The Beginning Of An Era...
The Beginning Of An Era... | July 6, 1947
There were eight people at that first meeting, including Dr. Anderson’s late wife Rosa Belle Anderson, her cousin George Harris, who is still faithful member of our congregation, and five borrowed members from the Star Bethel Baptist Church. Although he began with a very small flock, Dr. Anderson embodied the very essence of a true prophet from that first service in 1947 where he shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with his small congregation until his passing in 2000. He was entrusted by God with a divine mission, and on this historic 60th Church Anniversary occasion, we are forever indebted to him for building on that solid foundation which is Christ Jesus and on which this local church continues to stand.
From the very beginning, Satan and all the forces of Hell itself were set against the establishment and growth of the newly formed, body of believers. The first assault came as a result of a City of Oakland ordinance, which stated at that time, that a revival tent could be used beyond a 30-day period. But the young Dr. Anderson would not be denied and the Lord touched hearts of several City officials and his permit was renewed for an additional 30 days. Satan’s next attempt to halt St. John’s growth came by way of several older and “prominent” local pastors. They entered the cold revival tent one afternoon after the conclusion of worship services and informed him: “Partner, you can’t make it. Take these few members you have and join one of ‘The Boys’ churches.” But the young Dr. Anderson stood courageously, declaring, “The Boys didn’t send me.” So, Dr. Anderson and St. John had passed, with the help of the Lord, the first of many tests that would try their continual existence.
Sixty days later, the now 25-member congregation moved to the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 34th and Market streets. Pastor R. W. Nelson gave Dr. Anderson and the St. John parishioners full access to his church facility and extended every courtesy to them. St. John conducted its worship services there for five months.
February 27, 1948
It was also during that period that Dr. Anderson became captivated with a stunning edifice located at 36th and Adeline Streets – St. Andrews Catholic Church. He became enamored with this edifice that he began praying for an avenue to purchase it for his ever-growing congregation. In spite of the fact that the building was occupied by a Catholic parish, the young pastor continued to pray: “Lord, if you give me this building to worship in, I’ll give you a better service.” This request seemed strange and unrealistic even to Dr. Anderson’s wife, Rosabelle, who commented “Rev, the Lord is not going to give you the building those people are worshipping in.” But this did not dissuade Dr. Anderson from beseeching the Lord for the desire of his heart.
And so it was that one morning, as Dr. Anderson was on his way to the Filbert Street church that he drove past the 36th and Adeline edifice (as had become his daily custom for the past nine years) and he noticed something which had not been there before - a “For Sale” sign in front of the building. In his jubilant excitement, the young pastor stopped his vehicle, jumped out, retrieved the realtor’s sign from the front of the building and threw it into the trunk of his car. As he proceeded directly to the real estate office, he began formulating a plan for receiving this special gift from the Most High God and the answer to his nine-year prayer.
Shortly, after purchasing the building Dr. Anderson learned that the building had been vacated by the Catholic Diocese because of the planned State of California construction of the 580 Freeway and their inability to find a means to move the massive structure. Dr. Anderson began prayerfully deliberating what would be the means to harvest this blessing. The young visionary turned once again to Mr. Rufus Watson from whom he had recently purchased two apartment buildings that were located at 19th and Market Street. As the Lord began revealing his divine plan to the young pastor, he moved speedily and had his two apartment buildings demolished, at his own expense, and then he donated the land to the church as a preliminary step of moving the newly purchased edifice to this location. Another example of Dr. Anderson’s unusual ministry is the fact that he never requested that St. John repay him for his gift of love.
It was during this same period of time that the City of Oakland notified Dr. Anderson that a new project entitled “Urban Renewal” would impact all of West Oakland and in particular where he and his flock were worshipping on Filbert Street. Once again, God’s timing was impeccable as it became clear to Dr. Anderson and the members of St. John as to why the Lord had told Dr. Anderson to hurry and move from the Filbert Street location.
