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How Did We Get Here?

History of St. John AME Church- Kushla


Sunday May 18, 2008
11:00 AM

Today, Sunday May 18, 2008, in this beautiful sanctuary soon to be


mortgage free. How did we get here? God did it! The history of
St. John is a long one. Many of you have lived it and many of you
helped make it. When we look at the oldest members of this
historic church, we can tell that the history is lengthy. The first
recorded history of St. John goes back to the early 1892 when the
church officially affiliated with the AME church; records indicate
that we held worship services as early as 1867. Therefore, we rank
among the oldest AME churches in Alabama.

Our church has been led by 28 ministers (the late Rev. Cleveland
Smoke was number 27 and he was the pastor here for 23 years)
and 14 presiding elders (Rev. EA Rouse currently serves as our PE)
and 15 bishops (with the Rt. Rev. T. Larry Kirkland currently
presiding).

We’ve decided that we would focus on how we got to this day


reviewing the past 24 years. Keep in mind that the bottom line is:
God did it!

On Sunday, August 16, 1981, at 10AM at St. James AME Church


in Prichard where Rev. J. W. Leggett was pastor, Johnnie Bryant
delivered his initial sermon.

During the 93rd Session of the Central Alabama Annual


Conference (Friday night September 23, 1983), Rev. Bryant
received his first pastoral appointment to St. John. It was then he
was given the charge to “turn that church around”. On Sunday,
September 25, 1983, Johnnie Bryant came to St. John as pastor.

St. John was the little clean church that sat on this hill facing the
forest. The front doors did not face St. John Chapel Rd. (therefore
the turn the church around decree came.) I don’t want anyone to
think that the thoughts were that the church was backward. The
church’s position on the lot was backward since it did not face the
road. This is due to the fact that the new road was cut behind the
church rather than in front of it. Where the kitchen is today is
where the entry doors were located. There were unpadded benches
and space heaters. There were ceiling fans and paper fans.

There were sad times and happy times in the old sanctuary. On
Saturday, October 1, 1983, Rev. Bryant presided over his first
funeral as pastor; the funeral of Bro. Eddie Robinson who passed
September 22, 1983. But change was inevitable because growth
occurred from within and without.

The first wedding performed by Rev. Bryant in the old sanctuary


was that of Richard and Diana White. The first baby baptized by
Rev. Bryant was Jennifer Brown. During the next 24 years many
babies were baptized, several weddings and funerals were
performed in the old church.

It was obvious that we had outgrown the little clean church facing
the woods, so the vision of a new place of worships was given to
Rev. Bryant and he shared it with the congregation. Bro. Emerson
Robinson, Sr said, “I’m with you pastor” and it was on!

Five years after his appointment, on September 25, 1988, we held


the ground breaking ceremony for a new sanctuary. We worked
hard to realize the dream of a new place of worship that met the
needs of the growing congregation. We sold fish, chicken, ribs and
held 3 PM programs. It took us four years to get to the dedication
service which was held April 26, 1992 but God did it!

We followed Rev Bryant’s leadership (who was following God’s


leadership) in planning the dedicatory services. As a result, the
dedication services were spectacular. We held a motorcade from
the windy city of Prichard to Kushla led by the Bishop, Rt. Rev. C.
E. Thomas, Presiding Elder H.O. Swanson and Rev. Johnnie M.
Bryant. There were many dignitaries present that day but the
services were led by the Holy Spirit. The sprit was so high that
Bishop Thomas stood and declared at the start of his sermon and I
quote, “What do you want me to do?” Bishop Thomas recognized
that day that the Holy Spirit was in control. We all felt the presence
of God. We declared to God be the Glory because we recognized
that God did it!

Since the dedicatory service, we have remolded the old sanctuary


into a modern day all purpose/dinning room with a modern
commercial kitchen. God did it!

How did we get here? How did we get to this day of celebration
and mortgage burning? God did it! It has been 16 years since we
held the dedicatory services. Sixteen years since April 26, 1992. In
this new sanctuary many babies have been baptized, many
weddings have been performed (some of them twice) and several
funerals have been preached. But God has been good to us. We
have had far more weddings and baptismal services than funerals.

Today May 18, 2008, we reach another milestone in the life of St.
John AME Church. We will burn our mortgage! God did it!

Today signifies not an end but a new beginning of things to come


for the glory of God. Thank you Lord! Thank you Rev. Bryant; for
following the lead of God and doing the impossible with a few
dedicated Christians who followed leadership. Many said it could
not be done. But God did it! We don’t know what the future holds
in store for us but we do know who holds the future.

How did we get here today? God did it! And to God be the glory!

Johnnita Bryant
May 18, 2008