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William J. Seymour relocated from Houston, TX to Los Angeles, California. He began preaching from his base on Azusa Street. Seymour rejected the existing racial barriers in favor of “Unity in Christ” and he also rejected the then almost-universal barriers to women in any form of church leadership. This movement became known as the Azusa Street Revival. This street revival is where our founder, Bishop C.H. Mason, received the Holy Spirit. It is amazing to know that the obedience of one man, William J. Seymour, to start this revival and the obedience of Bishop Mason to attend the revival could change to course of the church as we know it and spurred the movement of Pentecostalism that we know and cherish today.
Amanda Berry Smith was an Evangelist in the Methodist church who traveled around the world spreading the Gospel of Christ. Her autobiography entitled, "An Autobiography The Story of the Lord's Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith the Colored Evangelist" discussed her conviction regarding the doctrine of sanctification. Her teachings and writings greatly influenced Bishop C.H. Mason's beliefs regarding the works of grace. He began preaching on sanctification and holiness even before being filled with the Holy Spirit at the Azusa Street Revival. The life and ministry of this remarkable woman left an indelible mark on our Founder and the Church of God in Christ.
Bishop C.H. Mason commissioned Bishop R.F. Williams with the building of Mason Temple on April 12, 1940.
It is interesting to note that this commission was given during the Great Depression which the effects thereof were felt through the mid-1940's. We would do well to remember that a God-given vision is not predicated upon the economy of man.
During this time Steel Plants were only operating at 12% of capacity which made steel hard to come by. Miraculously, God made the needed provisions as Mason Temple has 210 tons of steel in the roof stresses and decking and 360,000 pounds of reinforcement steel in the construction.
The Tri-State Iron Works company wrote a letter of commendation to the Church of God in Christ saying, "We have sold your church for Mason Temple for July 1, 1940, until the present time $36,697.12, every penny of which has been paid in full. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for this business and to express our appreciation for the manner in which you have met your obligations. You should take proper pride in overcoming the many difficulties that a building of this size presents, and fell a solid satisfaction of this accomplishment.”
Mason Temple was completed in 1940 at a total cost of $237,323.06 which was a substantial cost that time.
Elder U.E. Miller, the Superintendent of Construction, remarked at the completion of Mason Temple that Bishop Mason's "latest achievement, the accomplished of the Mason Temple, will leave an indelible stamp on the future generation."
Today, Mason Temple, located at 930 Mason Street Memphis, TN, still serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration. This building is so much more than mere brick and mortar; it is a manifestation of a God-given vision, and the majestic headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. In its sacred halls, many souls are yet being healed, delivered and set free. It held the service where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I've Been To The Mountaintop" speech on the eve of his assassination and provided the host venue for former President Bill Clinton to address the Saints. But more importantly, Mason Temple holds the heart of the members of the Church of God in Christ, as we look on it with pride, nostalgia and reverence, celebrating the heritage of our glorious past while embracing a most promising future. We stand united and look forward to the "Greater Works" that God has in store for this "The Grand Ole Church of God in Christ."
If you would like to learn more about the History of Mason Temple, the COGIC Publishing House has an excellent resource called "Facts About the Temple." Click here for more information.
Bishop Charles Harrison Mason was born September 8,1864, on the Prior Farm near Memphis, Tennessee. His father and mother, Jerry and Eliza Mason, were members of a Missionary Baptist Church, having been converted during the dark crises of American Slavery. Elder Mason was converted in November, 1878, and baptized by his brother, I.S. Nelson, a Baptist Preacher, who was pastoring the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church near Plumerville, Arkansas.
In 1893, he began his Christian Ministry with the accepting of ministerial licenses from the Mt. Gale Missionary Baptist Church, in Preston, Arkansas. He then experienced sanctification through the word of God and preached his first sermon in “Holiness” from II Timothy 2:1-3: “Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” On November 1, 1893, Elder Mason matriculated into the Arkansas Baptist College, but withdrew after three months because of his dissatisfaction with the methods of teaching and the presentation of the Bible message. He then returned to the streets and to every pulpit that was opened to him declaring Christ by the word, example, and precept.
In 1895, Bishop Mason met Elder C.P. Jones of Jackson, Mississippi; Elder J.E. Jeter, of Little Rock, Arkansas; and Elder W.S. Pleasant of Hazelhurst, Mississippi, who subsequently became Bishop Mason’s closest companions in the ministry.
Jointly, these militant gospel preachers conducted a revival in 1896, in Jackson, Mississippi, which had far-reaching affects on the city.
