by Ken Sanford
The decade of the 1970s was one of change and progress. As the Youth Ministries Building was completed, the church was able to expand its ministries to the congregation and the community. The Week Day School was an asset to the congregation as more women joined the workforce. At the same time, the church served the community with a Child Development Center in cooperation with the Department of Social Services. The gym served both St. John’s and the community as youth basketball teams took the court and began league play and children scooted around on roller skates. The ministry of facility was added to the church’s outreach through hospital and nursing home visitation, school tutoring, language tutoring for non-English speaking people, and assistance to Miss Anita Stroud’s Bible-teaching and counseling ministry to minority children, a program with key leadership from the Rev. Robert Lasater.
With the church approaching its 50th anniversary, it adopted a record budget of $257,815. That anniversary was celebrated with the dedication of the Youth Ministries Building, the presentation of a play and the publication of a 50-year history.
As denominational leaders increasingly denied women significant roles in churches, St. John’s again took a courageous stand for equality. In 1973 the church voted to remove all barriers to service by women, electing the first women deacons—Dr. Jonnie McLeod and Betty Gilreath, who became president of the state Women’s Missionary Union.
An effort failed at the Baptist State Convention to deny membership to churches like St. John’s which exercised their autonomy on the issue of baptism.
A notable music ministry had continued at St. John’s following Albert McClanahan’s succeeding Paul Langston as music minister. The Rev. Rob Sellers collaborated with McClanahan to produce a musical, “The Namegivers,” in 1973 and lead the choir in presenting it at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The choir also performed a Haydn mass with the North Carolina Little Symphony. Later the St. John’s and Myers Park Baptist choirs performed jointly, accompanied by the North Carolina Symphony. Sellers and his wife Janie left St. John’s as missionaries to Indonesia. He was replaced as youth minister by the Rev. Thomas Stallworth.
The retirement of Dr. Broach in 1974 after 30 years of service was both a time of celebration and a time of sadness for the loss of his creative and dedicated spiritual leadership. The church was grateful that Dr. Broach went on to become director of the Ecumenical Institute of Wake Forest University and Belmont Abbey College. The Rev. Julian Cave, pastor of First Baptist Church of Athens, Georgia, was called as the new senior minister at St. John’s. William Johnson became minister of education.
St. John’s began a program called “Salt Shakers” to facilitate visitation in members’ homes. Church youth traveled to Washington, D. C. to lead day camps. Stallworth left St. John’s to become a missionary in Austria, and Valerie Hardy became the new youth minister.
The decade ended with the beginning of St. John’s disaffection with the Southern Baptist Convention as it elected ultra-conservative leaders.