Eighty-nine years ago, long before South Miami was born, known then as Larkins, a handful of
men and women thought it wise and advantageous to serve God. They started to have prayer
meetings in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Marshall Williamson, on what is now Southwest 60th
Avenue. The fellowship and the mutual agreement of God’s people have always wrought
wonders in our midst. It did at Pentecost and was done again in 1915 in South Miami, Florida.
The Organizers and St. John’s History
Out of this meager beginning grew the founding of Saint John African Episcopal Church. The
absence of a sanctuary was no hindrance. God was with them. On the second Sunday in June
1916, the church was formerly organized by the first pastor, Rev. F.W. Kinslow, and took the
name St. John A.M.E. Church.
Mr. Marshall Williamson, the first pioneer resident of South Miami and wife, Elnora gave the
land at 6461 Southwest 59th Place for the purpose of erecting a place of worship. From this
church was the birth of all the other black churches in the community. The hurricane of 1926
destroyed the first church and the following year, a new structure was erected, which was a
little white-frame building (the little white church as many recall), housing approximately one
hundred members. The present building is the third St. John structure.
The original eight (8) trustees were J. Maxwell, L. Richardson, Alonza Aaron, James Hunt,
Charley Williams, Rosa Little, Eleanor Williamson and Marshall Williamson with Rev. F.L.
Kinslow as pastor. The Rev. G.A. Curry was the Presiding Bishop and R.B. Brooks was the
Presiding Elder at the time church was organized.
Through the years, the Founders kept a watchful eye on the caliber of ministers who pastured
at St. John, South Miami. Among the illustrious clergymen who have pastured are: Reverends
H.W. Gary; R.J. Jones; J.H. Strums; J.J. Johnson; Paul Lee; L.O. Kennedy; Richardson Cowins; G.
Goodman; H.W. Holton; Henry McNeil Harris; J.H. Garmon; William Everett; F.N. Duncan; J.D.
Dukes, who built the parsonage’ A.B. Collins; J.E. Campbell; and J.A. Grisby. Other pastors: In
1966, the Rev. W.A. Curry, in 1974; Rev. Leroy Holmes; Rev. Hardy, Rev. David Williams; in 1975
Rev. Theodore Roddy; in 1980, Rev. C.E. Standifer (the builder of the current sanctuary); in 1995,
Rev. William J. Green; in 2001, Rev. John Wesley Williams. In November 2003, we were blessed
with our current pastor and leader in the charismatic Rev. Gregory V. Gay, Sr.; Past Presiding
Elders; the Reverends G.J. Oates; J.J. Williams; Geoffrey; F.A. Allen; J.A. Roberts; S.D. Salimon; T.
E. Wright; C. Hunt; J.B. Blacknell; I.D. Hinson; and Rev. C.E. Standifer. The current Presiding
Elder is Rev. John L. Bodison. Past Bishops: the Rt. Reverends Henry Tookes; John Gregg;
Carey A. Gibbs; D. Ward Nichols; Sherman Green; W.F. Ball; G.N. Collins; G. Dewey Robinson;
Hubert N. Robinson; S.S. Morris; Phillip R. Cousin; Frank C. Cummings and John Hurst Adams.
The present Presiding Bishop is the Rt. Rev. McKinley Young.
The heritage of St. John is rich. A legacy of greatness is ours to enjoy. God has indeed placed
us an open door and showed us with leadership. But true to His word, He has called many of
His servants home from labor to reward. Bro. D.C. Gilchrist who served as superintendent of
St. John’s Sunday School for forty years, Bro. Marshall Williamson who served as Secretary,
Treasury, Chairman of the Steward and Trustee Boards; Sis. Grant served as secretary of the
church until 1955. Sis. Mary Lou Pittman, Sis. Cora Anderson, Sis. Ethel Shipp, Bro. Hadley
Bellone, Bro. Gus Donaldson, Bro. Wilford Thompson, Bro. Dan Ferguson, Bro. George Baines,
Sis. Rosa King, Bro. Emanuel Fryar and many more Stewards and Trustees have gone home to
The first Sunday in April 1980, marked a historical day for St. John A.M.E. Church.
Through the Godly judgment of Bishop S.S. Morris, Jr., Rev. Charles E. Standifer (Sis. Barbara
Standifer) was assigned to St. John to take the reins of leadership. Rev. Standifer accepted
this great challenge, walked out on faith, not knowing where he was going nor what tasks
awaited him. He baptized twenty-seven (27) infants, thirty-two (32) youths and thirty (30)
adults. Many long and tedious hours of work and prayers were spent in an effort to move into a
new era at St. John. Today, we enjoy the fruits of the labor. August 1985 marked another
milestone, our Ground Breaking Celebration, in preparation to construct a new St. John A.M.E.
