The Community Youth Program is housed in St. John’s Episcopal Church and has been for the last 20 years. We’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to change so many lives through this safe space and we look forward to the next 20 years at St. John’s. Here’s a brief history – directly from the website.
HISTORY OF ST. JOHN’S
The railroad arrived in the early 1890s, and Big Lick, Virginia, became Roanoke. Almost overnight, the city’s population soared, and tiny St. John’s Church, which had existed in Roanoke since 1850, grew along with it. In 1892, with profound faith that God would bless their endeavor, St. John’s two hundred members built a six hundred seat new church at the corner of Jefferson Street and Elm Avenue.
The construction of the church was not without its trials. Conflict within the congregation about whether to build the new church at all threatened to halt the project and resulted in a split that seeded our sister parish, Christ Church (a relationship we now cherish). Additionally, the Roanoke economy in the early 1890’s was in a downturn, and a shortage of construction funds was a chronic problem.
Some of the challenges, and the responses to them, are comical in hindsight. As one example, since the property on which the church was being constructed previously had been unoccupied, a neighbor had created a cesspool on it into which his sewer line drained. Initially, it wasn’t obvious which neighbor was the source of the refuse. Building supervisor William C. Noland found himself going house to house along the block asking suspicious Roanokers if he could examine their sewer lines. The culprit was finally identified and the problem fixed. As another example, in order to raise funds for construction, the Ladies Guild hosted a benefit extravaganza at the Roanoke Opera House, including an original two-act comedy entitled, “A Box of Monkeys!”
The faithful people of St. John’s overcame all obstacles in order to build this church as a testament to the central place of God in their lives and their community. That testimony has continued throughout the years. Today, St. John’s is a vibrant and growing part of the Roanoke community and is the largest parish in the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. Membership is 1600, and the average Sunday attendance is 500. In 2009, the parish completed an extensive restoration of the historic church, ensuring that this holy place continues as a beacon of the Gospel for future generations.
As the flagship parish of the Diocese, St. John’s sings praises to the Lord through renowned music, mission and outreach that extend from Roanoke to Ghana, Africa, and educational programs that engage people of every age. St. John’s moves into the future as a community in which the Gospel is preached, the Sacraments are administered, and the love of God in Christ is shared with all who enter.