Tag Archives: Lexington Mississippi

The Evolution of Holiness in the Church of God in Christ: Summit to be Held at Mason Temple, September 8, 2016


Bishop Charles H. Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse, Lexington, Mississippi. 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.

The Church of God in Christ originated in 1897 in Lexington, Mississippi, among African-American Baptists who had been influenced by the Holiness movement. Over the years, these origins in Lexington and in the Holiness movement have become obscured. Today, the Church of God in Christ is at a crossroads. Will the church founded by Bishop Charles Harrison Mason retain and build upon its heritage of holiness, or will it evolve and become something different?

These questions about the history and future of the Church of God in Christ will be considered at the Holiness Evolution Summit, a first-of-its-kind event to be held at Mason Temple in Memphis on September 8, 2016 (the 152nd anniversary of Mason’s birth).

Mother Mary P. Patterson, organizer of the Holiness Evolution Summit, has spent the past 10 years raising awareness of Lexington’s role in Church of God in Christ history. Through her company, the Pentecostal Heritage Connection, she has organized tour groups of Lexington, and she has built relationships with community leaders, church leaders, and academics. Her efforts culminated on October 16, 2015, with the unveiling of an official State Historical Marker on the grounds of the Holmes County Courthouse in Lexington, honoring the founding of the Church of God in Christ.

The fact that Mason had been imprisoned 97 years earlier in a jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse basement underscores the significant societal shifts that have occurred. Mason had been persecuted on account of his race and religion, but he is now honored. Indeed, African-Americans have made much progress in American society over the past 100 years. But much work remains to be done.

Now Patterson is bringing this conversation about Church of God in Christ history to Memphis. According to Patterson, the Holiness Evolution Summit aims to uncover forgotten aspects of Church of God in Christ origins, and to also provoke discussion about the implications of this heritage. For instance: What does holiness look like in the 21st century? Would Bishop Mason have anything to say about current challenges in society and church? And what does Lexington teach about religious liberty?

Participants include black and white scholars and church leaders from Church of God in Christ and Assemblies of God backgrounds. The four speakers at the 2015 dedication of the State Historical Marker will also be featured at the Holiness Evolution Summit:

The Holiness Evolution Summit will include formal presentations and ample time for audience participation with questions and answers. Bishop Craig S. Baymon (pastor of Holy Temple Cathedral of Deliverance COGIC, Memphis, Tennessee) will deliver the invocation. Mother Julia Scott Ward (the wife of Bishop Lee Ward, retired pastor of Greater Harvest COGIC, Memphis, Tennessee) will offer the scripture reading. Moderating the event will be Darrin Rodgers, director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Missouri.

The public is invited to attend the Holiness Evolution Summit, which will occur on September 8, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., in the U.E. Miller Conference Room of Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, 930 Mason Street, Memphis, Tennessee. Seating is limited. Registration is $40 and includes lunch. Registration may be purchased online or at the door. For additional information, contact the Pentecostal Heritage Connection at (901) 398-7716.



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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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