In 1870, Reverend Dr. Robert Johnson became the congregation’s second pastor, and with characteristic zeal he applied himself to accomplishing the means to complete the new building. It was, he said, “dedicated to the service of God.” Dr. Johnson had been affiliated with the church as a “private” member since 1864. A former slave, he enlisted in the U.S. Colored Infantry in the spring of 1865 and served through December that year.
His 33 years as head of the church were marked by considerable energy. In 1880 he organized the first “Metropolitan Day School,” for a gathering of 40 children. In 1882, he oversaw construction a new building to accommodate the – continuously growing congregation. Having purchased two additional lots, the church laid the cornerstone for a new building – “built of brick, erected in the A manner” – on August 28, 1882; the best services were held there in 1883. At this point in time, the church membership totaled about 1,500, with a congregation usually numbering 2,000, “composed entirely of plain working people.”
The Sunday School connected with the church had an average attendance of 2,000 alone. 1892, the church became Metropolitan Baptist Church.
Did you know that…
- Robert Johnson was a former slave, born around 1836 in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
- Robert Johnson joined the Fourth Baptist church in 1864 as a private member.
- Robert Johnson served in the United States Colored Infantry (43rd Regiment, Company D) during the year 1865 and held the rank of an Army Corporal at the time of his being discharged out of military service.
- Robert Johnson worked during the day as a day laborer and attended the Wayland University Home Missions School , at night to learn how to read and to write.
- Robert Johnson after receiving the call to the ministry, enrolled in the Wayland University Theological Institute , which later became a part of the Virginia Union University.
- Robert Johnson in the year 1867 joined the Nineteenth Street Baptist church, and was there ordained as a minister of the Gospel.
- Robert Johnson was called to serve as the second pastor of the Fourth Baptist Church, now known as Metropolitan Baptist Church, in the year 1870.
- Robert Johnson established a night school at the church in which colored men and women learned to read and write and in the year 1880 he established a day school with the capacity to serve 40 colored children who were denied the right to attend public schools here in the District of Columbia.
- In the year 1882, the Fourth Baptist Church, with the original frame church building being too small to accommodate the greatly increasing congregation, and the existing structure not considered to be safe, decided to tear down the existing structure and to build a substantial brick edifice to accommodate the church’s needs. The church purchased two additional lots and laid the corner stone of the new building on August 28, 1882.
- The Fourth Baptist Church began worshipping in the basement of the new church in the year 1883 and continued to worship in the basement through 1892 because the main auditorium was not yet finished.
- The Fourth Baptist Church changed to the Metropolitan Baptist Church “Colored” on June 18, 1892. At that time the church had approximately 1,500 members.
- Rev. Robert Johnson served as the second pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church from 1870 until his departing of this life on Friday, December 18, 1903 at 10:45 pm.
- In spite of the many challenges that confronted these inspired men and women of God, they persevered, having a vision of providing a house where yet unborn generations of God’s people could worship Him in spirit and in truth.Information provided by the Historical Book Committee