Tag Archives: African-American Pentecostalism

Walter Evans: Rediscovering a Pioneer Black Assemblies of God Minister in Nebraska

Evans Walter

By Darrin J. Rodgers

Until this week, I had never heard of Rev. Walter Evans, a pioneer black Assemblies of God evangelist who was a faithful, well-loved member of the Nebraska District Council for about 20 years until his death in 1959.

On Monday, when sorting through a collection of treasures recently deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, I discovered a delightful advertising card for a black gospel musician and evangelist named Walter Evans (pictured here). Who was Evans? Was he a Pentecostal? Probably Church of God in Christ, I surmised.

A quick search on the Heritage Center website uncovered that Evans was a licensed Assemblies of God minister, and that he died in 1959. I located his ministerial file in the Heritage Center vault, but it contained only scant information, confirming that he was indeed a licensed minister in 1958 and 1959, that he last lived in Bridgeport, Nebraska, and that he died on February 3, 1959.

Evans Walter card

Walter Evans advertised himself as an “evangelistic singer” who played “beautiful music on traps and drums”

Evans’ brief ministerial file did not disclose his race. Since the earliest years of the Assemblies of God, applicants for ordination have been required to state their race on applications that were filed at the Assemblies of God national office. These applications, ultimately, find their way to the vault at the Heritage Center, where they are safely stored for posterity.

Because Evans was licensed, and not ordained, his application for credentials was not filed at the national office. Why was Evans licensed and not ordained?

It was not unusual for Assemblies of God ministers to remain licensed and not to progress to the level of ordination. In 1958, when the Assemblies of God started including licensed ministers in its national directory, there were over 9,300 ordained ministers and over 5,200 licensed ministers.

However, it is possible that Evans was a casualty of a national policy from 1939 to 1962 that disallowed black ministers from receiving ordination (which was given at the national level) from the Assemblies of God. Black ministers could still be licensed (which was given at the district level). This policy was adopted in 1939 as the societal tensions were emerging over the Civil Rights movement and was rescinded in 1962 when the Assemblies of God ordained Bob Harrison, a high-profile Assemblies of God evangelist who worked with Billy Graham.

This policy had the practical effect of obscuring the ministry of blacks in the Assemblies of God. Until 1958, the national office did not keep files on licensed ministers or include them in the national ministerial directories. Now, historians have difficulty accessing information about black Assemblies of God ministers. District ministerial lists, which included licensed ministers, do shed some light on these black ministers. However, these lists rarely identified the race of the ministers, making it difficult to systematically identify black ministers and to share their stories.

The Heritage Center holds an incomplete collection of the Nebraska District ministerial directories. I did some digging and found that Evans was not listed in the 1938 directory, but was in the 1939 directory, as well as in directories from the following years until his death. District directories gave Evans’ city of residence as Burton (1939, 1942, 1943, 1945) and Bridgeport (1948, 1953).

I contacted the Nebraska District office for more information about Evans, and Val helpfully responded with a number of references that she was able to find. She confirmed that Evans was credentialed with the Nebraska District from 1939 to 1959, and that he lived in Scottsbluff and Mullen, as well as in Burton and Bridgeport. It is unknown whether he transferred his credentials from another denomination or district to the Nebraska District, or whether the district granted him his first credentials.

Val also provided this “colorful” obituary of Evans in the March 1959 issue of the Nebraska Fellowship (the monthly district periodical):

Walter Evans Passes On
by Clyde King

During the last of January Brother Walter Evans suffered a stroke while living with his daughter, Mrs. Cecil Jones in Chicago. He lived for five days, during which time he was unable to talk. Your District Secr. treas sent a small bouquet for his funeral in the name of the Nebraska Dist. As an unsaved farmer boy I first heard Brother Evans sing in the country Coburg Church where I was converted. I liked the song entitled, “Every Time I Feel the Spirit.” But the one I remember best is, “What Are They Doing in Heaven.”

Our former District Superintendent, Brother A. M. Alber enjoyed introducing Brother Evans at one of our district meetings by adding, “Brother Evans always adds a lot of color to our meetings.” Brother Evans would get up, set a chair for his foot, strum his guitar and counter with the remark, “I’m just an Irishman turned wrong side out.” Brother Evans was still adding color to our District meetings as he attended our Lexington Camp last summer; but we won’t be seeing him anymore. He passed away Febr. 3rd.

