OUR STORY 1909 TO DATE
Bahamians Edmund & Rebecca Barr returned to the Bahamas to share their new found religious experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with fellow Bahamians. Their trip was sponsored by a retired Methodist minister named R.M. Evans.
Bro. & Sis. Barr began preaching the gospel immediately in the marketplace and on street corners to anyone who would listen.
After the abolishing of the Slave Trade, Missionaries were sent from Great Britain to the Baptist and Methodist denominations in an attempt to convert the natives from tribal practices to Christianity. It was in this setting that Bro. & Sis. Barr came, preaching salvation, sanctification and the indwelling to the Holy Spirit.
The Bain Town/Grants Town area was the Mecca of the local populace and the huge silk cotton tree at the Southern Recreation Ground was where farm produce was traded and/or sold. It was their market place. The Gospel Message was proclaimed at this notable place.
On January 4th 1910 R.M. Evans, Sister Evans and Rev. Carl Padgett arrived in Nassau to reinforce the efforts of Bro. & Sis. Barr, and thus established the 1st. International Church of God Mission.
Among the first converts of note was a young married woman named Arabella Eneas, who was an organist in the well established Bethel Baptist Church. She introduced her husband, Wilmore Venable Eneas to this gospel, as preached by the missionaries, with much emphasis on the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. It had to be divinely inspired for a young, influential man from the established Wesley Methodist Church to walk away from established and recognized denominations to follow the call of God on their lives.
The new converts experienced much persecution, to the extent that both homes of the Eneas’ were destroyed by fire.
Among the first seven persons to follow the Lord in Water Baptism was Alma Ellen Butler; another outstanding woman who also left Wesley; at the urging of the Holy Spirit. She was baptized along with Bishop and Sister Eneas and the other leaders of the new work. Sister Butler became a licensed Evangelist, who preached the revival that established the Harbour Island Church of God in 1928. Her missionary trips included Eleuthera, Exuma and Abaco.
Settlements or villages in New Providence were connected by dirt roads, well traveled by donkey carts or natives on foot.
The Pentecostal Fire spread to Fox Hill Parade during 1910. The team comprised of Edmund S. Barr, Sister Barr, Bro. Evans, Sis. Arabella Eneas and Sis. Maddie Gooden.
A young woman named Estella Blooman Le Fleur, who was the daughter of Mr.& Mrs. John Le Fleur was converted and became the “Supporting Pillar” in the Fox Hill area. She was known for charitable works in the community, an evangelist, soloist, to name a few of her attributes. Bro. Daniel Scott became Pastor the first group of converts; who later moved to the “YORUBA” Society Hall, on the eastern side of the Fox Hill Roundabout, currently identified as “Old Lodge Hall”.
After both homes of the Eneas’ were destroyed by fire, a structure with open sides, thatched roof and dirt packed floor was erected to house the original converts in Bain Town. The wooden benches were made without back rests, but in spite of their hardships, Bishop Eneas always told the worshippers “they would not always be at the Camp”. As the saints would rejoice in the Lord the dust from the dirt floor would rise. Our interviewee, Deacon Henry Wright, said he never liked to see his mother cry, and could not quite understand “rejoicing yet crying”.
Outstanding Male Leaders assisting Bishop Eneas in the Bain Town Church were Bro. Alfred Sweeting, Bro. Frank Thompson, Bro. Frank Fowler, W.R. Franks and Bro. Herman Oliver. In 1919 the Camp members moved from Bain Town (CUNTABUTTA), to a newly erected wooden structure off East Street, which is now named Eneas Jumper Corner.
Meanwhile, the Fox Hill converts who had been worshipping in the “YORUBA” Society Hall were able to erect a stone structure on Romer St. Fox Hill, pastored by Bro Leroy Jarrett and Bro George Burnside. Later, this group of saints led by Bro. George Burnside and Bro Thomas Smith purchased the existing property that houses Bernard Road, Church of God.
The unoccupied church building on Abner Street previously pastored by Bro. Leroy Jarrett, became the original EVANS/BARR MEMORIAL SCHOOL; established during the tenure of C.E. Alredd as Colonial Overseer. This property also contains the “Eugene Davis” Cemetery, so named in memory of the first son of Estella Le Fleur-Davis and her husband Thomas Davis. Also interred (among many others) is the younger brother of Bro. Hilbert Pinder, a well known farmer and businessman.
Among the pioneers in the Fox Hill Church of God, are Bro Dan Scott, Amos Humes, David La Fleur, Grant John Bevans, William Jarrett, N.L. Scott, George Burnside, Theophilus Smith and Asa A. Sargent. Included in the list of persons who were Assistant Pastors, you will find Bro. Herman Oliver, who pioneered at the Camp and was later seconded to Freetown (later Fowler St) to assist P.H. Patton, along with Richard Clarke in the early 1930’s. Bro. Oliver was an outstanding evangelist, who also traveled to many family islands. Prayer Warrior and Soloist, Sis. Estella Davis made the song “MY DIDN’T IT RAIN” so famous, that no convention was complete without her singing it. Sunday School Teacher worthy of mention was Sis. Alfreda Dorsett. She trained her students to take part in various inter-church competitions.