Dr. Anderson now focused all of his attention to identifying a resource capable of doing that, which was thought impossible…move the 36th and Adeline Street edifice to the new 19th and Market Street location. While the idea seemed feasible to the young visionary, to everyone he approached, the logistics of crossing this “Red Sea” seemed impossible. But Dr. Anderson was not be denied instead he continued seeking, knowing that God would not have answered his prayer and open this door opportunity without providing the necessary resources. After numerous discouraging conversations and disappointing “expert” opinions, Dr. Anderson again looked to the Lord for direction and once again, the Lord opened a way - The Ahen House Moving Company.
Now all things were indeed ready. The Ahen House Moving Company strategically cut the former Catholic Church building north to south into three sections and then moved each section one piece at a time, down San Pablo Avenue to Market Street. Dr. Anderson having acquired the necessary permits worked with City officials as the City coordinated the closure of several streets out of concern for streetlights and telephone wires. The dramatic relocation of the building to its new location was the biggest television news story of that day.
Employing the biblical model of Solomon’s building of the tabernacle, Dr. Anderson solicited the men of the church to provide labor in order to assist with the preparation for the move, construction, painting and beautification of the newly purchased edifice after its relocation. Once the building had been relocated to its new site, it soon became apparent that a dinning facility / Christian Education wing was needed. Again, the men of the church were asked to provide the manpower needed to dig and pour the foundation for the adjacent wing of the church. But while the men were digging the foundation, it began to rain. And as the prophet Elijah had done in his day, Dr. Anderson prayed for the rain to stop. And it did stop…exactly where the foundation was being dug and only there was the rain suspended. The cost of completely refurbishing and furnishing the church building was $318,000.00, of which $7,400.00 was expended just for the stain glass windows – a hefty sum in those days.
As part of his means to execute the “Great Commission,” Dr. Anderson was directed by the Holy Spirit to “Get on the radio and call my people together.” So in 1949, Dr. Anderson established the St. John’s Radio Ministry, which would later become the No. 1 radio religious broadcast in northern California. Originally, “The Gospel Call Hour,” was broadcast on radio station KLX, then KWBR and finally KDIA, and this radio format would become the broadcast model for many African American churches in the Bay Area, the state and in many parts of the nation.
Later, Dr. Anderson would increase his outreach ministry by adding a Sunday morning broadcast called “The Period of Meditation.” Another one of Dr. Anderson’s and St. Johns’ noted broadcast ministry accomplishment was its Television broadcast. Dr. Anderson and St. John produced and aired a 60-minute television broadcast of its live Sunday worship service at a time when no other Bay Area African American church was producing a weekly television broadcast, For three years, the Gospel Call Hour was viewed on Channel 38, and later, Channel 20. An important observation to the effectiveness of the broadcast ministry is that approximately 40% of the growth of St. John’s congregation during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was the direct result of these radio and television broadcasts. Described by Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Senior Pastor of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland, as “one of the most gifted preachers, a master of the pulpit” and a “classic orator in the black church tradition,” Dr. Anderson’s powerful sermons were an example of preaching an “uncompromised” gospel at its best. One particular sermon, “Power to See” was recorded as a 33 1/3 record in the late 1960s, when such recordings were not common occurrences among Black ministers and churches in the Bay Area.
Wherever Dr. Anderson went in search of souls for the kingdom, the membership of St. John was there en masse. From the late 1960s to the late-1980s, it was not uncommon for 200 members or more to use their personal vacations, or take paid and unpaid time off, to follow him on those soul-seeking campaigns. For 30 years, Dr. Anderson and the members of St. John, composed mostly of its choirs and ushers, would brave the sweltering summer heat to seek souls for Jesus Christ. The sacrifices of the membership were consistent with that of its unselfish leader – Dr. Anderson. With Dr. Anderson in front leading the “Caravan,” as it was called, they would start out on yet “Another Missionary Journey.” This became the church’s traveling mantra and was later printed on the back of the buses and vans purchased by the church. It was not uncommon that often during those missionary journeys that the power of God’s Holy Spirit was made manifest in miraculous ways. Many would attest that it was like living a page right out of the Bible, as they would watch the power of God working through the Man of God. Like Moses, Dr. Anderson led. And like the children of Israel…St. John followed.