Walter Evans and countless other unheralded black ministers have helped to build God’s Kingdom through the Assemblies of God. Since the ordination of the first black Assemblies of God minister (Ellsworth S. Thomas of Binghamton, New York) in 1915, blacks have become an important part of the Assemblies of God. In 2015, the Assemblies of God USA counted that 1.9% of its ministers were black (722), and nearly 10% of its adherents were black (308,520). The challenge, in years to come, is to uncover the testimonies of these and other socially marginalized Assemblies of God ministers, so that we can better tell the full story of the “Full Gospel.”

The author, Darrin J. Rodgers, M.A., J.D., serves as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

UPDATE:

Dr. Byron Klaus, retired president of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1999-2015), read this article and responded that his grandparents knew Walter Evans:

I have pictures of Brother Evans staying on my grandparents farm in Whitney NE. He preached revivals all over Western Nebraska in the late 1930’s. He was a regular visitor to the churches in the area. He’d just show up and say the Lord had sent him. Though it was certainly unusual in these times to have a black man preaching in these churches, no body ever thought it was anything other than the Spirits guidance. This was also an era when the KKK was everywhere in the region railing against everything that wasn’t white. Jews, Asians, Native Americans, etc.

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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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Remembering the Assemblies of God’s Black Heritage

By Darrin J. Rodgers

It is well-known that the interracial Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), a focal point of the emerging Pentecostal movement, was led by an African-American pastor, William J. Seymour. However, the African-American heritage of the Assemblies of God has often been overlooked.

Most of the approximately 300 ministers who organized the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914 were white. (At least two were Native American.) However, African-Americans played important roles in the early decades of the Assemblies of God – at the first few general council meetings and as pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. They overcame racism (including from fellow believers), they led consecrated lives, and they helped to lay the foundation for the Fellowship. Their stories are our stories. The following vignettes offer a glimpse into the lives and ministries of these sometimes unsung heroes.

  1. William J. Seymour (1870-1922)

seymour-p5606William J. Seymour, a mild-mannered African-American Holiness preacher, is remembered as one of the most important figures in twentieth century American religious history. Just 111 years ago, he founded the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, which became home to the famed Azusa Street Revival. Hundreds of millions of Pentecostals around the world, including those in the Assemblies of God, view Seymour as a spiritual father. He would probably be surprised by the attention, as during his lifetime he was often marginalized, even within Pentecostal circles. But his persistent encouragements toward holiness, humility, racial reconciliation, and evangelism continue to shine as founding ideals of the Pentecostal movement.

  1. Charles H. Mason (1864-1961)

chmason1

Few early Pentecostals were as widely respected and admired as Charles H. Mason, founder of the Church of God in Christ. While the Church of God in Christ was a largely African-American Pentecostal denomination, Mason also credentialed numerous white ministers, some of whom ended up joining the Assemblies of God. Mason spoke at and blessed the founding general council of the Assemblies of God, and he also brought his black gospel choir from Lexington, Mississippi. E. N. Bell, the founding chairman of the Assemblies of God, called Mason “a real prophet of God.”

  1. Garfield T. Haywood (1880-1931)

Christian OutlookG.T. Haywood was the African-American pastor of the largest Pentecostal congregation in Indianapolis in the early decades of the twentieth century. He was also a noted theologian, author, songwriter, cartoonist, and inventor. His influence stretched far, and his congregation was racially mixed. The first issue of the Christian Evangel (later Pentecostal Evangel) included three articles by or about Haywood. He was invited to speak on the 1915 general council floor to represent the Oneness position, even though he never held Assemblies of God credentials. Haywood went on to serve as presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, a racially mixed Oneness Pentecostal denomination.

  1. Ellsworth S. Thomas (1866-1936)

Ellsworth S. Thomas holds the distinction of being the first African-American to hold Assemblies of God ministerial credentials. His name was just a footnote in the history books until recently, when new information came to light. His parents, a Civil War veteran and a laundress, were part of a free black community in Binghamton, New York, that pre-existed the Civil War. By 1900, Ellsworth had become an itinerant evangelist, he was ordained in 1913 by a Pentecostal church in Buffalo, New York, and he transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God in 1915. He remained a faithful Assemblies of God minister until his death at age 70.

