In Fear of Losing Sanctuary over 100+ year old agreement
FT. BEND- The faith of a Fort Bend County congregation is unshakable. That’s despite the insurmountable odds they face at St. John Baptist Church in Missouri City, at 6660 Oildfield Road. Rev. David Fisher says, “I believe that God has sustained us. We have to believe that.’
St. John looks like any other aging church from the front…steeple and all. But it’s the back of the sanctuary that’s revealing. It’s gutted – half the church is gone. That’s after a a blaze at the church back in 2006.
Rev. Fisher says, “the federal investigators that’s what they summed up. It was set afire.” No one was ever arrested for arson and 6 years later the 8 remaining members of the congregation can’t afford to renovate. Even in that condition they still attend services in that gutted sanctuary every Sunday. A building with no running water, no power, and no restrooms.
But there’s a critical reason why these members still attend church in a burned out building. It was back in 1869 when St. John was founded by former slaves only a few blocks away from this site.Then in 1884 a plantation owner agreed to allow the congregation to use the current larger two acre lot in exchange for their smaller 1 acre lot. But that land swap came with conditions.
Rev. Fisher says, “we have to stay here because according to the deed if we should leave it it goes back to the grantor – if we should abandon it it goes back to the grantor so that’s where we stand.” With no money for repairs the aging and dwindling congregation feels trapped.
Rosa Graves has been with St. John since 1982. She says, “I do feel we’re over a barrell because of the conditions that we have to maintain.”
Members of the church interpret ‘abandonment’ in the 100+ year old agreement to mean even if they miss a single Sunday service in the structure they could lose St. John. That’s why they’re in their pews on the Sabbath without fail even with plastic on the ceilings and no water in their pipes.
Rev. Gerald Rivers just joined St. John. He says, “we need outside help otherwise this church is on life support and if something isn’t done soon the church could die but I don’t think it’s in God’s will that this church will die.”
The church is working on ways to raise money…the Pastor has also set up an account at Wells Fargo where they’re hoping the community will come to their aid. If you’re interested in helping you can go to any Wells Fargo and ask for the St. John Baptist Church Burn Fund.