The history of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, its unmistakable traditions and the legacy of Dr. C .J. Anderson could not be told without mention of its equally rich, musical history. As music prepares the heart to receive the gospel of peace, the music ministry of Dr. Anderson and the St. John choirs was renown. In the early 1950s, the Echoes of Zion Choir was founded, in no small part because of the musical mastery and formal training of Dr. Anderson. The choir grew to nearly 200 voices in the early 1970s, and over the years, received numerous awards and honors for its music ministry, many without competing. Like the Echoes of Zion, the St. John “Specials” (modeled after the early Caravan Singers), began as “The Anderson Specials.” Although many of its original members have gone on to meet the Lord, the traditional-styled, close four-part harmony, originally taught to them by Dr. Anderson, has been the group’s hallmark.
Miracles is the only word that the members of this great church often use to describe their experiences. Many would attest to countless miracles performed by God through Dr CJ Anderson and untold unique blessings that many would find unbelievable. Yet, in spite of all the good that was wrought through Dr. Anderson ministry and the faithfulness of the members of St. John, it was not exempt from tragedy. On Good Friday 1993, a six-alarm blaze gutted the St. John Missionary Baptist Church. As over 40 firefighters relentlessly battled the blaze which was visible from miles around, hundreds of the church’s members and neighbors gathered across the street, singing hymns and offering prayers as fire ravaged the building. Even in the face of this adversity, Dr. Anderson proclaimed, “We will rebuild.”
Appeals were made and the congregation, as it had done throughout the years responded overwhelmingly. In addition, many of its sister churches and members of the community made major contributions. During the fundraising, Dr. Anderson’s personal friend, Dr. Herbert Guice, and his congregation, Bethel Baptist Church, donated $20,000.00 to assist in the mammoth undertaking.
December 24, 1995
Dr. Anderson was honored at a funeral service that seemed more like one of a national leader than one a local pastor. His remains lay in state in the church sanctuary for three days, allowing mourners to view and pay their respects. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, a renowned orator in his own rights, delivered a fitting, powerful and moving eulogy while men and women alike emotionally expressed their sorrow and love for the fallen icon.
Dr. C. J. Anderson was entombed at Sunset View Mausoleum in El Cerrito, California.
The End of an Era... A New Beginning
October 1, 2004
Two years after Dr. Anderson’s home-going, the Board of Deacons, with the membership in unanimous affirmation, declared the pulpit “vacant” and the search for a new pastor began. During this entire period, the membership worked closely to support the Deacons as they searched for a successor, just as they had been instructed by the prophet, Dr. Anderson, who had instructed the Board of Deacons and the church years before his death.
On October 1, 2004, after four years without a pastor, including two years of pastoral searching; during a peaceful, and well-organized church business meeting, the congregation appointed Reverend Gregory Payton to succeed Dr. Anderson as Pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Unbeknownst to the pastor-elect, was the fact that this had been prophesied by Dr. Anderson one year prior to his death by means of a demonstration in the pulpit one Sunday morning, by Dr. Anderson stepping down from the podium and instructing Reverend Payton step up. He had also told him: “When I step down, you will step up and my spirit will be with you.”
January 19, 2005
Following in the footsteps of Dr. Anderson, Pastor Payton passionately and energetically preaches the good new of Jesus Christ. Under the leadership of Pastor Payton, Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church has implemented 12 new ministries and enhanced several existing ministries. He has encouraged, ministered to and inspired the existing membership while adding 1,100 new sheep to its fold and still counting. Under his spiritual leadership, 6 of its brethren have acknowledged their calling to a higher service to the ministry and regularly consult him for guidance. In August 2006, Pastor Payton returned the Gospel Call Hour radio broadcast to the airwaves over station KDYA (“The Light”) as well as the broadcast original radio station - KDIA, including 2 recently added broadcasts on KTRB. Continuing the “missionary” practice set by our organizer Dr. Anderson, Pastor Payton initiated the purchase of several new church vans and has re-invigorated the mantra “Another Missionary Journey.” With his energetic preaching, Pastor Payton has inspired, informed, instructed, enthused, convicted and changed the hearts of many. Being a motivator, advisor, administrator, businessman, lecturer, revivalist, coach, mentor, teacher, father, grandfather, visionary, pastor and so much more he has truly made a lasting impression and continues to do so on his parishioners, family, community and future generations to come.