  1. Isaac S. Neeley (1865-1923) and Martha (Mattie) A. Board Neeley (1866-1940s?)

neeleyp5664Isaac and Martha Neeley were married late in life (in 1905) and became the first African-Americans to serve as Assemblies of God missionaries. They went to Liberia in 1913 under the auspices of Howard A. Goss’s largely-white Pentecostal fellowship, the Church of God in Christ (which was distinct from Charles H. Mason’s group by the same name). They transferred their credentials to the Assemblies of God in 1920 when they were home on furlough and received missionary appointment to Liberia in 1923. Isaac died just before they were set to leave, and Martha proceeded alone to Cape Palmas, where she was in charge of Bethel Home.

  1. Cornelia Jones Robertson (1891-1967)

robertsonp19200

Cornelia Jones Robertson, an African American participant at the Azusa Street Revival, was ordained in 1909 and became a popular evangelist and preached at churches across the nation. She transferred her credentials to the Assemblies of God in 1923 and settled in San Francisco, where she became a church planter and evangelist. She ran the Barbary Coast Mission for 14 years and is credited for helping 100,000 people in need. She was one of few African Americans listed in the predecessor to the San Francisco Social Register.

  1. Thoro Harris (1874-1955)

Early Pentecostals loved gospel music, and Thoro Harris was one of their favorite song writers. He published countless songbooks and composed over 500 songs, including “Jesus Loves the Little Children” (1921), “All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus” (1931), and “He’s Coming Soon” (1944). Harris, an African-American, moved seamlessly in both white and black circles, as well as in both Holiness and Pentecostal churches. He made a substantial impact on Assemblies of God hymnody in its early decades.

  1. Lillian Kraeger (1884-1964)

kraegerLillian Kraeger, a young single white woman, felt called to Africa as a missionary. She never made it to Africa, but instead became an unlikely Assemblies of God missionary to African-Americans in Harlem. Lillian was heartbroken when her Assemblies of God church in New York City rejected the membership applications of two young African American girls on account of their skin color. She did not want the girls to fall away from the Lord, so in 1916 she began traveling to Harlem to hold Bible studies. The studied blossomed and grew into Bethel Gospel Assembly, which is now the largest congregation in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, the African-American denomination which formed a cooperative alliance with the Assemblies of God in 2014.

  1. Eddie Washington (1916-2008)

Eddie Washington and his twin brother, Billie, were raised in a cruel orphanage in Rhode Island. They hoped for a reprieve when they went to a foster home at age 14. But when they accepted Christ at a Pentecostal church, their occultist foster mother beat them until their heads bled and forbade them to attend church again. They disobeyed, went back to church, and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their foster mother, now afraid of them because she could tell that they had spiritual power, left them alone. The twins prepared for the ministry at Zion Bible Institute and entered the evangelistic ministry. Eddie and his wife, Ruth, joined the Assemblies of God and became well known African-American evangelists and missionaries.

  1. Bob Harrison (1928-2012)

TWOct22_728When Bob Harrison felt a call to the ministry, he naturally turned to the Assemblies of God. His godmother, Cornelia Jones Robertson, was a pioneer African-American Assemblies of God minister. He graduated from an Assemblies of God Bible college in 1951, but he was denied credentials on account of his race, ironically, by the same district that ordained his godmother. 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 a policy, instituted in 1939, that forbade the ordination of African-Americans at the national level. Harrison, in his new role as an ordained Assemblies of God minister, became a visible proponent of working across the racial divides.

These and countless other African-American Pentecostals have made a significant impact on the Assemblies of God. In 2015, almost ten percent of Assemblies of God USA members – 308,520 people – were black. As a whole, ethnic minorities accounted for 43 percent of Assemblies of God adherents in the United States. The Assemblies of God, an heir of the Azusa Street Revival, consists of people from varied racial backgrounds who have come together in the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ and to further His Kingdom.

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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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Alexander C. Stewart Deposits Important African-American Pentecostal Collection at FPHC

Stewart3

William L. Bonner (left), Chief Apostle of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., with Alexander C. and Shirlene Stewart on their wedding day, June 22, 1985, at Solomon’s Temple, Detroit, Michigan.

Alexander C. Stewart, the respected historian of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. (COOLJC), has deposited an important African-American Pentecostal collection at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC).