The theophanic manifestations of the revival, which included the large numbers that were converted, sanctified, and healed by the power of faith and the dogmatic teachings of Bishop Mason on the doctrine of sanctification caused church doors within the Baptist association to become closed to him and to all those that believed and supported his teachings.
So in 1897, when these pioneering, persistent preachers returned to Jackson, Mississippi, Bishop Mason was forced to deliver his first message from the south entrance of the courthouse. A Mr. John Lee, who desired to see Bishop Mason’s ministry continue, provided the living room of his home the next night. Because of the overwhelming number that attended, a Mr. Watson, the owner of an abandoned warehouse in Lexington, Mississippi, gave his consent to transfer the revival meeting to the gin house on the bank of a little creek.
This gin house subsequently became the meeting house for the Church of God in Christ. This miracle deliverance revival was such a success it stirred up the “Devil”, causing someone to shoot five pistol shots and two double barreled shotgun blasts into the midst of the saints while they were shouting and praying. Some persons were wounded but miraculously, none of the shots were fatal.
At the close of the meeting, it was necessary to organize the people for the purpose of establishing a church with a stronger appeal and greater encouragement for all Christians and believers, a church which would emphasize the doctrine of entire sanctification through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
A meeting was mutually called by Elder Mason, Elder Jones, and Elder Pleasant, and sixty stood as charter members. Land was soon bought on Gazoo Street, from Mrs. John Ashcraft, just beyond the corporate line, upon which was built a little edifice 60×40. These charter members formed a Pentecostal body known as the “Church of God.”
Subsequently, in 1897, while seeking a spiritual name which would distinguish the church from others of the similar title, the name “Church of God in Christ” was revealed to Bishop mason while walking along a certain street in Little Rock, Arkansas. The following scripture supported his revelation: I Thessalonians 2:14, “For ye brethren became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen even as they have of the Jews.” All of the brethren unanimously agreed to the name of “Church of God in Christ.”
Later, the church was reorganized during which Elder C.P. Jones was chosen as General Overseer. Elder C.H. Mason was appointed as overseer of Tennessee, and Elder J.A. Jeter was overseer of Arkansas. The turning point in Elder Mason’s life came in March, 1907, when he journeyed to Los Angeles, California, to attend a great Pentecostal revival with Elder D.J. Young and Elder J.A. Jeter. Elder W.J. Seymour was preaching concerning Luke 24:49, “And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” Elder Mason became convinced that it was essential for him to have the outpouring of the Holy ghost.
The following are excerpts from Elder Mason’s personal testimony regarding his receiving the Holy Ghost.
“The first day in the meeting I sat to myself, away from those that went with me. I began to thank God in my heart for all things, for when I heard some speak in tongues, I knew it was right though I did not understand it. Nevertheless, it was sweet to me.
I also thank God for Elder Seymour who came and preached a wonderful sermon. His words were sweet and powerful and it seems that I hear them now while writing. When he closed his sermon, he said ‘All of those that want to be sanctified or baptized with the Holy Ghost, go to the upper room; and all those that want to be justified, come to the altar.’
I said that is the place for me, for it may be that I am not converted and if not, God knows it and can convert me…”
“The second night of prayer I saw a vision. I saw myself standing alone and had a dry roll of paper in my mouth trying to swallow it. Looking up towards the heavens, there appeared a man at my side. I turned my eyes at once, then I awoke and the interpretation came.
God had me swallowing the whole book and if I did not turn my eyes to anyone but God and Him only, He would baptize me. I said yes to Him, and at once in the morning when I arose, I could hear a voice in me saying, ” I see…”
“I got a place at the altar and began to thank God. After that, I said Lord if I could only baptize myself, I would do so; for I wanted the baptism so bad I did not know what to do. I said, Lord, You will have to do the work for me; so I turned it over into His hands.”
“Then, I began to ask for the baptism of the Holy Ghost according to Acts 2:41, which readeth thus: ‘Then they that gladly received His word were baptized,’ Then I saw that I had a right to be glad and not sad.”
“The enemy said to me, there may be something wrong with you. Then a voice spoke to me saying, if there is anything wrong with you, Christ will find it and take it away and marry you…Someone said, ‘Let us sing.’ I arose and the first song that came to me was ‘He brought me out of the Miry Clay.’
The Spirit came upon the saints and upon me…Then I gave up for the Lord to have His way within me. So there came a wave of Glory into me and all of my being was filled with the Glory of the Lord.
So when He had gotten me straight on my feet, there came a light which enveloped my entire being above the brightness of the sun. When I opened my mouth to say Glory, a flame touched my tongue which ran down me. My language changed and no word could I speak in my own tongue. Oh! I was filled with the Glory of the Lord. My soul was then satisfied.”
