Category Archives: Church

AG Educator Helps Dedicate Mississippi Historical Marker Where COGIC Bishop Mason Was Jailed in 1918

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Dr. Byron Klaus, retired president of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1999-2015), was a keynote speaker at the dedication of a State Historical Marker honoring the birthplace of the Church of God in Christ. The event, held in Lexington, Mississippi, on October 16, 2015, evidenced the deepening relationship between the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ.

While the Church of God in Christ is the largest predominantly black Pentecostal denomination in the United States, its roots are often overlooked. Few people noticed when Charles H. Mason founded a small Holiness church in 1897 in Lexington. Rejected by his fellow African-American Baptists on account of his Holiness teachings, he represented a marginalized religious group within a marginalized race. But his teachings caught fire among both African-Americans and whites, and his followers soon stretched far beyond the small Mississippi town. When Mason identified with the Pentecostal revival in 1907, he parted ways with ministry colleague Charles P. Jones and reorganized his followers as the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Immediately, the COGIC became one of the largest and most-respected fellowships in the fledgling Pentecostal movement.

Lexington’s role in COGIC history has been largely overshadowed by Memphis, home of COGIC international headquarters. Seeing this inequity, Mother Mary P. Patterson (widow of former Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr.) launched a grassroots campaign to encourage COGIC members to rediscover their Lexington roots. Since 2006, Patterson has organized tours of the historic sites through her company, The Pentecostal Heritage Connection, and she built relationships with Lexington officials, church leaders, and historians.

Patterson’s efforts culminated on October 16, 2015, when a State Historical Marker honoring the COGIC’s birthplace was dedicated at the south entrance of the Holmes County Courthouse in Lexington. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved the marker, and the Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops, chaired by Bishop John H. Sheard, sponsored and paid for the recognition. David Daniels, chairman of the COGIC Commission on Education, supported the project with historical documentation.

The dedication ceremony, organized by Patterson, featured three keynote speakers: Byron Klaus; Superintendent William Deans, pastor of St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Lexington (the first COGIC congregation); and Dr. Percy Washington, pastor of Sweet Canaan Church of God in Christ, Lexington (the second COGIC congregation). Each speaker provided historical insight into Lexington’s significance in COGIC history.

Two buses of ministers and members from the COGIC’s Tennessee 5th Jurisdiction, located in Memphis, traveled to Lexington, where they supported their bishop, Jerry W. Taylor, who unveiled the marker on behalf of the Board of Bishops. Over 80 young people from Taylor’s jurisdiction attended. Local government officials were in full force, each offering their heartfelt prayers and committing the city to provide hospitality for pilgrims. Speakers frequently drew parallels between Scripture and COGIC history. “If Memphis is the Church of God in Christ’s Jerusalem,” stated Patterson, “then Lexington is its Nazareth.”

Byron Klaus noted that the marker’s location is “is a poignant reminder that following Jesus is not an easy path.” The Holmes County Courthouse, he explained, intersected with COGIC history several times. In 1897 Mason began preaching on the courthouse steps, and then moved services to private homes and an abandoned gin house. While in Lexington, he founded St. Paul Church of God in Christ, the world’s first COGIC congregation. Later, in 1918, Mason was incarcerated in the jail cell in the basement of the courthouse on trumped-up charges that he opposed American involvement in World War I. Other church leaders who opposed the Holiness message tried to sabotage Mason’s ministry by falsely accusing him of treason. The jail cell that once held Mason is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Lexington was also home to Saints Industrial and Literary School, established in 1918 by Sister Pinkie Duncan and Professor James Courts to train African-American children. Under Dr. Arenia Mallory, president of the school from 1926 to 1983, the school became known as Saint’s Academy and was a prominent K-12 school in the community. Dr. Mallory was a leading advocate for civil rights and the poor in Holmes County. The school closed in 2006.

Mason, a bridge builder, was ahead of his time. He worked with both blacks and whites, striving to overcome the color barriers of his day. Klaus recounted that Mason gave his blessing in 1914 to the formation of the Assemblies of God. “I am forever grateful for that blessing from a father in the faith,” Klaus told the crowd.

Patterson believes that God is bringing the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ into closer relationship. She demonstrated her commitment to this in 2011, when she deposited her husband’s personal papers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national office, is the world’s largest Pentecostal archives. Patterson stated, “I am entrusting the Assemblies of God to help preserve and promote my husband’s materials. I want to send a signal that our two churches can and should cooperate in areas like education and historical archives.”