Stewart has a long history in both Trinitarian and Oneness African-American churches. He was raised in Bethel Gospel Assembly, the large Harlem congregation affiliated with the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God. In 1974, while still in high school, he accepted the Oneness message and became a member of Greater Refuge Temple, the COOLJC headquarters church located in Harlem. Immediately upon joining his new church, he began collecting historical materials relating to African-American Oneness Pentecostalism.

Stewart described his passion for preserving Pentecostal history: “My life was changed, and I wanted to ensure the preservation of the legacy, heritage and contributions of African Americans and African-Caribbean Americans to Pentecostalism and American religion. As denominations and religious movements mature, generations become disconnected from the values, struggles and sacrifices of their founders. We must remember where we came from, and we must know our roots, so we can shape the future for this generation and the next.”

Alexander Stewart has served the COOLJC in various capacities. In 1988, he was appointed Chairman of the Church History Committee for the Greater Refuge Temple Board of Youth Education. He was editor of the Board’s periodical, Educationally Speaking. In 1991, he was appointed Assistant Historian, serving under Dr. Robert C. Spellman. Stewart and his wife, Shirlene, moved in 1993 to Columbia, South Carolina, and assisted Chief Apostle William L. Bonner in planting a new congregation. When the W. L. Bonner School of Theology (now W. L. Bonner College) was established in Columbia in 1995, Alexander and Shirlene were founding faculty members. He holds a Masters of Theology (Parkerburg Bible College, 2002) and a Masters of Theological Studies (Regent University, 2014).

A careful researcher and writer, Stewart has edited or written for numerous scholarly and church-related publications. His first book, The Silent Spokesman: Bishop Robert Clarence Lawson (1994), was co-authored with Sherry Sherrod DuPree. He also served as editorial and research consultant for the 1999 biography of Presiding Bishop William L. Bonner, And the High Places I’ll Bring Down. He also wrote three articles in The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Blackwell, 2011), edited by Dr. George Thomas Kurian. He is a longtime member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and he has presented three papers at the society’s annual meetings.

Stewart

A few publications from the Alexander C. Stewart Collection.

The Alexander C. Stewart Collection consists of 6 linear feet of publications, newspaper clippings, and correspondence, primarily relating to the COOLJC, other African-American Oneness Pentecostal churches, and Bethel Gospel Assembly. The bulk of the collection documents the development of the COOLJC over the past 30 years, with special attention to denominational publications and W. L. Bonner College.

Stewart began depositing materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center over 20 years ago and has continued to add items over the years. Due to the collection’s size and importance, the items have been brought together and recataloged as a special collection, which will aid researchers. Stewart has placed additional collections of materials at the following repositories: the United Pentecostal Historical Center (Hazelwood, MO), Schomburg Center for Black Research (New York Public Library), and Pan-African Archive of the William Seymour College (Bowie, MD).

The Alexander C. Stewart Collection is important, as it provides researchers access to materials that may otherwise be difficult to find. African-Americans, other than the iconic figures of William J. Seymour and Charles H. Mason, are often neglected in standard Pentecostal history books. This is ironic, as African-Americans played leading roles in the origins and development of Pentecostalism in America. In concentrating on the development of certain white segments of the movement, historians often have under-represented the stories of ethnic minorities and those in the plethora of smaller Pentecostal denominations. In recent years, the FPHC has attempted to remedy this problem by building bridges across the racial, linguistic, national, and denominational divides, intentionally collecting materials from the broader Pentecostal movement.

The Alexander C. Stewart collection fills in important gaps in the FPHC’s collections by making accessible a large amount of primary and secondary source materials on the COOLJC, which is the second largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The Alexander C. Stewart Collection takes its place alongside other significant African-American Pentecostal collections deposited at the FPHC in recent years, including:

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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 archives and research center 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
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

 

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James L. Tyson Deposits Important African-American Oneness Pentecostal Collection at FPHC

James Tyson

Bishop James L. Tyson (left) with Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers, showcasing his collection

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW), organized in 1907 in Los Angeles in the midst of the Azusa Street revival, emerged to become the largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The influence of the PAW stretched far, and its intentional interracial character continued long after the fires of the Azusa Street revival dimmed. Its most prominent presiding bishop, G. T. Haywood, was so esteemed by early Assemblies of God leaders that, when the Oneness movement became a point of contention in 1915, Haywood was asked to represent the Oneness position on the Assemblies of God’s General Council floor.