Church. The members of St. John had long planned and worked toward the day when there
would stand somewhere in these surroundings, a church that would not only be lofty and
beautiful, but so designed and constructed to properly and conveniently facilitate the practices
of African Methodist in South Miami. In October 1991, we left the old building for safety reasons
and continued to serve the Lord at J.R.E. School. At that time, more than ever before, we had to
give a little more and pray a little harder. The erecting of the new sanctuary had begun. We
knew we had a long journey, but we put God first for we knew we couldn’t make it by
ourselves. In August 1992, the onset of Hurricane Andrew put a time constraint on the plans for
the new St. John. The construction went on and before long the sanctuary was complete. Our
prayers had been answered and our dream had become a reality. On the fifth Sunday of
October 1993, we walked into our new edifice, which Rev. Standifer called “the biggest little
church in South Miami”, with praise and thanksgiving.
On the third Sunday in October 1995, God sent another warrior for the upbringing of his
kingdom, while placing Rev. Standifer in the reigns of Presiding Elder.
Rev. William J. Green (First Lady Lillian Green) came to St. St. John with insight to enhance the
church as well as the community. Along with his new ideas, Rev. Green envisioned a day
dedicated to the instruction of the children now called “Saturday School”. He developed
initiatives to help rid the community of drug usage. We held many evening and weekend vigils
and walks throughout the South Miami community to let the drug dealers know that they were
not welcomed and would not be tolerated. Through his efforts, other community churches and
elected officials became involved. St. John was the site chosen in the community to host
charrettes where meetings were held to discuss and determine the future economic and
enhancement decisions for the South Miami community. He instilled the God’s Plan system of
giving, under which several construction project requirements had to be met to receive a
certificate of occupancy; the electrical room enclosure, cement pad and a Fire Alarm System in
December 1995. “Praise the Lord”, all were accomplished! Later work began to put a face lift
of beauty to God’s House; painting the church inside out including motto, name on church,
beautiful stained glass windows, landscaping, new roof and the cross on the bell tower. Under
his leadership, Rev. Green also established the Wounded Healers Organization, Inc., which
assisted and provided jobs, training and entrepreneurial opportunities for members of our
community as well as a tool for developing and nurturing relationships within and outside of the
church. It was a great day on December 15, 1996, when Bishop Frank C. Cummings burned
mortgage #2 for the parking lot of the church. On September 13, 1998, Rev. Green envisioned a
place for the youth and multi-purpose use, and had the insight to purchase in full the St. John
Enterprise and Learning Center. With the departure of Rev. Green to retirement in March 2001,
St. John would yet again receive another shepherd for this flock.
Appointed to St. John in March 2001, Rev. John W. Williams, Jr. (First Lady Sharon Williams)
came to us from Key West, Florida. A former pastor of Bethel A.M.E., Key West, Rev. Williams
inspired the church that despite the passing of the great pastor and Presiding Elder Rev.
Charles E. Standifer (May 2001) and the retiring of Rev. William J. Green, the church would not
suffer. He embarked upon a new vision that would create church growth and spiritual
development. He completed the groundwork to launch a new and innovative ministry referred
to as incarnational evangelism. It was under his stewardship that in August 2002, we were
able to purchase the partitions which divide the fellowship hall from the main sanctuary. Prior
to leaving to shepherd another congregation, Rev. Williams reestablished the traditional
presence of the Sunday School.
Just when St. John needed a new infusion of hope, motivation and guidance, in November 2003,
Rev. Gregory V. Gay, Sr. (First Lady LaShunda Gay and children) was assigned to St. John as
Senior Pastor. Rev. Gay has been a lighting rod in so many ways and his vision and boundless
energy have made St. John a true beacon of comfort in the South Miami community. He serves
as the South Miami Police Department Chaplain. In just two years, his endless energy and love
for the South Miami community, the church and its members have been shown
daily…spiritually, financially and physically. He brought along his super BBQ grill and instituted
“Frydays” to feed the community his mouth-watering BBQ ribs, delicious corn on the cob and
signature baked beans. These were also times of fellowship and outreach. Our church’s
music ministry has exploded and exemplifies the great spiritual excitement that Rev. Gay has
brought to St. John. Yes, he loves to sing!!! He is continuing Rev. Green’s vision for the
Wounded Healers. He has brought back, what Rev. Green started, the future of the church “our
children” and continues to give in so many ways. It is fitting that St. John’s mortgage burning
on January 22, 2005 and 89 years of existence stand as a tribute to the hard work and
dedication of Rev. Gay, the pastors, who preceded him and the past and present members of
|Right Reverend Adam J. Richardson
115th Presiding BVishop
Rev. Henry Green
Rev. George Hall,
Rev. Gladys Turner
Rev. Theodore Barnett
Min. David Walker
Min. Joseph Kennerley