Music in the Fox Hill Church as well as other local churches of that era consisted of guitars, right angle Triangle and tambourines, made of wooden paddles with soda bottle covers, nailed loosely to effect the sound. There was no electricity in those days, and kerosene oil lamps with wall brackets and lanterns were the sources of light.
During the administration of M.W. Patterson as Colonial Overseer, the Bernard Road Church was named “Corona Memorial Church of God”
Bishop W.V. Eneas was the first Overseer of the Churches of God in the Bahamas. In an interview with Mrs. Nellie Eneas-Knowles (the only surviving child of W.V. Eneas), she gave the following account:
Bishop Eneas visited the New Providence Churches by Rota:
1st. Sunday – East Street
2nd. Sunday – Freetown (St. James Rd) later became Fowler St.
3rd. Sunday – Fox Hill
4th. Sunday – Gambier
Whilst Bishop Eneas made his rounds of churches, East Street was in the capable hands of Bro. Fred Taylor, a noted Braille Bible Scholar; who was Superintendent of Sunday School. He also preached the sermons and christened the babies and was responsible for the wellbeing of the saints in Bishop’s absence.
Bishop Eneas became a widower with three small children at the passing of Arabella Eneas. He married Albertha Robinson-Sweeting who was a young widow with one son named Austin Sweeting; she became the mother of William (Will) and Nellie Eneas (our interviewee). At the passing of their mother, Bishop married Anna Munnings. There were no further additions to his household.
Our interviewee was born on an Easter Sunday Morning. Bishop Eneas was preaching “HE AROSE”, when a note was handed to him saying “it is a girl”. As a girl, she recalls going to “Miss. Liza” shop after Sunday school to buy “chicklet” chewing gum. Some of her fondest memories of the “Movers and Shakers in early church history are of Sister Mena Williams, who was the Counsellor/Mentor for the Girls of the church. “Sis. Mena” was responsible for Sunday School Programs, Dramas and recitations and also trained the Children’s Choir. Dress Code was strictly upheld: Girls were not allowed to wear sleeveless or low necked clothing. There was no straightened hair in those days.
Some of the persons who made a difference were the Tuckers, Bro. & Sis. Scott, the Lashleys, Bro & Sis. Kenny (grandparents of Sis. Hazel Pinder) Bro James Kenny was a “no nonsense” choir director who strived for excellence.
One of our interviewees, Deaconess Sarah Ellen Knowles accepted the Lord at the age of nine years. She was the adopted daughter of Alma Ellen Butler and the daughter of Muriel Butler, who were pioneers, among others at East Street Jumper Church. Under the guidance of Sister Mena Williams, she taught her Sunday School Class. Some of her students became wives of Ministers in the Church of God. Her whole life has been one of dedication to the service of God, and continues to serve in all areas even at the age of 83 years.
FREETOWN CHURCH – St. James Road 1925 – 1931
Our interviewee – Bro Hilbert Pinder, gave the following information regarding his grandfather:
Bishop Stanley Pinder of Pinders, Long Island accepted the Lord and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at a revival in Florida. He returned to the Bahamas in 1922 and purchased property at Camperdown for his personal residence as well as property on St. James Road, Freetown, where he constructed a wooden church building.
W.D. Childers, a Church of God minister came to the Bahamas, where he conducted revivals in Freetown and East St. Jumper Corner, during the aforementioned tenure of his grand father. He recalls his boyhood days, walking from Camperdown to East Street to attend those revivals. Also recalled was a sister in Freetown Church who used to beat a tambourine, a “short, stocky” woman named Adrana Mackey; as she danced under the power the whole building would shake.
Among the membership at Freetown was Vivian Weech, Earle Weech, Charles Gates, the Hall Family, Bro & Sis. Joseph Belle. Sis. Agnes Sands, and numerous others. He recalled Bro. P.H. Patton conducting revivals in the Freetown Church, prior to his formal appointment as Pastor.
During the 1930’s a representative from the Assemblies of God, U.S.A. approached the brethren to “join up with them” after a split between the Tomlinson’s in Tennessee. The Weech families accepted and thus began the Assemblies of God on Kemp Road (presently Glad Tidings Tabernacle).
Bishop S. Pinder discontinued the Ministry, spent the remaining fifteen years of his life on his native Long Island as a farmer. He later regained relationship with God near the end of his life. He sent for an elderly church sister to sing his favorite songs and stating to his wife “My hands are clean”; he told her to remove the pillow from his head, sighed and went to his reward. His grandson, Hilbert Pinder accepted the Lord as a result of his grandfather’s deathbed experience in 1960.