The heritage of the Church of God in Christ has much to teach the broader church. Its Lexington roots remind believers that great things often germinate from small beginnings, that the way of holiness is often marked by suffering, and that Pentecostalism emerged at the turn of the 20th century with an interracial impulse. These lessons come to life in Lexington, Mississippi.

Originally published 23 October 2015 on PE News

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

State Historical Marker dedicated on the south lawn of the Holmes County Courthouse, October 16, 2015.

State Historical Marker dedicated on the south lawn of the Holmes County Courthouse, October 16, 2015.

Lexington6

Pictured (L-R): Darrin Rodgers, director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center; Mother Mary P. Patterson; Byron Klaus, former president of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

About 125 people attended the dedication.

About 125 people attended the dedication.

Lexington

St. Paul Church of God in Christ, the oldest COGIC congregation in the world, was founded in Lexington in 1897.

St. Paul Church of God in Christ, the oldest COGIC congregation in the world, was founded in Lexington in 1897.

Bishop Mason began preaching in 1897 on these steps on the south end of the Holmes County Courthouse.

Bishop Mason began preaching in 1897 on these steps on the south end of the Holmes County Courthouse.

Dr. Byron Klaus, standing in the original pulpit in St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Lexington, MS. Bishop Mason preached from this pulpit.

Dr. Byron Klaus, standing in the original pulpit in St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Lexington, MS. Bishop Mason preached from this pulpit.

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, History

Bob Harrison, in the Midst of 1960s Racial Strife, Called for a Counter-Revolution

TWOct22_728
This Week in AG History — October 22, 1967

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 22 October 2015

Racial conflict and change dominated the American landscape in the late 1960s. August 1967 epitomized the era. The month began with race riots engulfing Washington, D.C., and ended with the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to serve as the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

In the midst of this racially charged month, the most prominent African-American Assemblies of God minister, Bob Harrison, delivered a message at the 32nd General Council held August 24-29, 1967, in Long Beach, California. Harrison’s sermon, which addressed the racial strife of the day, was published in the October 22, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Harrison was acutely aware of the effects of racial prejudice, as the racist patterns of the world had found their way into the church. In 1939, the Assemblies of God instituted a policy that denied ordination at the national level to African-Americans. African-Americans could still be licensed at the district level. Harrison graduated from Bethany Bible College (an Assemblies of God school in Scotts Valley, California) in 1951 and was eligible for district licensure. However, he was initially denied a license on account of his race. This decision was later revisited and, in 1957, the Northern California-Nevada District granted Harrison a ministerial license.

This injustice was compounded by irony: Harrison’s godmother, Cornelia Jones Robertson, was ordained by the Assemblies of God in 1923, before the national policy was instituted. She was one of the earliest African-American females ordained by the Assemblies of God.

Harrison quickly rose in prominence in evangelical circles. He joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1960 and traveled the world as an evangelist. In 1962, he became the catalyst for overturning the policy against ordaining African-Americans. Harrison, in his new role as an ordained Assemblies of God minister, became a visible proponent of working across the racial divides.

In his 1967 General Council sermon, Harrison challenged the notion that racial problems could be cured by political and economic means alone. “Only Christ and His gospel can solve it,” he asserted. Having traveled around the world, Harrison also observed that American segregation provided a poor witness of the Christian faith.

Harrison noted that people “tend to confuse Biblical Christianity with American culture.” He explained that while American culture was influenced by Christianity, “the Church exists as a minority” in America. Harrison furthermore offered a blunt assessment of American morality: “America is long on money and materialism but terribly short on values that count.”

Harrison’s interracial vision was grounded in the Great Commission. His sermon was suffused with admonitions that everyone has the responsibility to accept and serve Christ. He encouraged readers to have “total commitment” to bring “the whole gospel for the whole man and the whole world.” According to Harrison, Christians should think in terms of the “human race,” rather than in terms of black or white. Harrison called for Christians to lead a “counter-revolution,” which he described as “a new era of Bible-based, soul-convicting, sin-blasting evangelism.” This counter-revolution, according to Harrison, “began centuries ago at Pentecost.”