This new Pentecostal experience which Elder Mason found for himself, for he began to proclaim to others upon his return home to Memphis, Tennessee as a New Testament doctrine. A division, subsequently, became evident within the ranks of Elder Mason’s contemporaries when Elder J. A. Jeter, the General Overseer, Elder C. P. Jones, and others regarded the new Holy Ghost experience of speaking in tongues as a delusion. Being unable to resolve their difference in the New Testament doctrine.
The General Assembly terminated by withdrawing the “right hand” of fellowship from C. H. Mason. Elder Mason then called a conference in Memphis, Tennessee of all ministers who believed in receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost according to the scriptures in Acts 2:1-4. Those who responded to Elder Mason’s urgent call were E. R. Driver, J.Bowe, R.R. Booker, R. E. Hart, W. Welsh, A. A. Blackwell, E. M. Page, R.H. I. Clark, D. J. Young, James Brewer, Daniel Spearman and J. H. Boone.
These men of God organized the first Pentecostal General Assembly of the “Church of God in Christ.” Overseer C. H. Mason was then chosen unanimously as the General Overseer and Chief Apostle of our denomination. He was given complete authority to establish doctrine, organize auxiliaries and appoint overseers.
Dr. Hart was appointed Overseer of Tennessee; Elder J.A. Lewis was appointed Overseer of Tennessee; Elder J. Bowe the Overseer of Arkansas; later J. A. Lewis was appointed Overseer of Mississippi. As the church grew, Elder E. M. Page was appointed Overseer of Texas; Elder R.R. Booker, Overseer of Missouri; Elder E. R. Driver, Overseer of California and Elder W. B. Holt as the National Field Secretary.
As the Chief Apostle, he immediately dedicated twenty days, November 25th through December 14th annually as a meeting time for all of his followers to fellowship with each other and to transact all ecclesiastical and secular affairs pertinent to the growth of the National Organization.
This segment of the year was chosen because the majority of the communicants of the church lived in farming districts of Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. By this time of the year, they had sufficient provisions and financial resources from the harvesting of their crops, to enable them to attend and support a national meeting.
The first National meetings were held at 392 South Wellington Street, Memphis, Tennessee. The first National Tabernacle was built and completed at 958 South Fifth Street, in 1925.
This Tabernacle, however, was destroyed by fire twelve years later in 1936. In the interim until 1945, our National Convocation was held within the Church pastored by Bishop Mason at 672 South Lauderdale. In1945, Bishop Mason was able to visualize the culmination of his dream. He dedicated the Mason Temple at Memphis, Tennessee which was built for less than $400,000 during World War II. This auditorium became the largest convention hall owned by any colored religious group in America.
Under Bishop Mason’s spiritual and apostolic direction our church has grown from ten congregations in 1907, to the largest Pentecostal group in America. The membership of the Church of God in Christ grew from three million in 1973 to an estimated 5.2 million in 1997.
Churches under the parent body in Memphis, Tennessee, are now established throughout the United States, on every continent, and in many of the islands of the sea.
When you think of the light bulb, many think of Thomas Edison. But few people know that a black inventor named Lewis Howard Latimer created a method of carbon filament production, that far surpassed the paper filament used by Edison which burned out very quickly. Latimer’s invention caused the light bulb to be feasible for household usage, completely transforming the industry.
Lewis Howard Latimer was an African American inventor and draftsman. He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on September 4, 1848 to George and Rebecca Latimer. Both of his parents had escaped from slavery. When the slave master of George Latimer came to Boston to take them back to Virginia, it became a noted case in the movement for the abolition of slavery, gaining the support of such abolitionists as William Lloyd Garrison. The amount of $400 was raised to buy the freedom of Lewis Latimer’s parents.
At the young age of 15, Lewis Latimer joined the U.S. Navy and served as a Landsman on the USS Massasoit. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy on July 3, 1865, he gained employment as an office boy with a patent law firm, Crosby Halstead and Gould, making only $3 a week. This is where he learned how to use a set square, ruler, and other tools. When his boss recognized his talent for sketching patent drawings, Latimer was promoted to the position of head draftsman earning $20.00 a week – an excellent salary at the time.
Lewis Latimer is known for several important inventions. In 1874, he co-patented an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell employed Latimer, then a draftsman at Bell’s patent law firm, to draft the necessary drawings required to receive a patent for Bell’s telephone. In 1879, he moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut and was hired as assistant manager and draftsman for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, a company owned by Hiram Maxim, a rival of Thomas A. Edison.
