Memphis, TN -The Temple of Deliverance was the scene for a truly wonderful night of worship.
In the house that the Late Presiding Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson built, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation about what great and marvelous things God has in store for His Church. More than 3,000 people filled the beautiful sanctuary, now pastored by the nephew of Bishop Patterson, Superintendent Milton R. Hawkins.
Bishop Lemuel Thuston of Kansas, Vice Chairman of the General Assembly, served as the worship leader. From the beginning, he appeared determined to usher those present into a sincere time of celebration with his opening statement, “We have come from all across America, and even across the world, for this celebration. So since we have come, let’s take the time to praise the Lord.”
The anthem, “O Give Thanks to the Lord” was sung by the mass choir, under the direction of our International Music President, Dr. Judith McAllister, assisted by Vice Presidents Barbara Jackson Sago, Rickey Payton and Kim Burrell. The choir was at its usual best. The selection was a powerful adaptation of the scripture found in Psalms. The band and orchestra did a phenomenal job as well.
Elder Reginald C. Witherspoon took those present to the very throne room of God with his invocation. “In the life-changing, supernatural name of Jesus, we have come to bless, magnify and exalt Your holy man. In Jesus’ name, move in this place, tabernacle with us.” Next, the scriptures were read by Elder Emmanuel John and Supervisor Lee Van Zandt. Both read the selected scriptures in both English and French.
After acknowledging the widows of our former Presiding Bishops, we were blessed by greetings from our International Supervisor of the Department of Women, Mother Willie Mae Rivers. The saints were rejoicing over the fact that Mother Rivers was present after having a knee replacement surgery just 6 weeks earlier. She encouraged the women present to support the vision of our Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle as we go to the next level in God.
Bishop Thuston inserted some encouraging nuggets to the saints as the night progressed. At one point he said, “I want you to do like they do in California. Clap your hands as if the devil’s head was between them.” The sound that ensued was very intimidating and exhilarating at the same time.
Dr. David Allan Hall of the Tennessee Headquarters Jurisdiction was appointed by the General Assembly Chairman, Superintendent James W. Hunt, to chair this year’s Installation and Inaugural Celebration. Dr. Hall introduced the homilist for the evening, Dr. Alonzo Johnson of South Carolina. The choir prepared the saints with the Richard Smallwood selection, “Trust Me.”
Since 1986, Dr. Johnson has been the senior pastor of Bowman Temple (now known as Universal Outreach) Church of God in Christ in Bowman, SC. Dr. Johnson was born and reared in Goose Creek, SC, the son of Bishop and Mother Johnny Johnson. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Claflin University. He also has earned a Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Theology, Master of Philosophy, and a Doctor of Philosophy from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Dr. Johnson’s scriptural text came from our national theme scripture, Ephesians 3:7-14, with the topic, “The High Cost of Knowing Christ.” His very first point was to emphasize the importance of every church actively participating in the Presiding Bishop’s Urban Initiatives which he said, “Points the way in every local community, the way to Jesus. The devil has pitched his tent in America to destroy the economic, moral and spiritual soul of America. We must speak the truth of God’s Word in our culture and communities.”
Dr. Johnson also encouraged the saints and leaders present to not be asleep on the job so that we will not be robbed of our moral and spiritual power received from God. We are needed if our communities are to be places of hope and enlightenment.
Dr. Johnson wanted those present to continue to take an active role in their communities but warned those present to never leave Jesus behind. This world says to the church, “You can come, but leave Jesus behind.” It will take more than a desire for a position or a seat. The devil wants to wipe out every reference to God in our communities. The answer is to get back to the Bible, know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. “What keeps us going, praying and studying is the fact that we are always learning more about Jesus. The more I learn about Jesus, the more I learn that I do not know about Him.”
Bishop Christopher Milton of California led us in a time of prayer and invitation. The Chairman of the General Assembly then came to conduct the installation of the General Officers, the General Board and the Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle, the Most Reverend Charles Edward Blake, the seventh leader of our church in succession.
The night was simply glorious and was a reminder to those present that for 106 years, the Lord has had His hands on the Church Of God In Christ. As a matter of fact, I saw us in our future and we indeed looked much better than we have ever looked before. To God Be the Glory!
By David-George Newsome