Our History


In 1898, before the church was given its current name, a Company of Believers travelled door to door studying the Three Angels’ Messages. From their evangelistic efforts, Sis. Gracie Hunter-Reno and her mother, Sis. Mamie Hicks, Sis. Miller, Sis. Mary Butler and eight others were baptized by Pastor Leroy Christler. Sister Butler, a public school teacher in Palatka and a volunteer Bible Worker in Jacksonville continued the outreach program, and in 1904, through her efforts, Brother and Sister T.J Mitchell, Sister Haslem and several others joined the Company. Later on, Elders Ivory, Whetsel and Manns, residents of Hawthorne, Florida traveled to Jacksonville and joined the soul winning efforts. As the efforts increased, ministers were later dispatched to nurture the new believers.

The new believers met in homes and tents until they relocated to the Old Odd Fellowship Hall on State Street. Later on, Elder M.C. Strachan was placed in charge of the evangelistic efforts in Florida. During his tenure, many souls were added to the church, these included Joseph and Annie Singleton, the parents of Mercedes Harris and Elder Harold D. Singleton.

The name Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church was born in 1907 by the late Isaac Robinson Palmer, a local layman of the church, in a rented Secret Service Lodge hall on Union Street where meetings were held on Sabbath mornings. In the same year, the conference sent Elder Floyd Stevens to serve as the first pastor and the first structure was erected on Fifth and Johnson Streets.

In 1917, under the leadership of the late Elder George E. Peters, a revival was held. Later in the year, a tent effort was also held on the corner of Jesse and Van Buren Streets. At the close of the meetings more members were baptized and added to the church. The church grew rapidly. Brothers Jevan E. Anderson, J. P. Pegues and Isaac R. Palmer with help and contribution from others, constructed a brick structure where members worshipped until the membership outgrew the structure in 1966.

In August 1965, Elder R. B. Hairston, Sr. came to Jacksonville. In July of the following year, he conducted a very successful series of tent meetings on Sixth and Grunthal Streets during which approximately seventy precious souls were baptized. The increase in membership brought with it the problem of seating the congregation. To solve this problem, services were conducted in the auditorium of the church school on West Edgewood Avenue. Realizing the need for a larger church, a building fund campaign was started.

In July 1967, Elder R. B. Hairston conducted another series of evangelistic meetings on Davis Street near Kings Road. At the close of the meetings nearly forty believers were baptized. With yet another increase in membership, the seating problem became more severe. To alleviate the capacity concerts the church faced, additional property was purchased on Edgewood Avenue adjoining the present church location. Groundbreaking ceremonies w ere held May 11, 1969 and by Sabbath, April 18, 1970, members were able to move into a new church. This marked the beginning of activity at the new Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church. Elder Hairston continued his leadership until the summer of 1972 when he accepted the Executive Secretary position at the South Atlantic Conference Office.

Elder R. A. Sloan came to Jacksonville as pastor in June 1972. Under his leadership the church continued to prosper and plans were laid to satisfy the new church mortgage.

In June of 1976, Elder I. L. Harrell became pastor and under his leadership the mortgage was liquidated and the church dedicated debt free in 1977. In December 1980, Elder Harrell accepted the responsibility as Personal Ministries Director for the Southeastern Conference.

Elder L.R. Hastings, a retired minister, worked as interim pastor for seven months until 1981.

In 1981, Elder Theus Young became the church’s new pastor. In 1984, along with his wife and family, he worked to establish a Community Center at 1515 Logan Street, in the renovated home of the late Sister Minnie Black.

In December 1984, Elder Herman Davis, Sr. assumed the leadership of the church. Under his leadership the church purchased an acre of land which included two income bearing structures. He also set goals of establishing the Breath of Life Seventh-day Adventist Church and strengthening the church and school. This was accomplished via a citywide Evangelistic campaign branded the “The Breath of Life Crusade”. In 1989, Elder Davis was transferred to the Miami –Bethany Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In 1989, Elder C.L. wright was installed as pastor. His leadership brought renovations, evangelism stewardship seminars, and rich family values. He also purchased the church home for the Breath of Life Church. The church continued to prosper and in May 1992, he was transferred to the Patmos Chapel Church in Winter Park, Florida.

In June 1992, Elder W. C. Byrd assumed responsibilities at Ephesus. He conducted a successful series of tent meetings during which forty persons accepting Christ. District renovations in the Breath of Life and Ephesus Churches were accomplished. He constructed and completed an addition on the Ephesus Junior Academy, which made a thirty-year dream come true for the believers. Elder Byrd was called to the Southeastern Conference in June 1997, to serve as Family Life and Health and Temperance Leader.

In October 1997, Elder David A. Long became pastor. Under his leadership, the sanctuary was renovated along with an extensive lighting upgrade; new pews and carpeting were added along with a modified pulpit and choir loft. He was instrumental in establishing a satellite television system, enabling everyone to enjoy Net 98, 99 and the 2000 General Conference Sessions. As a result, many individuals became members of the church. In July 2000, Elder Long accepted a call as Stewardship and Trust Services Director for the Southeastern Conference.

The following pastors have served since 2000:

Pastor Claude L. Matthews 2000 - 2007

Dr. Sherwin Callwood - 2007 – 2012

Pastor Mark A. Brown 2012 - Present

The Ephesus Church has had a rich heritage and a litany of great leaders. Among which are the following: Elders Floyd Stevens, George E. Peters, J.F. Crichlow, Mann, Strachan, A.B.B. Story, John G. Thomas, Boyd, W.S. Lee, W.W. Fordham, F.S. Keitts, J.F. Street, F. S. Hill, II, Young, H.L. Davis, Sr., C.L. Wright, W.C. Byrd, David L. Long, Claude L. Matthews and Dr. Sherwin Callwood.