St. Johns United Holy Church of America, built in two phases between 1931 and 1932 in Richmond’s Fairfield neighborhood, is associated with one of the oldest African American Pentecostal churches in the United States, the United Holy Church of America, Inc., founded in 1886 in Method, N.C. The current Colonial Revival-style brick building, which replaced a wood frame church, has a sanctuary composed of rough textured plaster walls and a ceiling clad in decorative pressed metal square coffers; the building’s English-style basement houses an assembly hall. St. Johns United Holy Church is important as well for its affiliation with the Reverend Dr. James Forbes Jr., minister there from 1965 to 1973, during the latter years of the Civil Rights movement. Forbes established a national reputation during a post-Richmond career marked by academic and professional achievements. His prodigious energy and charismatic preaching style led Ebony magazine to name him one of America’s “greatest Black preachers” in 1985 and 1993; in 1996, Newsweek recognized Forbes as one of the 12 “most effective preachers” in the English-speaking world. Although Forbes preached at St. John’s United Holy Church of America early in his career, this formative period included his first long-term tenure as a minister, completion of a clinical pastoral education certificate from the Medical College of Virginia, and service as a campus minister at the historically Black Virginia Union University. Consequently, St. John’s United Holy Church of America is significant for its direct association with Forbes’s contributions to Richmond’s social history.
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VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark