Church History – Brief


The St. John Baptist Church was organized in 1921 in Nouse Hall on Highland Avenue. The Church was organized so that there would be a place of worship close to the Baptists that lived in the Middletown Community. Holy Temple Church, now Tabernacle Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. T.A. Johnson.

Rev. Johnson was instrumental in helping the new church get started. In fact, Rev. Johnson allowed several deacons from his church to assist in St. John Baptist Church’s organization. St. John Baptist Church was headed by Pastor, Rev. Hogan.

In 1922, St. John Baptist Church purchased a lot at 1600 Maupin Avenue and built its second home. Sis. Leona Thompson, who joined the church in 1922, was the organizer and developed many of the Church’s activities. In 1926 the Church accepted Rev. Hogan resignation letter. Rev. Hogan recommended Rev. T.P. Wright as a replacement.

In 1927, the Church called Rev. Wright to pastor. Although at first the attendance was small, the few who attended remained faithful under the leadership of Rev. Wright and vigorously worked to increase the membership. In 1935 the building on Maupin Avenue was enlarged to accommodate the increased membership. However, in 1946 the Church Building was damaged by fire. While the building was being repaired, services were held in the Lovejoy Public School Building.

St. John developed a building fund in 1947 and purchased our present site from the First Baptist Church in 1954. In 1962 the mortgage was burned and the building was dedicated. Rev. Wright served as pastor of St John Baptist Church from 1927 until his retirement from active leadership of the church in 1984. Rev. Wright was given the title of Pastor Emeritus.


Rev. Willie J. Williams was voted by the membership to be the third pastor of St. John Baptist Church. He was installed as pastor on January 27, 1985. Pastor Williams graduated from Brooklyn School and served in the United States Army. He was employed at Jefferson Smurfit in Highland for more than 20 years. Pastor Williams dedicated his life to serving the Lord and loving his wife, Sis. Betty Williams, as God loves the church. Pastor Williams and First Lady Betty Williams were soul mates for nearly 30 years.

In 1991, Pastor Williams spearheaded the movement to have the church incorporated and formally drafted the church by-laws. Although the church was in existence for 70 years, he realized the importance to have the church recognized as an organization by the State of Illinois. This marked another significant era for the church.

Pastor Williams knew the importance of African-American History for our youth instituted an Annual Black History Month Celebration in 1998. This month-long celebration serves to educate people about the contributions and the struggle of African-Americans. Pastor Williams wanted to ensure that our youth understood both local and national contributions made to African-American History. This helps the people of this community to develop a sense of ownership and pride in the community.

In 2001, Pastor Williams with the blessing of the church set aside two young men for the Deacon Board. After nearly two years of training and instruction on December 15, 2002, Pastor Williams ordained the first deacons during his tenure at St. John.

On June 26, 2003, Pastor Williams was laid to rest after nearly 20 years of faithfulness. After nearly 30 years of marriage to our former First Lady, Sis. Betty Williams, she continues to attend St. John and carry out the legacy set by Pastor Williams.

On January 9, 2004, St. John voted in its’ fourth Pastor of the church, Rev. Edwin M. Coleman. During this time, the church made bold moves by electing an Assistant Pastor, Rev. Velda C. Peals. Rev. Velda C. Peals has made history at SJMBC as being the first female minister to serve on the church’s Pastoral Staff Team and as the first Assistant Pastor of the church’s history.

Pastor Coleman brought a new vision to St. John. Pastor Coleman had a vision for “Restoration & Reconciliation” in church and in the community. In 2004, the church’s motto was “Same No More 2004.” In 2005, the motto was “Grace Alive in 2005”, and in 2006 the motto was “Get in the Mix in 2006.” Under the leadership of Pastor Coleman, St. John pledged to strive in faithfulness and the advancement of God’s Kingdom. Pastor Coleman served the church until his resignation on August 31, 2006.



In September 2006, Assistant Pastor Velda C. Peals was voted as Acting Pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Her faithfulness and conviction to God and His church has made the church transition between administrations hopeful and seamless. Pastor Peals’ motto during this transition is “Still Standing!” Pastor Peals wants St. John and the community to know that we are still here doing the Lord’s work.

On Saturday, January 20, 2007, Rev. Velda C. Peals was voted as the first female Pastor in St. John Missionary Baptist Church’s History. Pastor Peals vision for the church is “Success is our destiny… failure is not an option.”

