Like an ancient live oak tree offering cool shade to a wondering soul on a hot summer’s day, the St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church at 6461 SW 59th Place has been offering the local community physical, spiritual, and emotional support dating back 95 years; when South Miami was still Larkins, Florida. According to recently arrived Pastor Philip R. Johns, the church is reinvigorating its mission to “serve and preserve our surrounding urban community for present and future generations through economic development and empowerment.”
Although Pastor Johns recently began serving the St. John community, he has been in the ministry for over 25 years heading churches in Boca Raton, Indian River County and Miami as well as working as a public servant while Chief of Staff for 12 years to Commissioner Dorrin Rolle of Miami-Dade County.
No stranger to the inner workings of local government, Pastor Johns perceives a substantial disconnect in the manner in which the City of South Miami is addressing or not addressing the needs of the community.
“I may be new to the community but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand what is going on. I was born at night but not last night and here we have an unimpressive track record of promises made to the community for over forty years now that have yet to be delivered.”
Pastor Johns sites the befuddling delay of a community pool project that has enjoyed funding support for decades but has yet to break ground, J.R.E. Lee School (residing land site donated by the same revered local icon who founded St. John; deceased African American activist and businessman Marshall Williamson) being recently reincarnated as a hybrid charter school that has yet to prove to be committed to local youth, and the Madison Square mixed use development project truncated in height potential when across the street the view is clear of seven story buildings.
“It looks like we lost the pool because nothing has really happened to make it a reality. The school should have included an all-out effort to make sure kids in the community would have a chance to attend. Madison Square is capped at two stories when I can look down the way across from the post office and see seven and eight story buildings. Let’s call a spade a spade, local government operations are a science and it is no coincidence that certain people are left out.”
Pastor Johns is concerned the economic development promise of the Madison Square project could be further compromised by continuing delays as he sees it and as in what appears to be happening with the Murray Pool proposal, may risk loss of county funding support. He expects to stay informed on the development of the student body at J.R.E. Lee.
“I see a very unfortunate apathy here in our community and it is not surprising. How many times will you break a promise to someone before they refuse to believe a word out of your mouth? So many local residents seem unreachable today because they are so tired of believing in good change and never seeing it happen. I hope to change that. We will have a series of community-wide meetings here at the church and invite all local affected residents and city officials to please help us support the needs of our neighborhood. We need to make a healing and it starts in the hearts of each one of us.”
To contact St. John A.M.E. Church call 305-665-1191 or visit the website at www.stjohnnamesouthmiami.com.