In 1885, the east side of Savannah, Georgia was lacking in opportunities to affiliate as a faith community, which is necessary to the fulfillment of a good Christian life. Through the divine providence of Almighty God, one of His chosen few, Reverend William Gray, was anointed to fill the void in religiosity. Father Gray, a member of the historic First Bryan Baptist Church, sought and obtained the permission and blessing of First Bryan, to start a church on the east side. Reverend Gray established the St. John Baptist Church in 1885. The congregation of former slaves erected the original church building at 526-28 Hartridge Street, in July, 1891.
A terrible fire on October 24, 1993 destroyed the original building. Initially, the congregation was overwhelmed by the devastation, but soon realized, as Pastor Brown said, “After all, the church is really not brick and mortar, but the church is people.” Thereafter, St. John dedicated itself to the continued uplifting of God’s kingdom on earth, wherever they worshipped. Their place of worship while the new “Mighty Fortress” rose from the ashes, was the West Broad Street Seventh Day Adventist Church. The situation revealed the ability of God’s children to worship under the same roof, regardless of denomination.
St. John has had only five pastors since its inception: Father Gray; Rev. E.O.S. Cleveland; Rev. Cameron Alexander; Rev. Matthew Southall Brown; and the current pastor, Rev. George P. Lee III, Ph.D.
Father William Gray Rev. Dr. E.O.S. Cleveland Rev. Cameron M. Alexander Rev. Matthew Southall Brown
1885 - 1926 1927 - 1963 1965 - 1969 1969 - 2004
Dr. George P. Lee III
2005 - Present
Pastor Lee began his official duties at St. John in December, 2005. Attendance at the weekly Bible Study, known as “The Mighty Fortress Hour,” has increased from fewer than 50 to over 300 persons. Pastor Lee stresses outreach, especially to young people. Under his guidance, St. John has established ministries directed to teen-agers and college students and Fortress Fire, a young adult choir. Our Foreign Mission ministry has worked in Haiti, Mexico and Costa Rica. Home Mission works throughout the greater Savannah area, serving the homeless; operating a food pantry and clothes closet; and mentoring students at our adopted school, the East Broad Street Elementary School. St. John also works closely with its neighbors as an active member of the Historic Beach Neighborhood Association.
Pastor Lee takes seriously the Great Commission of Matthew 28, to go into the highways and byways making disciples. Under his leadership and anointed vision, St. John, “The Mighty Fortress,” is utilizing all avenues available in this present age, to reach the lost. In this new era of ministry, our goal is to “evangelize the sinner, edify the saints, and equip the soldiers.”