Following is an account given in an interview with Sis. Gladys Butler, who was a teenage girl attending the Freetown Church of God:
There was much persecution; because persons in the community did not want a “Jumper Church” in their midst. After many attempts to discourage the believers, the Pentecostal Fire of God continued to burn, and souls were added to the church.
God had given Sister Chloe Belle, the first wife of Bro. Joseph Belle, a pre-dawn vision of the Freetown church “on fire” (literally). Sis. Belle shared her vision with Sis. Agnes Sands and a few others; and shortly thereafter, the building indeed burned down.
Bishop Eneas as Overseer of the Church of God, had expressed an interest in obtaining a building to house the Freetown Membership; and when the lodge building on Fowler Street was being auctioned, Sis. Agnes ran “barefeet” (shoes were to be worn on Sundays or special occasions) to the Board of Works Assignment where she found Bishop; who proceeded to Fowler Street, and was successful in his bid for the one-storey building, which became Fowler Street Church of God.
Bishop Eneas appointed Rev. Peter H. Patton, who had returned to the Bahamas, with his first wife Ethel Lloyd – Patton and their children, after living in Florida for a number of years. Prior to his appointment Rev. Patton had been an active Minister/Member of the Church of God, Eneas Jumper Corner. Evangelist Herman Oliver and Bro. Richard Clarke, worked with the brethren during the early years of his appointment at Fowler St.
Bishop Patton became a widower in 1936 after having been pastor of Fowler Street for three years. He married Ethel Dorene Minus of West Palm Beach, who had returned to Nassau with her family, and was an active member of Church of God, Eneas Jumper Corner.
Bishop Patton was ordained in February 1939 and his Ordination Certificate was duly signed by Paul H. Walker and W. R. Franks. He was the youngest of the only three bishops in the Church of God, at that time.
The Lord added greatly to the membership, and many of our white Bahamian brethren became astute businessmen and leaders in the community. This added to the financial influence of Fowler Street Church, as a leader in the Bahamian Churches.
It became necessary to add the upper storey to Fowler St. Church; and with a loan from Head Quarters in Cleveland Tennessee, and many local financial drives under the capable leadership of J. Whitney Pinder, who had been clerk of the church since the age of 18 years; the goal was achieved.
Persons who carried (toted) water, served lunches and carried mortar included Gladys Butler, Agnes Sands, Cynthia Belle (the second wife of Deacon Joseph Belle) and Hattie Gibson-Miller along with her mother, Louise Smith and many others.
Needless to say, in the midst of this growth, we experienced a few separations. A division between Arthur and Milton Tomlinson affected the Church of God locally.
The local group led by Milton Tomlinson became known as the “White Wing Messenger” under the local leadership of Bishop Stanley Ferguson. By a Supreme Court Order, this group became the “Church of God in Prophesy” during the tenure of Bishop Alvin S. Moss. Despite this separation, our friends remained our friends even to date.
Bishop Patton’s appointment allowed him to minister in many areas. In a converted U.S. Army vehicle, he transported his family to the Leper Colony called The LAZARETO to hold a monthly service and administer the Lord Supper to the relatives of members of the Body of Christ, so afflicted. He also took his family to Gambier as a part of the Rota System for senior ministers; to encourage the brethren in Gambier. Many times the only attendees were Bishop Patton and his family. The small wooden church, with its dusty hymn books, overlooking the ocean at Gambier did not thrive and we only have memories of what used to be…
GAMBIER – Church of God
Residents in Gambier were among the earlier converts in the Church of God. Our leading ministers took turns ministering to the brethren in that far flung settlement. Bishop John H. Davis, a pioneering evangelist travelled from the city (Nassau) to Gambier via donkey cart, departing Nassau at 4:30pm for the long trip to Gambier, arriving in time to begin service at 7.30pm. After preaching and praying for the sick, the return trip commenced at 9.00pm for the return to starting point. These Revivals lasted at least two or more weeks. Bishop’s young passengers included Henry Wright (presently over 90 years old),
Bertram Taylor, the son of Bishop Fred Taylor (Braille Bible Scholar), John Davis Jr. the son of Bishop John H. Davis; and Simeon and Herbert Patton, sons of Bishop P.H. Patton. The floor of the donkey cart had no cushions. These young pioneers suffered much for the Gospel.
One of the stories told in an interview with John Davis Jr. deserves to be shared with our readers:
On many of the return trips from Gambier, Bishop Davis drove up the West Bay Street coastline. Somewhere along the road, the donkey fell asleep and so did his passengers. The warm sunlight and the hard, wooden floor boards of the cart awakened John; who discovered his father was asleep, his mother was leaning on his father’s shoulder sleeping, the donkey was asleep, the sun was up and they were not home yet.
