Reverend Basile Dorsey
Reverend Larry Washington
Reverend Handy Dominique
Reverend Joseph H. Dandridge
Reverend Gregory L. Coates, I
1996 - present
St. John the Baptist Church was organized and incorporated in 1868. The cornerstone was laid September 1869 with the Reverend Basile Dorsey as founder and pastor (1868-1872). The trustee board included George Bell, Peter Honore, Miles Gaskins, Samuel Dijson, James Rogers, William Jones, and Jefferson Beau. These trailblazers signed their names with the mark of an “X”.
The Reverend Basile Dorsey was a black preacher and landowner in the village named for him, Dorseyville. This rural community was then a post office with Leonce Soniat as postmaster. Dorseyville was surrounded by farms where residents made a living primarily from planting and harvesting sugarcane. There was no indoor plumbing or electric lights at the church during the early years. Baptisms were held in the Mississippi River which ran in front of the Dorseyville community. Not only did Reverend Dorsey look after the spiritual needs of the congregation, he purchased property and built Dorseyville School (1891) to educate black children from area plantations. A site for a graveyard was also purchased during his tenure. The Reverend Dorsey served as Pastor for 24 years.
The Reverend Larry Washington was the second Pastor and he too led the congregation for 24 years (1892-1916). During Reverend Washington’s reign, a “modern” pulpit was constructed which could be converted into indoor pool for baptizing. He was a very progressive leader and dynamic preacher according to many who worshipped at St. John during that time. The Reverend Washington served as treasurer of the 4th District Sunday School Association and treasurer of the Iberville Parish Conference (1915).
A Bayou Goula native, the Reverend Handy Dominique, was the third Pastor of the church and he served as Pastor for 32 years (1916-1948). Reverend Dominique’s tenure saw the lighting and heating systems updated with electricity and butane gas. This replaced the wood burning heater and kerosene lamps. The first use of the indoor pool for baptizing was during his tenure.
The Reverend Joseph Dandridge, a very humble person, was the fourth Pastor (1948-1994). Reverend Dandridge led the congregation for 46 years. During his leadership the Junior Church was established. A third choir was also established which sang every third Sunday. The Mass Choir was also established under his leadership. Many physical changes took place. Renovations and remodeling resulted in a new choir stand, updated sound system, indoor plumbing, heating and air conditioning, carpeting, upholstered pews, and ceiling fans.
On December 2, 1993, the National Register Review Committee recommended that St. John the Baptist Church in Iberville Parish be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. On January 21, 1994, the church was officially entered into the National Register.
In July of 1996, The Reverend Gregory Coates I, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana was elected as the fifth Pastor of St. John. Since becoming Pastor, the following ministries were created: Social Services, Outreach, Pastor Support Group, Prison Ministry, Program Committee, Christian Education, the third Sunday choir was renamed as the Sanctuary Choir (now called HYPE (Holy Young People Excited for Christ), Basketball Team, Drill Team (reorganized in September of 1996). The following also occurred under the leadership of Reverend Coates: A website created (November 1996; revised 2012, www.sjbcdorseyville.org), The Beacon Newsletter (December 1996), Drama Ministry (1997), Bible Drill Team (1998), College Ministry (1998), Liturgical Dance groups (1998), Ministry Leaders (2001), Singles Ministry (March 10, 2001), renovation and remodeling of the Church (2001) and newly built Dominique-Dandridge Life Center (2001), dedicatory celebration of the renovated and remodeled church and ribbon cutting ceremony of the Dominique – Dandridge Life Center January 13, 2002. In Spring of 2005, the Marriage Ministry was formed. In 2006, mid-week service began. To lead worship during mid-week service, PRAYZE (People Ready and Anointed Yielded to Zion Ensemble) was formed. The Media Ministry was formed to record worship service and other activities as well as produce the television broadcast of our ministry.
St. John continues to stand as a beckoning light to the community of Dorseyville and the surrounding areas. The church continues to grow, ministries are still growing, souls are still being saved, babies are still being blessed, our youth continue to shine for Jesus, the Dorseyville Community Development Corporation is still on the move and continues to make Christmas in Dorseyville a festive event, and praise and worship is higher than ever. We give God all the Glory, honor and praise for our church.