Despite the significance of the PAW, its history has been neglected by most standard histories of the Pentecostal movement. Over thirty years ago, James Laverne Tyson, the son of PAW Bishop James E. Tyson, felt the call to document and publish the history of his ancestral church. He interviewed the founding fathers and mothers of the PAW and collected rare publications and photographs. He authored eight books and numerous pamphlets, mostly about PAW history. His first book, Before I Sleep (1976), is a biography of Haywood, and his seminal work, The Early Pentecostal Revival (1992), is the benchmark history of the PAW from its inception to 1930.

Tyson recently retired from the pastorate and, in November 2015, he deposited his collection of PAW historical materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. Tyson noted, “Decades ago when I started my historical research, one of the first places I went was the Assemblies of God Archives.” The former director, Wayne Warner, provided Tyson with access to information about the earliest years of the Pentecostal movement. The Assemblies of God Archives was renamed the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in 1999. Tyson continued, “Now, at the end of my career, it is fitting that my life’s work should reside at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center for future generations of scholars who can pick up where I left off.”

Researchers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center are now able to view the James L. Tyson Collection, which includes approximately 550 periodical issues, 150 books, 540 original photographs, and 4 linear feet of his files and research notes. The bulk of the publications date from the early 1920s through the late 1970s and include numerous histories of significant congregations, souvenir journals from PAW events, funeral programs, and assorted minute books and directories. Importantly, the collection includes the original 1918/1919 and 1919/1920 PAW minute books. The photographs, many of which have never been published, mostly date from the 1910s through the 1960s and include large rolled prints of early conventions. The collection includes many publications from the PAW’s historic headquarters church, Christ Temple (Indianapolis, Indiana), which Tyson’s father pastored. While the collection includes chiefly PAW materials, it also includes rare items from groups that broke away from the PAW, including the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ World Wide (founded by Smallwood E. Williams) and the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith (founded by S. N. Hancock). Tyson previously owned additional artifacts and publications, which he had already given to several PAW bishops.

Christian Outlook

This original May 1931 issue of The Christian Outlook, the official periodical of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is among the approximately 540 periodical issues in the James L. Tyson Collection.

The James L. Tyson Collection fills in a significant gap in the collections of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. In recent years, the FPHC has acquired several major African-American Pentecostal collections, including:

Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. Collection (Patterson served as Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, 1968-1989)
Mother Lizzie Robinson/Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection (Robinson was the founder of the Church of God in Christ Women’s Department)
• Robert James McGoings, Jr. Collection (McGoings was a prominent African-American Oneness Pentecostal from Baltimore, Maryland)
• Alexander Stewart Collection (Stewart was raised in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God and is the historian for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, which is the second largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination)

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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 archives and research center 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
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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State Historical Marker to be Dedicated October 16, 2015, in Lexington, MS, Honoring COGIC Birthplace

Holmes_County_CourthouseThe Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops, chaired by Bishop John H. Sheard, has sponsored the placement of a state historical marker in Lexington, Mississippi, the city where Charles H. Mason founded the Church of God in Christ in 1897.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved the marker, which will be unveiled and dedicated on Friday, October 16, 2015, at 1 pm at the south end of the Holmes County Courthouse, 200 Court Square, Lexington, Mississippi. A dedication program includes several speakers of national importance, and state and local government officials will be present. The public is invited to the dedication.

The Church of God in Christ, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States, is now headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. However, the church’s roots in Lexington, 150 miles south of Memphis, have often been overlooked. The Pentecostal Heritage Connection, led by Mary P. Patterson, assembled the dedication program. “If Memphis is the Church of God in Christ’s Jerusalem,” states Patterson, “then Lexington is its Nazareth.” Patterson, the widow of former Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr., is particularly interested in helping young people to learn more about their heritage. She has organized tours of Church of God in Christ historic sites in Lexington since 2006.

Lexington has played a prominent role in Church of God in Christ history. Bishop Charles H. Mason (1864-1961) began his ministry in 1893 in Preston, Arkansas. Shunned by the African-American Baptist community in Jackson during the 1890s due to his teachings on holiness, Mason brought his revival to Lexington in 1897. He began preaching on the steps of the Holmes County Courthouse and later moved to private homes and an abandoned gin house. During his time in Lexington, Mason established St. Paul Church of God in Christ, which became known as the “mother church” of the Church of God in Christ denomination.