DIXIE HIGHWAY CHURCH OF GOD – THE POWERHOUSE!!
The Dixie as it was called, was started in 1936/1937 in the YORUBA Hall, on Meadows Street, in the heart of Bain Town; and later moved to Hospital Lane. In an interview with John Davis Jr. he shared the following information:
As a boy he attended church without shoes or tennis; as money was scarce in those days. He remembers when the wooden building was moved from Hospital Lane to Wulff Road in 1938, on iron rollers. It was a difficult task using the “push and pull” method of the old days, and because all such moving had to be done between midnight and dawn, there was an urgency to complete the task. The land purchased from Bishop W. R. Franks, was cleared by hand. His father used his cutlass (machete) to do the job.
The Dixie was the most spiritual of the Churches of God on New Providence. There was no public address system in those days, and his father’s voice could be heard all the way to the corner of East Street (at Windsor Park). Bishop John Davis Sr. was known to have fasted for forty days, and there was a “before and after” photograph to record this.
God blessed him with an unusual level of anointing for the Healing Ministry. Blind eyes were opened, the dumb spoke, the deaf ears were opened and the crippled dropped their crutches. Bishop formed the First Prayer Band in the Bahamas and introduced the Prayer Band Concept to churches of other denominations. A monthly publication called “Healing Waters” was introduced, and copies of this publication can yet be found.
During the tenure of Bishop W. R. Franks as Overseer, Bishop Davis was sent on Mission, and the allowance given to Bishop’s wife, Sis. Catherine Davis was four shillings (0-04-00), to sustain the family until her husband’s return. In those days one could have purchased flour for one penny, lard for three pennies and ½ pint of kerosene oil. The outdoor kitchen had a fire hearth, so wood had to be fetched for kindling.
In their home there was no lamp; but a “sweet milk can” with a hole in the center and a piece of lighted rag provided light. It took one week to travel to the islands, the revival lasted at least one week and the return trip to Nassau took another week.
John Davis Jr. remembers that they had a barn where barrels of corn and peas were kept, and many nights his mother would send him to the barn for couple cups of corn or peas to be soaked and boiled with salt for the meal next day (there was no mention of meat).
On one of his father’s missions to Grand Bahama Island, his father arrived with a battered suitcase, held together with a sisal rope. He met a lady and asked where he might purchase something to eat and extended a one shilling piece. The lady looked at him and didn’t have the heart to charge him. She boiled the sweet potatoes, which he ate and drank some water, before beginning the revival. That night he slept in an abandoned house, with his suitcase for a pillow; and was able to count all the stars in view, from his vantage point.
On another of his missionary journeys to Inagua, there were so many mosquitoes, he had to sleep in a tree; and the donkey had to swim out to sea to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes.
In Andros during a revival meeting during the Sponging Days, a woman came to the altar to be saved, wearing a scarf around her neck. When her husband heard of her seeking salvation, he walked in the church and dragged his wife out backwards by holding onto the scarf.
The Dixie Church was famous for Street Services, and a group of men formed the Young Men Christian Association, which ministered on street corners. On one such occasion John Davis Jr. ministered, and a lady who was demon possessed came to the prayer line. The demon was expelled, but when he went home the demon attacked him and he had to send for members of the team to pray for him, before he got relief. Members of the team included Lemuel Greene, David Pratt, Edmund Moxey and many others.
On one of the mission trips to Mastic Point, Andros; John Davis Jr. made an Altar Call after preaching. He remembered what had happened in Nassau, and he admonished all who were not “prayed up” to please leave the building. The pastor of that church was the first one on his bicycle….
The Dixie produced many outstanding pastors and preachers including but not limited to, Bishop Asa A. Sargent, Bishop John B. Edgecombe, Bishop Osborne F. Rolle, Rev. Lemuel Greene and Elder Leonard Leadon. These men were firm believers in prayer and fasting; and this made their ministries effective.
In an interview with Bertha Adderly Ferguson, one of the grand daughter’s of our founding bishop, she shared the following information:
She was born October 2nd 1932, she accepted the Lord as Saviour at the age of fourteen years, and began playing the piano in church at that age. As one of the grand children who travelled with her grandfather on his rounds of the New Providence churches, she was privileged to visit all the churches, from Fox Hill to Gambier.
Her mother, Eugenie Adderley (the oldest daughter of our founding bishop) played the piano, and was famous for her recitations which included “Lord Send Potatoes” and “Jonah and the Whale”.
Among the persons having a great impact on her life were Sister Nathalie Baptiste, Sister Mena Williams, Sister Dorene Patton and others too numerous to mention.
Harvest Time was a high point on the church’s calendar. Most of the fruit and vegetables were donated by Brother Hezekiah Saunders, whose farm produced a vast variety of items. Outstanding persons in the community were present for the afternoon service. Included were Members of Parliament, Doctors, Lawyers and Businessmen, our sister churches as well as other denominations and many children in their best attire.
