon arrival, Pastor Larry Barnett and First Lady Carol cut the ribbon to usher in a new era for a congregation that had been in existence for 122 years. 

Through faithfulness and obedience, we thank God for the vision given to our Pastor and founder of the St. John Praise and Worship Center, Apostle Larry Tyrann Barnett.  "All things are possible to them that believeth."  Mark 9:23

 

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St. John Praise and Worship Center