Latimer received a patent for the “Process of Manufacturing Carbons”, an improved method for the production of carbon filaments used in lightbulbs. The Edison Electric Light Company in New York City hired Latimer, as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights. Latimer is credited with an improved process for creating a carbon filament at this time, which was an improvement on Thomas Edison’s original paper filament, which would burn out quickly.
Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey, affectionately known as a young girl as "Little Lillian", was a dreamer and a woman with a great vision. When she was just a small child, her grandfather invited Bishop Mason into their home. When Bishop Mason started his church in Memphis, she and other neighborhood children would attend Sunday School and services held in a tent across the street from where she lived.
One Sunday morning Bishop Mason taught the children about Jesus and the Lord touched and saved "Little Lillian" beginning her life in church under Bishop Mason. As she grew older, Bishop Mason continued to influence her life. She read the bible through once every year, a practice she continued even after reading it eleven times.
Mother Coffey traveled with Bishop Mason reading and singing while he preached. When her parents died, he became her father. She worked as secretary in his office for twenty-one years and as assistant financial secretary until her appointment to General Supervisor in 1945. She said this of Bishop Mason:
Mother Coffey was one of the greatest leaders and organizers that ever lived. She continued to build the existing auxiliary programs and began to organize the units and helps for the Department of Women. She was the founder of the Lillian Brooks Coffey Rest Home in Detroit, Michigan. Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey is best remembered for her work in 1951, when she organized the Women’s International Convention held in Los Angeles, California hosted by Mother L.O. Hale and Bishop S.M. Crouch. The Women's International Convention was born through a dream she had of a better way to support missions. Her heart was burdened over the condition of suffering foreign Missionaries and their various fields. One hundred women who paid $100.00 each, the cost of the Red Card registration, rode the Coffey train to the convention in 1951, carrying their money, $10,000, in a brown paper bag. She presided over 14 conventions, 1951-1964.
Mother Coffey still lives with us. “Methods change, but principles remain the same.” Please Click Here to read the entire article on the COGIC Women's Department Site.
Frederick Douglass was a remarkable individual, Abolitionist, and Suffragist. Born a slave in Maryland in 1818, he achieved a level of education and oratory skill that surpassed many more schooled and opportune individuals of his time. He possessed God-given wisdom and an uncanny ability to see society for what it was and a unique ability to move people with his words. Knowing the importance of education, Frederick Douglass said:
Take some time to watch this video about Frederick Douglass and Read “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave” [Click Here for a FREE Copy]:
Mary Church Terrell (September 23, 1863 – July 24, 1954) was a prominent advocate for Civil Rights and suffrage. She was born in Memphis, TN to Robert Reed Church and Louisa Ayers, both were former slaves.
When Terrell majored in classics at Oberlin College, she was an African-American woman among mostly white male students. The freshman class nominated her as class poet, she was elected to two of the college's literary societies and she also served as an editor of The Oberlin Review. She was one of the first African-American women to earn a bachelor's degree. She went on to earn her master's degree from Oberlin in 1888.
She described the civil rights struggle by saying:
Mary Church Terrell was encouraged in her work by Frederick Douglas. She was part of the National Association of Colored Women and she was one of two women invited to sign the “Call” and to attend the first organizational meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where she became a founding member.
She accomplished much in her life. After the age of 80, Terrell continued to participate in picket lines, protesting the segregation of restaurants and theaters. She lived to see the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, holding unconstitutional the segregation of schools by race. Terrell died two months later at the age of 90.
Carter Godwin Woodson (December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950) was an African-American historian, author, journalist. He was also the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, as well as, a founder of the Journal of Negro History. He started what was known as Negro History Week and he has been called "the father of black history". Negro History Week was originally scheduled on the second week of February because the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas fell during this week. Woodson understood the importance of education and knowledge saying:
The goal of Negro History Week was to provide a week of study regarding Black History and as the idea became more accepted it changed into Black History Month which expanded to the entire month of February.
Take a moment to watch this interesting video about the life of Carter G. Woodson:
Harriet Tubman was an American Abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor (c.1820-1913) would aided numerous slaves in obtaining freedom. She herself was born a slave in Maryland, before she fled to Philadelphia in 1849. In Dec. 1850, she returned to Maryland to help her sister and two children escape to freedom. She dedicated many years to the Underground Railroad, a secret network that helped fugitive slaves in the South reach safety in Northern free states or in Canada. Harriet Tubman once said:
The abolitionist went on to serve as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War and in the last part of her career, she campaigned for women’s suffrage. Today, on the first day of Black History Month, the Church of God in Christ, Inc. honors the memory and work of Harriet Tubman.