Dress Code in those days was strict – no makeup, jewelry or “low cut” bodices.
Communion Service was of special significance. Unleavened Bread (broken in pieces) and one cup containing grape juice, which was passed from one person to the other, as the brothers and sisters knelt (tarried and prayed) as they awaited their turn at the table.
We had to live up the standards of holiness. As we were trained from our childhood, it was the expected thing to carry through to adulthood.
Our interviewee is presently seventy four years old and she continues to be active in her local church, playing the piano and conducting the Sanctuary Choir.
On our list of persons to be interviewed was Mother Doreen Brown of Bozine Town, New Providence. She accepted the Lord in 1948 at the Dixie Highway Church of God. When her older sister and brother-in-law (Basil Smith, whom she lived with) moved residence to the eastern district, she began worshipping at Fowler Street, Church of God.
She remembers Bishop Patton as a Pastor who was loved by all. Black and white families lived as one; there was no separation.
Mother Brown’s experience with the Dixie began when the Dixie was located in Bain Town; before it was transported on rollers to the present location on Wulff Road. The Church was called “The Powerhouse”. After her family moved to Englerston , she recalls “running from Englerston to church on Wulff Road to get a good seat” especially on Sunday nights. She accepted the Lord before her husband did, and recalls Mother Patton encouraging Benjamin Brown in the ways of the Lord. Mother Patton had a sweet personality, and really loved the Lord. Mother Brown’s husband accepted the Lord, became a Deacon as well as a member of a National Committee serving during the Annual Conventions.
Our interviewee was born in Green Turtle Cay, Abaco but with family roots in North Eleuthera. Her brother was Bishop John Neilly of North Eleuthera. She is a firm believer in prayer and healing, she had been healed of a sick leg after Bishop John Davis Senior prayed for her. She also cited other instances of the healing power of prayer.
Mother Brown was a founding member of the Church of God, Bozine Town.
Sunday School Classes were kept (for as many as forty children) on the porch of her home before the “soil was turned” to construct a building. She was present when Bishop W.M. Johnson, Bishop David Pratt and others outlined the foundation and gave instructions to the excavator driver for digging the foundation for the church.
Our investigative journey took us to Sister Ruth Barr-Malcolm, whose roots go back to her childhood in Fowler Street, Church of God. Quote: “Our Church leaders – Bishop Patton, Bishop Franks and Bishop Eneas were outstanding men of God, they were highly respected in the church and also in the wider community.”
Everyone knew Bishop Patton’s church bus – “720” (a converted army vehicle purchased by him at the end of World War II). Bishop Patton was an excellent choir director, he was very strict. As “720” turned from Shirley St. into Fowler Street, all young persons found their places in church, ready for service. He rejoiced with the choir as the songs being practiced became internalized, many times you would hear him say “Glory to God”.
Bishop Patton served Fowler Street for twenty-two years and the way he was forced to retire was not in the right way. It was dinner time at the parsonage in Twynam Avenue where Marie Beckford was the cook and I assisted after school and during the Summer recess from school.
Bishop M. W. Patterson (Colonial Overseer) said, “It is time for Patton to go and let someone else know what it is to get some tithes”. The rest is history, and Fowler Street has never been the same even to this day.
Bishop Patton rented a one roomed building off Farrington Road at Eight Pounds per month. The families that began the new mission were Pattons, Barrs, Millers, Smith and others. Nine members of the Barr family cashed in their life insurances and presented a cheque to Bishop Patton to get the church started in Chippingham. Bishop Patton was a good leader and even today he continues to “stand tall”.
After I got married and transportation was difficult I began attending Eastern Mission Church of God, the founding pastor was Bishop Ephraim Beckford.
Among the women who had a great influence in those days were, Sister Agnes Sands, Sister Mildred McKinney who was our Sunday school teacher, the mother of J. Whitney Pinder and Sister Mackey who would dance under the power and beat the tambourine at the same time without missing a beat.
Street Meetings were conducted by the men of the church, and leading these services were Herbert Patton, Walter Adderley and Errol Beckford.
There were no street lights in those days, and Palmdale had no stores. It was easy to see Bishop Davis riding his bicycle, lighted by a lantern, going to Fowler Street to conduct a revival. Her father, Elder Joseph Barr would gather his family and hurry to church, even though he had just arrived from work, to be in the revival service.
Bishop Davis’ sermon presentation was indeed unique. He would ask his audience to “transport their minds to Calvary and picture Jesus on the cross”. The power of the Holy Ghost would sweep over the congregation, and many healings would take place. One of Bishop’s favorite songs for altar call was “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”.
Communion service in those days was held in reverence, the ladies wore all white clothing. There were special songs such as, Come and Dine, Break Thou the Bread of Life and I remember Calvary. There was unleavened bread, not the wafers of today; and one cup held the grape juice, which was passed from one to another.
