And Still We Rise: The Story of St. John 4-B Missionary Baptist Church

By Timmie Gibson

St. John 4-B Missionary Baptist Church has always been a phenomenon to the people and its community. It was an integral and central place not only to adore but also to fraternize. Life in the 1940s was a little tough, but one of the deacons in the church, Fred Conyers, was lucky enough to get a 1940s van. Deacon Conyers drove around the neighborhood and the community to collect all the members and all those who wanted to go to church but did not have a driver. In general, church services were held about twice a month due to travel and economic conditions. The Church Sexton arrived at the church early to light the fire in the woodstove and ensured there was enough wood to last throughout the service to keep church members warm. The death of a parishioner is announced by the ringing of the church bell. The church bell rang for several minutes to alert the community that someone in the church had died.

Trinity Missionary Baptist Church was a sister church and Mount Zion AME and other nearby community churches have always remained in fellowship with 4-B. Spring and fall revivals were held to rejuvenate people’s energy and faith. The church had its own natural water fountain as a spring naturally sprang from the earth behind the church. Annual picnics were held every year and the food consisted of barbecue pig, homemade churned ice cream, flavored snow cones, homemade cakes and pies such as pound cake, strawberry cake, lemon cake, potato pies sweet and coconut, and too many others to mention. . The Morrisville Brass Band was always a staple at picnics. Children as well as adults shouted (danced) to the cheerful music featuring the sound of the big band. Brother Frank Footman was the spirit of the picnic with his jubilant dance and he was Santa Claus for our Christmas cantatas program each year. The church also sponsored an annual bus trip to Atlantic Beach, SC.

The church has always maintained a closeness and unity that extended beyond the walls of Church 4-B. I can say that our community village has certainly helped raise all of our children in the neighborhood. There were several community advisors: Mark (barbecue master) and Rena Moore, Isaac and Cora Montgomery, Blease and Marie Canty (sugar can, syrup and ear piercing specialist), Simon and Cleasie Mae Canty, Seal and Ida Mae York, Alex and Maggie Keels, and Samuel and Lelia Mae Conyers Gibson who were community and political advocates and farmers who donated property for a community baseball and softball team. The community baseball and softball teams were the Greeleyville Pioneers and the Lady Pioneers. The Gibsons built a snack bar for social gatherings, but it was later converted into a site for the community’s free lunch program. The Gibsons also donated land for a small, still viable park in their community, called Gibson Community Park.

Farming, gardening, hunting and fishing were the ways of life. The community has a system of love, care, free will, and barter with each family in the community. Almost all of the food was organic and canned for the different seasons of the year. Garden exchanges and hunting and fishing catches were distributed free of charge to different households. Small Town Greeleyville Store Credit: Earl Farmer Grocery, H. Fox Department Store, Fred Joseph Department Store, Joseph Five and Dime, Mishoe Feed Mill, Wilder Furniture, Allen Furniture, Gene Mason Service Station, Albert Ard Gas and Convenience Store and Jacob Tisdale Barber Shop catered to every neighborhood household need.

God sent Reverend Tyrone York, Sr. to be Chief Servant of St. John 4-B in 2016. God blessed the church with a beautiful First Lady, Sister Vanessa York, and her first son, Tyrone York, Jr. In addition to our First Family, membership has increased by approximately 20 members, including Deacon Arnold Gamble who is God sent and fulfills triplex roles as he also serves as a Sunday School assistant and Bible study teacher. Under Reverend York’s leadership, the church expanded its ministries and services, including:

1) The church now has services every Sunday (instead of twice a month)

2) The church has hired a full-time musician, Debra McBride

3) The church has hired two Sextons, Sister Margaret York and Sister Luretha Montgomery

4) The church adopted Casual Sunday on the second Sunday of each month

5) Vacation Bible School is the second week of June

6) Law Enforcement Day is the first Saturday in June

7) The Church Community BBQ takes place on the first Saturday in April

8) Awards Day is the third Saturday in April

9) The church has first aid and intruder training

10) The church also periodically hosts fellowship outings to various restaurants in South Carolina.

The church administration building is named after Pastor Tyrone York, Sr., Thelma York and her late mother, Sister Allean York. The Rodgers House is named after the late sister Thelma Rodgers and her family. The Robinson and Keels Fellowship Hall was named after the late Deacon Pearl Robinson, Sr. and his wife Leah and family and Margaret Keels. The parking lot is named after Trustee Frankie Childers. The church driveway, Green Lane, is named after Dora and Lee Green. The Gibson Learning Center was named in honor of Deaconess Leila Mae Conyers Gibson and Deacon Samuel Gibson.

It was a labor of love to provide the second part of our story for St. John 4-B Missionary Baptist Church. By the grace of Christ our Lord and Savior, St. John 4-B Missionary Baptist Church has stood the test of time. As children of God, we must redeem our time and embrace it by inspiring others to show love, introspection, and communal unity at all times. Special thanks to Rev. Tyrone York, Sr., Deacon Kelly Robinson, Deacon Arnold Gamble, Trustee Frankie Childers, and Sister Timmie Gibson.

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Edward L. Robinett