Read Bob Harrison’s article, “These Things Shall Be,” on pages 2-3 of the October 22, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Refugee Problem,” by Robert C. Cunningham

• “Getting God’s Help in These Times,” by H. C. Noah

• “The Triumph of the King,” by W. Glenn West

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, History

Should the Assemblies of God Change Its Name?

AGname_728
This Week in AG History — October 8, 1927

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 8 October 2015

At the 1927 General Council, the Assemblies of God considered a possible name change as one of two hot topics covered on the Council floor. Delegates also considered and adopted the formal constitution and bylaws of the Assemblies of God (which included several minor changes to the Statement of Fundamental Truths).

The Oct. 8, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel includes lively discussion of the reasons for a name change and, whether the AG is a denomination. Two years earlier, the 1925 General Council had rejected a proposed constitution and bylaws. A Revision Committee was formed to craft changes that would be more acceptable. In the process of making revisions, this committee explored the possibility of a new name.

J. Narver Gortner, the chairman of the committee, reported: “When the Revision Committee was looking for a name, we wanted to find one that would indicate what we are, one in harmony with our real character. And we all agreed that we are Pentecostal people. Then we are evangelical too, we believe in evangelization.”

The committee recommended changing the name “Assemblies of God” to “Pentecostal Evangelical Church.”

“For a long time there has been widespread dissatisfaction concerning the name by which we have been known,” Gortner said. He found precedence for a name change in Scripture, since God changed the name of Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, and several others.

After continued discussion from a number of delegates, Harold Moss interjected. “We as a people are evangelical, that is, we have a worldwide evangelistic program to get men and women saved through the blood of Jesus Christ,” Moss said. “But the name is not sufficient as there are other evangelical churches, so we need another name to draw a clear line of demarcation — Pentecostal Evangelical church. We are Pentecostal, thank God; and I am not ashamed.”

T. K. Leonard, who had originally suggested the name Assemblies of God in 1914, reminded everyone that “after days of meditation and trying to get an undenominational, nonsectarian name” the founders saw this as the “God-given name” for the Fellowship. “When It was read to the audience, by one standing vote, unanimously, the whole body stood there and sang, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow,’ Leonard said. “And the whole house was filled with the power of God.”

The discussion of a possible name change went on for several days. At the close of the discussion, delegates decided to delay the suggested change until the next meeting of the General Council, to allow additional feedback and study on the matter. The constitution was adopted at the 1927 General Council, but not the name change. In the years since its founding, the name Assemblies of God had become familiar to the world at large. So with very little further discussion, when the General Council met two years later in 1929, the name Assemblies of God was retained and continues to be the name of the Fellowship, 101 years after its founding.

More information is available in the article “The Assemblies of God: A Good Name” in the Fall 1994 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage.

The Pentecostal Evangel article, “A Suggested Change of Name,” is on pages 5-7, and 9-10 of the Oct. 8, 1927, edition.

Also featured in the issue:

* “Continuous Revival,” by R. E. McAlister

* “A Fine New Church,” by Mae Eleanor Frey

* “God’s Call to Pentecostal Saints,” by Sara Coxe

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions are courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

1 Comment

Filed under Church, History

Christ’s Ambassadors, the Assemblies of God Youth Organization, Originated in California in 1925

This Week in AG History — September 25, 1926

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 24 September 2015

One of the most important formative experiences for several generations of Assemblies of God young people was participation in “Christ’s Ambassadors” — the Assemblies of God national youth organization.

Christ’s Ambassadors had its origin in 1925, when Assemblies of God young people in Oakland, California, formed the Pentecostal Ambassadors for Christ. Similar groups existed in Fresno and Los Angeles under the names Christian Crusaders and Christ’s Ambassadors. Ultimately, the three groups merged under the name Christ’s Ambassadors.The idea of organizing Assemblies of God youth into a national organization quickly gained momentum. The September 25, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included “an appeal to the young people” to begin new a new national youth organization, patterned after the groups pioneered in California.

Some people feared giving too much power to the younger generation, lest they have a platform to promote agendas that might undermine the church. However, the 1926 article stressed the important role of young people in the Assemblies of God. “It is the natural prerogative of young people to do the aggressive work,” the article noted. “Unless the latent powers and talents [of youth] are harnessed and developed for God’s service they will be used for the world or for the devil.”