With regard to Washing the Saints Feet – the songs were “Do as the Lord say do” and “Footprints of Jesus”. Your head had to be covered and your garments spotless.
Sister Malcolm closed the interview by admonishing generations to come “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”.
We visited Sister Malvese Mitchell, the wife of Bishop Harold Mitchell at Dundas Town, Abaco. Here is her account:
We worshipped at the Dixie during Bishop Franks’ tenure as Colonial Overseer, before moving to Abaco. There was no church in Dundas Town, so we cut pine trees from the forest, burnt coal and sold it to build the original Dundas Town Church of God. I was eight months pregnant and carried two bags of coal on my head, walking from the Pine Barren into the settlement. Money was ‘small’ and times were hard. Once the coal was sold, we burnt lime in a kiln for the original building. Our little family returned to Nassau where we lived in a two-roomed house provided by Bishop Franks.
My husband had been assigned to a church in Exuma but no provision had been made for us; my husband refused to go and Overseer Carnie Alredd revoked his license. Bishop Asa Sargent insisted that my husband arrange a meeting with the Overseer, but unfortunately, the decision had been made. My situation was so bad, I was sick and my husband had no appointment, I turned to the Bahamas Red Cross for help. As a result, my husband established the First Born Church of God, Miami Street in New Providence.
One of my favorite songs is “An Old Account Settled”. When we worshipped at the Dixie, it was a joy to be a part of the Street Services, the leaders were Bro. Sargent, Bro. Leadon, Bro Edgecombe. We would meet at three o’clock in the afternoon, and many souls would be blessed and added to the church. Saints in those days were serious. Though I am not able to read, I believe in Holiness. I never attended school, but God allowed me to preach in a service in New York. My favorite scriptures are Psalms 23, John 3 v:16, Hebrews 12 v:14 and Titus 2 v:11. God gave me the words to say; He has brought me from a long way.
Another interviewee was Sis. Naomi Hepburn-Miller. She was the only young person in the church at Dundas Town at that time. As a fifteen year old, she helped to build the thatched tent they worshipped in. She conducted Song Service, taught Sunday School and helped to Exhort. Her pastor, Bishop Harold Mitchell and family lived in Murphy Town, and travelled to Dundas Town to hold services. The only light was by lantern and the road was narrow and unpaved. Services were held every night except Saturday.
“The tent was made of pine log uprights with thatched roof and sand for the flooring. As the membership grew it was decided that we burn a lime kiln to erect a permanent structure, with a small area for the pastor and his family”. Duties for the women of the church were cooking for the workers and by carrying water or mortar.
Street Services were held at 5.00am from “block to block” because we had a desire to see the church grow. “Everywhere I go, all over the world, I look for the Church of God. Members of my family were pioneers in the Church of God. My uncle, Rev. Calvin Saunders was a Pastor and my aunt Evelyn Russell was a staunch member of the Church of God. My desire is to live and die in the Church of God.
Due to my husband’s illness, we moved to Nassau and met Pastor David Pratt and his wife, Sister Victoria Pratt and began attending Bozine Town Church of God. Later we moved nearer to Southland and attended there. I was part of the outreach that established Mount Pleasant Church of God, near Lyford Cay. We returned to Dundas Town where I continued “to knock on doors, inviting people to church.”
I can attest to the healing power of God. I had cancer and He healed me. He sent his angel who said, God had sent him; and there is no trace of cancer to be found. I was on my way to the States for surgery; and when the doctor diagnosed my case, I said “God I am your child, you hear that?” I went to Batelco when a man walked in and said “Do not be afraid! I had to ask my Father and He said go to Batelco” The man also said “you are calling your two sons in Freeport, but they do not have the money or they would give it; but my Father and I will take care of you”. You have to go to Miami because two miracles will take place there because of you. The Anesthesiologist did not believe in God and the surgeon was not saved.
When the surgery was performed, no trace of cancer was found both men fell on their knees, one in the bathroom and the other in his office, calling on God. They admitted that God had sent me to them.
Sometime later I experienced injury to my leg and had to use a wheel chair. Five doctors concluded that amputation was needed; but I told them “I knew a man named Jesus, and I am waiting for him”. I was invited to Mt. Calvary Baptist church to a revival by Sister Ethel McPhee; I told everyone I am going to be healed. I was wheeled in, but after prayers I came running down those steps… totally healed and praising God.
I had a heart problem and was given three months to live. One day while watching TBN Pastor Shambach was preaching. He said there is a lady sitting on her bed and she needs prayers right now. He said “Lady, put your had on the television” As I did so, my hand felt like it was stuck to the television, my body began to vibrate as I claimed my healing. Each doctor tested me and said I had a brand new heart. Thank God.