Under Pastor Velda C. Peals’ leadership, SJMBC moved in a new direction. In 2007, the church started planning for church-wide renovations and new construction. The first project completed was the construction of two new restrooms on the first level of the church. The new restrooms improved accessibility and convenience for the church members and guest. God bless the church to payoff the full cost of the restroom project in cash upon the completion.

The church moved from the traditional Men’s & Women’s Annual Day and replaced the event with the Lovie C. Woods Educational Center Golf Tournament. The golf tournament made its debut on October 5, 2007 at the Spencer T. Olin Golf Course. Since its’ introduction, it has raised several thousands of dollars for the church building fund. Proceeds from the event go into a dedicated building fund account for the construction of a new multi-purpose fellowship building – The Lovie C. Woods Educational Center. Once built, this multipurpose will host all of the major church functions, as the church renovate the existing church building. The future use of the Lovie C. Woods Educational Center will be used to expand the focus of Christian Education for members and guest. The multi-purpose facility will house a Christian library of reading materials and audio & video resources. It will also serve recreational and dining hall functions.

In January 2008, SJMBC made “Empowering the people of GOD to live in the power of GOD” as its’ motto. Pastor Velda C. Peals set the church goals for 2008.

In the spring of 2008, ST. John Missionary Baptist Church started a renovation project for an instructional computer lab. Renovation on the computer lab was completed in July 2008. The instructional computer lab was the first phase of its technology initiative to use technology to spread the Good News to all nations. The instructional computer lab consisting of seven networked personal computer unit running current applications and software can be expanded to support up to 24 units.

In August 2008, weekly basic and advance computer based training began at the church. The first year of training class were conducted to educate SJMBC members on computer and various applications. In the future, the instructional computer lab will offer computer based training to the Alton Community.

In November 2008, St. John Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Pastor Velda C. Peals ordained its first Female Deacon, Carla Frazier. Deacon Carla Frazier was set aside by Pastor Velda C. Peals with instruction and mentoring.

In August 2009, SJMBC sponsored a block party on 5th and Market and invited the community to attend. All food, games and activities were free. the first year we had about 100 people to attend. In 2010, SJMBC join forces with other surrounding churches (First Presbyterian Church, St. Paul Episcopal Church, Morning Star MB Church and Salvation Army of Alton) and formed The Market Street Community Block Party & Health Fair. The Market Street Community Block Party & Health Fair serves to promote a fun and positive way for people in the Alton River Bend area to connect and build stronger, safer, and a more cohesive community. This event is free and open to the general public. We have inflatable bounce houses & slides, craft activities, food, soda, music, entertainment, free medical screenings and test, safety identity kits, giveaways and more for entire family. Over the years, several other churches, organizations and individuals have join the efforts. We have 800 – 1000 people to attend annually.

In 2012, SJMBC completed a major update to the church sanctuary and renovated the lower level kitchen area. Members of SJMBC volunteered and completed various construction tasks that included demolition, wood framing, plastering, painting, electrical and plumbing work over an eight week process. During this period, all worship services were held in the church’s Sunday School/Fellowship Area. The lower level Kitchen was partially gutted and expanded for more space. Stainless steel work tables and counters replace the old wooden tables and built-in cabinets.

In 2013, St. John MB Church initiated a Free Annual Christmas Day Dinner. A formal Christmas meal is lovingly prepared by members of the SJMBC Culinary Ministry and volunteers, served at the church in both the fellowship area and in the lower level dining area. Meals are prepared to accommodate 200 plus participants. Who can attend the Free Christmas Dinner?

  • If you are going to be alone at Christmas, you are welcome to come.
  • If spending Christmas at home may be difficult for some, following bereavement for example, you are welcome to come.
  • If you want to do something different, you are welcome to come.
  • If you want the share the true meaning of Christmas with other, you welcome to come.
  • If you are homeless or between homes, you are welcome to come.
  • If you are having financial difficulties and can’t afford to prepare a Christmas Dinner, you are welcome to come.

If none of the above reasons apply to you and your situation, you are welcome to come. The Christmas Dinner is open to the general community.

Throughout history St. John Baptist Church along with a dedicated band of members, has faithfully carried out the GREAT COMMISSION, called sinners to repentance, baptized believers, visited the sick, helped the needy, ordained Deacons, appointed Mothers, and licensed ministers to pastor.

St. John has been the Church home for many families for several generations. Several churches came out of St. John over the years to ensure that God’s Word will continue to spread throughout Alton and the worlds. Pastor Emeritus Wright often said, ”Once a member of St. John, always a member!”