Earlier in 1926, the name Christ’s Ambassadors had been adopted as the title of a new weekly Assemblies of God young people’s periodical. When the national organization was formed, it seemed fitting to name the group Christ’s Ambassadors. The name stuck, and Assemblies of God young people’s groups across the United States were known as Christ’s Ambassadors for the next 50 years.

Read the article, “An Appeal to the Young People,” on page 6 of the September 25, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Second Coming of Christ,” by D. L. Moody

• “How to Enjoy Your Money Forever,” by J. Narver Gortner

• “Ten Ways to Kill a Church,” by J. Logan Stuart

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, Education

Confronted by 1960s Racial Tensions, Ohio AG Church Grew by Reaching out to Hispanics and Blacks

1965_08_08-PE

Pictured are pastors of the new churches and the mother church (left to right): S. R . Nodal (Templo Betel); Dana Dickson (Evangel Assembly, Sandusky); Keith Smith (Broadway Assembly); and R. E. Burel (Beulah Assembly).


This Week in AG History — August 8, 1965

By Darrin Rodgers
Published August 6, 2015

Fifty years ago, the community of Lorain, Ohio, was in the midst of a significant demographic shift. Thousands of immigrants from Cuba and Puerto Rico relocated to Lorain to work in the steel mills, and the African-American community was growing. Racial tensions existed in the historically white town of 60,000, as residents grappled with these social changes.

How should the church respond to racial tensions and community strife?  Keith Smith, an Assemblies of God pastor in Lorain, saw the changes in his community as an opportunity to share the Gospel and bring reconciliation. He led his church, Broadway Assembly of God, to seek out the newcomers and minister to their needs.

Members of Broadway Assembly canvassed the community, befriended the immigrants, and began a bus ministry so that those without transportation could come to church. The church began a Spanish-speaking ministry under the leadership of S. Reyes Nodal, an Assemblies of God pastor born in Mexico. Nodal’s ministry grew and became Templo Betel (Bethel Temple), the first Spanish-speaking Assemblies of God church in Ohio.

Broadway Assembly asked a Church of God in Christ pastor, Robert E. Burel, to lead an outreach to African-Americans. Under Burel’s leadership, a new congregation, called Beulah Assembly, formed and met in Broadway Assembly’s building. After about a year and a half, Burel led his congregation to affiliate with the Church of God in Christ.

Broadway Assembly grew significantly even as it was planting new churches in its own community. Sunday school attendance grew from 200 to over 600 in a few years. The church built a new building to accommodate its growing crowds and gave its old building to Templo Betel.

How should today’s church respond to demographic changes and social strife? When confronted by a similar situation fifty years ago, Keith Smith did not retreat into the comfort of his church building. He led his congregation to engage the community and reach out to Spanish-speaking immigrants and African-Americans.

Read the article about Broadway Assembly, “Mother Church Triples,” on page 15 of the August 8, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

  • “Witness for Christ,” by Fred Smolchuck
  • “Man Overboard!” by Charles T. Crabtree
  • “Be Not Silent,” by Bob Hoskins

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, History, Missions

A Warning for Pentecostals from 1942: “Is Our Modern Revival Deep Enough?”

Gee2
This Week in AG History — August 8, 1942

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 30 July 2015

Is our modern revival deep enough?”

Noted British Assemblies of God leader Donald Gee (1891-1966) asked this question in an article in the Aug. 8, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

“Everywhere I go I find indications of shallowness,” Gee wrote. “The modern revival is very bright and happy, but I fear it is also very shallow, and I am deeply concerned about that because I do not believe that which satisfies the heart of God is shallow.”

One of the most prolific early Pentecostal authors, Gee was widely read on both sides of the Atlantic. In many ways, Gee was the conscience of English-speaking Pentecostalism. Known as the “apostle of balance,” he counseled Pentecostals to maintain spiritual vitality and to stay within the bounds of Scripture and wisdom.

Gee praised what he viewed as the positive emphases on miracles and music. The dominant features in many churches, he noted, were divine healing and joyful singing. But he also cautioned readers that spiritual depth requires more than excitement in a church service. He admonished believers to seek a “revival of repentance” — which includes a sense of brokenness over sin and a full commitment to Christ and His mission.