I know God to be a provider. During my husband’s illness of seven years, we lived in Nassau, and for two years I was unable to find work to provide for my family. I would look in my cupboards and find nothing to feed my children; but the Lord would send someone who would pray and leave money or groceries for me. I have proven God in times of need.
When I got saved “I was picking sand from the dirt floor, out of my teeth for over one week”. Of the original members who started this work Sis. Lea Humes, Sister Farrington, Sister Mitchell and I are yet standing. This present structure was built by Pastor Basil Brooks. We have come from thatch to Cathedral. To God be the Glory.
Bishop Archilaus Cooper
Ordained Minister, District Overseer
As a young boy he recalls being affiliated with the Church of God. Coopers Town church was then pastored by W. R. Franks in the 1930’s. The church had been organized in 1914. His mother was a member of the Church of God but his father was a Baptist.
Even though he grew up in the Sunday School and attended church, he did not accept the Lord until the age of twenty three. He served as Sunday School teacher, F.T.H. Director, he served as District Youth Director for eighteen years and in 1984 he became a Pastor.
Previous Pastors of Coopers Town Church were David Russell who succeeded W.R. Franks, Joseph Saunders and Calvin Saunders. In 1976 he obtained his Exhorters and was later ordained. He succeeded Bishop John Humes as District Overseer of Abaco.
Some of our “Landmarks” have been removed. We no longer adhere to the progressive steps of Salvation, Sanctification and Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
In the ordinance of the “Lord Supper and Feet Washing” – Feet Washing is not always carried out, but done when it is convenient.
As the coming of the Lord approaches, like the church at Ephesus we have lost our first love.
BISHOP LERNIS CORNISH
Marsh Harbour Church of God.
Bishop Cornish helped to build the first Church of God in Dundas Town. Bishop Mervin Saunders of Guana Cay set the church in order. He traveled by boat every night to and from Dundas Town. The first pastor of the church was Bishop Harold Mitchell.
After a lapse in following the Lord, Bishop Cornish recommitted his life and has remained faithful to the cause of Christ.
The early female converts experienced much hard ship, as their unsaved husbands would beat them for accepting the Lord
My family was a part of each of the three congregations that started here. We had over one hundred members, and sometimes the attendance reached over three hundred, sometimes there would be three babies to be dedicated to the Lord. In the face of much progress the general feeling was “I had not been to college”, and someone of that caliber was needed.
Street Meetings were of great success. Many persons were added to the church after these services. After one such meeting sixteen persons were extended the right hand of fellowship. My wife has been Secretary/Treasurer for the Dundas Town Church for the past thirty years.
God has two Books: The Book of Life and the Book of Condemnation – If you are not in one book, you are in the other. We need to remain steadfast and live a life of Holiness.
PROGRESS IN MARSH HARBOUR:
Marsh Harbour was a predominately white area. There was no Church of God there, but a new record is now being established. Our church building is up to Beltcourse; we have poured the pulpit area and are preparing to pitch the Roof. All of this has been accomplished without owing one penny. Our membership is approximately twenty nine, with lots of followers.
We appreciate the old patriarchs. They paved the way for us.
Minister Isolene Rolle (daughter of)
Rev. Elmore Colebrook
Mastic Point, Andros.
As a young lady growing up in the Church of God, my grandfather Rev. Joshua Tinker was the pastor and at his passing, my father became the pastor at the age of thirty years.
The saints were religiously strict. Sin was Sin. They did not compromise at all.
My father was the most humble man I ever met. If he knew someone had aught against him he could not sleep. I saw my father get up during the night to ask pardon of someone whom he might have offended, and return to his bed and slept. My sister Miriam was just the opposite. If anyone offended Daddy, we kept it from her..
To hold a position in the church you had to confess Jesus Christ, and live a saved life, before you can hold a position in church.
Water Baptism was held early in the mornings; and you had to wear white and your head covered in something white. As the Ministers would baptize you, the senior Christian ladies would receive you and bring you to the shore. You had to be saved, added to the church and follow the Lord in Water Baptism.
My father believed you had to receive the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. I remember my cousin Doreen (later became Bishop David Green’s wife) was seeking the Holy Ghost. One afternoon I heard her shouting and speaking in tongues, and went over to her house along with my little brother to see what was happening, and the power of the Holy Ghost came on me, and I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. “I believe sanctification precedes the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
These are our foundation stones which should never be moved.
The week prior to Communion, we would go on a fast. This was the most powerful of our services. After communion there would be feet washing; and many times those old sisters would “knock over” a few basins of water while shouting under the power of the Holy Ghost.
I believe in those days the old minister depended wholly and solely on the Bible and God. The modern ministers are apt to download someone else’s sermon from the Internet, and thus rely on ability than on God.
We had strong women evangelists in the old days; but the Pastor was always a man.
