In the late 1920s, a lady by the name of Mollie Thomas was attending a Methodist Church in Jacksonville with her family after moving from West Virginia. Mollie missed the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) that she had attended in West Virginia. So she wrote church headquarters in Anderson and asked who in Jacksonville had a subscription to the Church of God magazine, the Gospel Trumpet. Soon Mollie had contacted the handful of families receiving the magazine and by the summer of 1931, Rev. F.M. Eby, the pastor of the Fort Meade Church of God, held a revival to help rally a new Church of God congregation in Jacksonville.
Our church started the same way many church plants start today! It wasn’t long until small groups were meeting in homes on both the Southside and Westside of town. (Two churches eventually grew out of this original group: the McDuff Avenue Church of God, now known as New Life at Park Street, and the First Church of God at Southside, which eventually became New Journey Church.)
In early 1933, 19 people met for the first time as a congregation in the City Hall of South Jacksonville at the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Cedar Street. Some of the families represented included the Thomases, the Davenports, the Walkers, the Bakers, the Willowbys and the Hands. One of the primary people responsible for this new beginning was Mollie Thomas who would often carry chairs from her home nearby to the City Hall for services. This group later moved to the fire station across the street on Hendricks, then to the Women’s Club at the corner of Flagler and Gary Streets. Rev. H.L. Calloway, who pastored the McDuff Avenue church also worked with this group until his departure in 1937. The Southside church moved briefly to Seaman’s Hall at Miami and Flagler Streets, but without a pastor.
Rev. W.O. Moon, who was pastoring the McDuff Avenue Church of God, suggested the Southside group meet with his congregation, which they did from 1939 until January 1950 while they retained a portion of their giving toward starting their own congregation again on the Southside.
Then on January 29, 1950, a group of about 25 met as the First Church of God, on the Southside, with their new pastor, Rev. A.W. Benefield. In May 1950, the group purchased a house at Roosevelt Avenue and Beach Blvd., which was used as the Benefield’s home and was later converted into a sanctuary and Sunday School rooms. When Bro. Benefield resigned, the group was averaging 60 attendees.
New Location, New Sanctuary
Rev. Wilber Hatch, Rev. Benefied’s son-in-law, came as pastor in January 1954 and remained through 1961. Under Bro. Hatch’s leadership, the congregation paid off their debt and outgrew their small sanctuary.
In November 1958, under Pastor Hatch’s leadership, the congregation purchased a three-acre lot between Lovegrove Road (now University Blvd.) and Bartram Road. A ground breaking for the building now housing Kid’s Journey was held in May 1959. On August 30, 1959, the cornerstone was laid with pictures, a copy of the church history and other documents sealed inside. The congregation worshiped in the new sanctuary for the first time on December 20, 1959.
Rev. Ralph Collins came to pastor from the fall of 1961 unto the summer of 1967. During his tenure the church built a parsonage and the north wing was added to the sanctuary to house a kitchen and Sunday School rooms. On October 2, 1963, the church changed its name from First Church of God to University Boulevard Chapel.
Rev. John Winters came in November of 1967 and continued as pastor until December 1975. Under his leadership the church continued to grow and a second educational wing was built. Rev. Carl Wilson who served from February 1976 until the summer of 1977 followed Pastor Winters. Rev. Henry Dodson served from early 1978 until August 1982. Rev. Bruce Seger’s first Sunday as pastor was October 31, 1982.
During Pastor Seger’s tenure, the church saw significant growth, doubling in attendance and adding property and buildings. The current sanctuary was dedicated on June 23, 1991. In April 1996, three additional lots adjoining the north side of the existing property were purchased. Pastor Seger led a bond campaign to “self finance” the church debt and started the congregation on a path to become debt free.
Pastor Seger’s last Sunday was October 17, 1999. Rev. Russ Jones came to serve as pastor in the fall of 2000 and began a campaign to help the congregation pay off its final debt. After Pastor Jones’ resignation in the summer of 2002, the church called Rev. Dean Olson. Pastor Olson recognized that as the community around the church was changing the congregation needed to make adjustments to better serve the community as Christ’s hands and feet. He initiated a program with the Florida Church of God Ministries to evaluate the changes that needed to be made. Under his leadership, the congregation also paid off all its debt. Pastor Olson resigned the spring of 2009 after serving the congregation for six years.
After Pastor Olson’s resignation in 2009, Pastor Ken Bish came to serve as interim and to help make some of the changes necessary to the congregation’s survival. The congregation asked him to continue as senior pastor, which he accepted later that year. Pastor Bish led the congregation in a “rebranding” effort to help identify the key messages of the church. The name of the church was changed to New Journey Church in August 2010 to better reflect the journey that all believers embark upon as they share the gospel. The tag line “Seeking God. Serving People. Sharing Life.” was adopted to remind the congregation of this mission. Pastor Bish resigned in 2013.