Keep Oakland Beautiful Point of Interest: Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

Keep Oakland Beautiful Points of Interest remind us of how interesting and beautiful Oakland is and why we should care about protecting it.

The story of the St. John Missionary Baptist Church is a story of vision and perseverance. The story begins in 1947, when Dr. C.J. Anderson started the church in an old revival tent on Magnolia Street in West Oakland. At the time, there were eight members of the congregation. Two months later, the church moved to 34th Street and Market, where the now 25-member congregation was allowed to share space in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Five months later, Dr. Anderson moved his church again, this time to the Watson Building on 8th Street. Two years later saw yet another move when Dr. Anderson and the growing congregation purchased their first building on Filbert Street.

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Dr. C. J. Anderson, Pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 1947-2000.

Photo from http://www.godblacktheodicy.com/rev_anderson.jpg

About eight years passed before Reverend Anderson moved his flock again. He had recently purchased two apartment buildings at the corner of Market Street and 19th Street when he learned that the St. Andrews Catholic Church, a church facility he was captivated by, was put up for sale due to the pending construction of the I-580 freeway in West Oakland. Dr. Anderson purchased the church structure, had his apartment buildings demolished at his own expense, then donated his vacant land to the church. He hired the Ahen House Moving Company to move the church structure from its location at 36th St and Adeline to the vacant lot at Market and 19th Streets.

To accomplish this move, the building had to be cut into three sections. Each section was then moved to the new site where the church building was reassembled and renovated. The St. Andrews Catholic Church was now the St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church.

For the next 35 years, Reverend Anderson preached in his church. Then in 1993, the church was gutted by fire. Undaunted, the pastor and his congregation raised funds to rebuild the church you see today.

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After more than 50 years of dedicated service to his congregation, Reverend Anderson passed away in 2000. In 2005, Reverend Gregory B. Payton became only the second pastor of the church; he continues to serve in this capacity to this day.

At the church’s 60th anniversary in 2007, the church added ‘Greater’ to its name. Today, the church on Market and 19th Streets is known as the Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

The current church is Spanish Mission-style, with two domed bell towers and red tile roofing. The walls are adobe-colored, with windows of different colors. Stairs lead from the sidewalk on Market Street to a pillared entryway with a pair of large, blue doors. The columns that flank the front doors are of Corinthian (ornate Greek) architecture and the ‘capitals’ that sit atop the columns are painted in shiny gold. Near the base of the stairs, a gold lion and gold bear face the street. The Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Oakland.

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Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.

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