Mason faced opposition in Lexington, coming from those who disapproved of his holiness preaching and his pacifism and interracialism. He was incarcerated in the Holmes County Courthouse in 1918 for allegedly preaching against World War I, despite having sold bonds to help the war effort. The jail cell which housed Mason has been preserved and is open to the public. Hundreds of people each year visit the jail cell, which is decorated with colorful murals depicting Mason’s incarceration.

Lexington was also home to Saints Industrial and Literary School, established to train African American children by Sister Pinkie Duncan and Professor James Courts in 1918. 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.

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Important COGIC Collection: Nearly 500 Early Photographs Now Online at iFPHC.org

FPHC Director Darrin Rodgers with Rev. Elijah L. Hill, displaying the collection.

FPHC Director Darrin Rodgers with Rev. Elijah L. Hill, displaying the collection.

An important collection of almost 500 historic photographs relating to the Church of God in Christ is now accessible for free on the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website. The photographs (circa 1899-1960s), from the Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection, portray men and women who pioneered the African-American Pentecostal denomination.

The photographs were collected by Mother Lizzie Robinson (1860-1945) and her daughter, Ida F. Baker. Robinson organized the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Women’s Department in 1911 and was the most prominent female COGIC leader until her death. As head of women’s auxiliaries, she founded the Prayer and Bible Band and the Sewing Circle. She also helped to lay the foundation for the creation of the Missions Department (originally known as the Home and Foreign Missions Band).

Mother Lizzie Robinson

Mother Lizzie Robinson

Elijah L. Hill, the COGIC minister and historian who deposited Robinson’s personal papers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC), described the photographs as “a rare glimpse into the faces of those who suffered and yet overcame the world.” In his biography of Robinson, Women Come Alive, Hill detailed how Robinson encouraged COGIC women to become self-determining, before the broader society recognized women’s suffrage and civil rights for African-Americans.

FPHC director Darrin Rodgers praised Hill for building bridges. According to Rodgers, “Elder Hill rescued these photographs from destruction decades ago. He has joined hands with the Heritage Center, and together we are working to preserve and promote these treasures that bring to life the heritage of African-American Pentecostals.”

The Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection consists of, in addition to the photographs, approximately 100 publications and Hill’s research files on Robinson. The collection was dedicated in a special service on October 4, 2013, in the William J. Seymour Chapel at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.

The online collection will be unveiled at the biennial General Council of the Assemblies of God, slated for August 2-8, 2015, in Orlando, Florida. Elijah L. Hill will join Darrin Rodgers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center booth at General Council, where they will interact with expected crowds in excess of 20,000 people.

Click here to view thumbnail images of the photographs. Click on the title next to each thumbnail image to see larger images.

Click here to watch the dedication service of the Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection.

Click here to watch a panel discussion featuring Elijah Hill, COGIC historian Glenda Goodson, Darrin Rodgers, and Assemblies of God missions historian Barbara Cavaness Parks. Panelists dialogued about Robinson and the legacy of women in the COGIC and the Assemblies of God.

Rev. Elijah L. Hill is assembling biographies of Church of God in Christ leaders pictured in the photographs. To submit biographies, go to Hill’s website: www.cogicmuseum.org.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, located in the Assemblies of God National Office in Springfield, Missouri, is the largest Pentecostal archive and research center in the world. The FPHC collects historically significant materials from across the denominational, ethnic, linguistic, and national divides within the broader Pentecostal and charismatic movements. For additional information, explore the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website.

_____________________

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. 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

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Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection Deposited at FPHC

ImageThe Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) has an exciting announcement regarding a new Church of God in Christ (COGIC) collection! Rev. Elijah L. Hill, a COGIC minister, author, historian, and cultural anthropologist, deposited his collection of COGIC historical materials at the FPHC on March 6, 2013. The collection includes the papers of COGIC Women’s Department founder Mother Lizzie Robinson and her daughter Ida F. Baker, as well as other publications collected by Hill. The Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection includes 522 original photographs (circa 1899-1960s), approximately 100 publications, and Hill’s research files on Robinson. The collection is tentatively slated to be dedicated in Springfield, Missouri, in the fall of 2013. The FPHC, the largest Pentecostal archive and research center in the world, collects historically significant materials from across the denominational, ethnic, linguistic, and national divides within the broader Pentecostal and charismatic movements. For more information about the FPHC, go to: http://www.iFPHC.org

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