Is your faith deep or superficial? This can be tested, according to Gee, by asking yourself how easily you forget about the things of God and instead get caught up in the things of the world. He encouraged readers to seek a deep baptism in the Holy Spirit — allowing God to transform desires and sanctify the believer. A revival that does not produce holiness and repentance, he insisted, “does not go deep enough.” If you want an anointed ministry, you need to spend time in the presence of God, which cultivates spiritual depth.

Gee challenged readers to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would produce a deep revival. Such a deep revival, he wrote, would produce repentance and changed lives and “keep us broken, melted and softened before the Lord.” Gee’s challenge — penned fewer than 30 years after the founding of the Assemblies of God — remains pertinent today.

Read the article, “Is Our Modern Revival Deep Enough?” on pages 2-3 of the August 8, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “When the Japanese Invaded Malaya,” by Lula Ashmore

* “Victory in Lonely Places,” by Carrie Judd Montgomery

* “Revival Among the Apache Indians”

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

1 Comment

Filed under Church, Spirituality

Uncovering the Assemblies of God’s Black Heritage: Ellsworth S. Thomas Ordained 100 Years Ago

Ellsworth2TW_728
This Week in AG History — July 25, 1936

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 23 July 2015

One hundred years ago, the Assemblies of God ordained its first African American minister, Ellsworth S. Thomas of Binghamton, New York. Ellsworth was largely absent from the pages of the Pentecostal Evangel, other than a brief mention of his death, published 79 years ago this week.

Recently uncovered information about Ellsworth sheds new light on this African American pioneer in the Assemblies of God. Ellsworth was part of a flourishing but small community of free blacks that existed in Binghamton in the nineteenth century. Historian Debra Adleman, who wrote about the black community in Binghamton, noted that many had escaped slavery, moved north, and formed a close-knit community. They overcame racism and societal restrictions, developed strong families, and carved out their own religious, economic, and social niche in the region.

Ellsworth S. Thomas was born in 1866 in New York. His father, Samuel, was born in Maryland in 1830 and worked as a laborer. Samuel was also a Civil War veteran, serving for three years as a private in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry. Ellsworth was born about nine months after his father returned home from the war. Ellsworth’s mother, Mahala, was born in 1842 in Pennsylvania and worked as a laundress. Ellsworth was the eldest of two children born to the couple. After Samuel passed away in the early 1890s, Ellsworth lived with his mother and cared for her. Census records show that they owned a modest house and that most of their neighbors were white. He did not attend school, but he could read and write.

Binghamton city directories from the 1890s reveal that Ellsworth was a laundryman. By 1900, though, they listed his occupation as a traveling evangelist. His name first appeared in the Assemblies of God ministers’ directory in October 1915, which stated that he was a “colored” pastor in Binghamton. He remained an active Assemblies of God minister for the remainder of his life.

In 1917, the Assemblies of God asked existing ministers to re-submit applications for credentials, apparently because paperwork had not been kept during the earliest years of the Fellowship. Robert Brown, influential pastor of Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City, endorsed Ellsworth’s 1917 application. On the application, Ellsworth stated that he was originally ordained on December 7, 1913, by R. E. Erdman, pastor of a large congregation in Buffalo, New York. Correspondence in his ministerial file from reveals that Ellsworth also pastored a congregation in Beaver Meadows, New York.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center holds a 1936 letter from Paul Westendorf that informed the Pentecostal Evangel of Ellsworth’s death on June 12, 1936. He was 70 years old and passed away in Binghamton after a serious illness. Westendorf wrote, “He has been in the Council Fellowship for many years and so will be remembered throughout the Eastern District. Brother Thomas was faithful and true to the Lord in all kinds of circumstances, serving Him with gladness, therefore we feel that he had an abundant entrance in the presence of the Lord.” Ellsworth S. Thomas’ passing was briefly noted on page 13 of the July 25, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

No photograph of Ellsworth S. Thomas has yet been located. Persons with additional information about the life and ministry of Ellsworth S. Thomas are encouraged to contact the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center at archives@ag.org.

As the Assemblies of God continues to become more ethnically diverse, it is increasingly important that its history books include stories from the varied backgrounds of believers.

Other articles featured in the July 25, 1936, issue:
• “Reckless for God,” by Beatrice V. Pannabecker
• “Victors and Victims of Faith,” by J. O. Savell
• “How God is working in the Gold Coast,” by Brother and Sister H. B. Garlock

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

1 Comment

Filed under Church, History