In the year of 1949 Elder Claude Ratliff, Sr., being obedient to the will of the Lord, purchased a lot in the 4200 block of Gay Avenue in Centreville, Illinois. In the early spring of 1954, he began to build a home for his family at 4207 Market after losing his home at 4200 Tudor to a fire. He began to dig his basement and prepare the foundation for pouring. God spoke to him and said if he would build him a house, he would never be without membership. God gave him the vision of the church and told him how to build it. Obeying the will of God, he stopped building on his home. With assistance from his two sons, Isaiah Ratliff and Claude Ratliff, Jr., they began to build a house for the Lord at 4238 Gay Avenue. Having faith in God and determined to do the will of God, Elder Ratliff, Sr. was directed by God where to place the windows, what directions to face the door and what to name the church. God gave him the name “The New Church of God in Christ.” Elder Ratliff, Sr. and his sons worked every evening after they came home from work, every Saturday and all summer. After eight months of hard work, the Lord blessed the church to open its doors for the first service on the fourth Sunday in August 1954. Elder Claude Ratliff, Sr., his wife, Hattie Ratliff, his son, Claude and his daughter-in-law, Janora Ratliff started the New Church of God in Christ.
The day the New Church of God in Christ opened its doors, the church was filled to capacity. Saints were standing all around the walls. Many were standing on the outside trying to press their way in. All 125 chairs were occupied. The windows were filled with eager listeners. God blessed the members to march into the church preceded by a community parade led by Elder Pompt Lee with his loud speaker. Bishop Dan Bostic preached the dedication sermon and prayed God’s blessing upon the Pastor and the church. The first non-related member of the church was Sister Lena Otis. The first seven members of the church other than the Pastor and his wife were: Claude Ratliff, Jr., Janora Ratliff, Lena Otis, Sally Saunders, Pauline McClendon, Dora Collins and Mother Lena Ford.
The Lord blessed the church to grow so much that the Pastor Claude Ratliff, Sr., and the brethren had to build a bigger church around the little church. Brother Artrie Spearman and Brother Roosevelt Johnson, Sr. assisted in building the larger church. Building materials were used from a torn down building on 14th and Kansas in East St. Louis, Illinois. The saints continued worshipping and praising God as the new edifice was being constructed.
On September 11, 1955, the church was blessed to move into the larger edifice. There was a 7-block march along with the dedication service. In 1956, Elder Shellie Howard and the late Elder Everett Summers conducted a two-month revival. Fifty-six souls were saved. On January 31, 1968, the Lord saw fit to call Pastor Claude Ratliff, Sr., home to get his reward. During his funeral, Elder Claude Ratliff, Jr. (son), was appointed pastor and received his appointment papers from the late Bishop N. H. Norman.
In 1972, the Southwestern Railroad Company purchased the property at 4238 Gay Avenue, and the church was relocated to 4108 State Street, East St. Louis, Illinois. First service was December 10, 1972. After incorporation with the state officials, Pastor Claude Ratliff, Jr., changed the church name to “St. Mark Church of God in Christ.”
In 1975, the church experienced our mortgage burning ceremony for St. Mark Church of God in Christ. One of the greatest highlights at St. Mark Church of God in Christ was when Elder Ronald Haynes conducted a revival in 1976. During this revival one hundred souls were saved. God continued to add to the church through many revival services.
From November 9, 1980 through June 26, 1981, God inspired Pastor Claude Ratliff, Jr., with a vision for a revival that lasted 32 weeks. Pastor Claude Ratliff, Jr., home Elders, Ministers, and Missionaries conducted the revival. It truly was a revival to remember. Over 125 souls were saved, sanctified, and Holy Ghost filled. Elder Mark Ratliff, Sr., was among the first souls saved and filled in this revival. Many miracles were performed. God healed many people of various diseases and conditions, chronic disorders, including cancers and high blood pressure. Even drug addicts were delivered.
Not only a visionary and a great astounding leader, but Pastor Claude Ratliff, Jr., served as Pastor, Superintendent of District #4, Chairman of Illinois Southeast Jurisdiction and First Administrative Assistant to the Late Bishop Lemuel N. Moore. After the demise of Bishop Moore, Pastor Claude Ratliff, Jr. was elevated to the Ecclesiastical Title of Bishop of Illinois Southeast Jurisdiction on September 10, 1991.
As the years progressed God revealed another vision to Bishop Ratliff to build a larger edifice. Being obedient to the will of God, the blue prints were developed and St. Mark Church of God in Christ was headed in a new direction. Contractors began clearing the land for the construction of the new church on October 3, 1996. On November 5, 1996, the foundation was poured for the erection our new edifice.
On Saturday, October 25, 1997, the church family united to prepare for the grand celebration that would take place on Sunday. The members cleaned, decorated, and placed hundreds of chairs in the new sanctuary because the pews had not arrived. On Sunday, October 26, 1997, we proceeded with a march celebration, being escorted by East St. Louis Police from the grounds of St. Mark Church of God in Christ located at 4108 State Street to our new location named Greater St. Mark Church of God in Christ at 4325 State Street, East St. Louis, Illinois. At that time also celebrating Bishop Ratliff’s birthday, as well as he and his wife’s 30th Pastoral Anniversary Service.
On Sunday, December 21, 1997, God once again continued with his divine will and called Bishop Claude Ratliff, Jr. from his earthly labor to usher him into his heavenly kingdom. On Sunday, December 27, 1997, the day after Bishop Ratliff’s Homegoing Service, the Lord came in a mighty way. God added six souls to the church.
On March 13, 1998, Bishop Chandler David Owens appointed Elder Mark W. Ratliff, Sr. as Pastor of Greater St. Mark Church of God in Christ. The third generation came on the scene to lead God’s people and continue the dream of Elder Claude Ratliff, Sr. and Bishop Claude Ratliff, Jr. Bishop William Scott installed Elder Mark W. Ratliff, Sr. as Pastor and dedicated Greater St. Mark Church of God in Christ on May 3, 1998.
Pastor Mark W. Ratliff, Sr. dedicated the church sign, stained glass window and the new van in August 1999. On May 7, 2000, Mother’s Day, the Mother Versalee Green room was dedicated.
On Sunday, March 16, 2002, Sis. Teresa Holden, Sis. Rosalind Coleman and Sis. Emma Smith was the first Deaconess appointees.
The SBC building next door to the church was acquired and on November 20, 2005 the Greater St Mark Church of God in Christ marched to our newly acquired building named “The Bishop Claude Ratliff Jr. Community Development Center”. The brethren completed renovations, with the decorating done by the sisters. We now have a banquet facility that seats approximately 400 people. Several functions have been held in our beautiful facility. We even have our own catering staff. Plans are for an early childcare center and other businesses.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOR THE THINGS HE HAS DONE AND WILL DO!!!!!!
“Who is Left Among you that Saw This House in Her First Glory? And how do you see it now?”