My grandmother was a Lay Minister in the Methodist Church and she led my father to Christ, after the Lord convicted him while gambling. His partners thought he was sick and brought him home; but my grandmother realized what the problem was, and prayed him through to salvation.
Services were held three times weekly, and Sunday School Classes were held at three o’clock on Sunday afternoon. Church was not an option. Revivals lasted for two weeks; not the two and three day revivals of today. In those days when the Holy Ghost showed up, the building would be “smoky or hazy”. We have Youth Ministers today and our children are still slipping through the cracks.
I recalled a sermon my father titled “A Blackboard Sermon” (using a blackboard), from Revelation, on the coming of the Lord. People were serious about their soul salvation in those days.
I got saved while playing church, my brother was the preacher, my parents returned home from church and met me crying and saying “Save me Jesus”, and led me to the Lord.
Two weeks before each Christmas, Prayer Meetings were rotated by the churches in the settlement each morning until Christmas Day.
Good Friday Service was held until three o’clock, regardless of the starting time; and you fasted until the service was over. One special song come to mind – “Who is the man in the Dying Garment”.
My father was a very forgiving person, who was also very discerning. He had very limited education, as he had to leave school before the age of fourteen years.
I held my father in such great respect, that I could not convince him that “man had reached the moon”. His comment was “God would not allow them to fool with his moon”.
My mother was a great supporter of my father. She was responsible for the Activities the women of the church performed. If the church yard needed cleaning, Mother did it without being told. She was also the Secretary of the church.
Sister Mildred Hudson (Sister Leta)
My mother, Isabella Neilly taught me the way to salvation. She was one of the founders of the Church of God. She taught me to read God’s Word. Sunday Morning our clothes had to be prepared for Sunday School Class.
The church at the Bluff started when I was four years old, I was born Oct. 5th 1928.
I love to sing, and one of the first songs my mother taught me was “The Spirit Pleads again with me”. As I grew I became more involved in church work.
I taught Sunday School for ten years. My mother directed the choir at Bluff. We attended and sang in the Conventions at Fowler Street. I got married at the age of eighteen; and my husband was impressed with my way of worship, that he accepted the Lord and became a Christian.
Rev. Winston Neilly was the pastor when I became choir director. The Church was started in 1932 by Mother Baker, a well known Bahamian Midwife, who was also a staunch member of the Church of God.
The church is growing. We train the young people in the ways of the Lord and in the doctrine of the Church of God.
Sister Mable Rogers
Over sixty years ago I accepted the Lord as my Saviour.
My husband was a Catechist and when I got saved he threw me out the window as I spoke in the initial evidence of the Holy Ghost. When I “came to” there were people all around me, and they were singing “The Harmony of Heaven is ringing in my soul”.
An evangelist from the States named Bro. Turnquest conducted the revival; and today I am yet saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost.
My first pastor was Enos “Brick” Williams. Subsequent pastors were William Dean, Ramon Dean, Bishop Wilson and presently Rev. Turner.
There are not many of us left from that era, but we are fired up and can still feel the power when we walk in the doors of the church.
The dress code has changed from “those days”. We have become more liberal in dress and in manner.
I experienced much persecution when I accepted the Lord; I could not attend church for many months after my conversion. The parish priest had to beg my husband to allow me to attend church. My husband felt that he was not controlling his house well seeing that I had gotten saved and was in the Church of God, and he was an Anglican.
Sister Verdell Munnings
“I thought I knew Jesus, but after I fellowshipped with Jesus then he came into my heart”.
I had been sick for twelve years and one day my sister Ethrel said there is a revival taking place and would I like to come. When the altar call was made I went to “the bench” and knelt down. Sister Pinder, Bro. Wilson and other saints gathered around me. Sister Pinder told me to concentrate on “the man on the middle cross”. I was healed and saved, and today I am living in “the shadow of the cross”.
“I had a precious husband and ten children and I thank God for them. You may have a house full of money but if you do not have Jesus, you have nothing in this world.”
I have been saved over thirty years from the time I was sick. You can tell Jesus anything, he will not talk it.
The Church remains the same; but persons change. I love church, when I enter those doors all my pains leave this “Adam” body.
Mother Lenore Gibson,
I was born 25th January 1916; and I accepted the Lord at the age of fifteen years.
My first pastor was Rev. Nathaniel Bethell. Our church was built on a hilltop, but we held prayer meeting on the beach below the church. All our consecration meetings were held on the beach; and you remained on your knees until you “felt something”.
Sister Rachael Saunders
The Church of God in Exuma began in Williamstown. Churches in Forbes Hill and the Ferry were being built at the same time. Bishop W. R. Franks was the Colonial Overseer of the Church of God at that time. Pastor Nathaniel Bethell donated the property for the church, and built it as well. Conventions were held at the Williamstown Church.
Bishop W. M. Johnson had held a conversation with Mr. Sam Gray, a noted businessman in the community, who remembered A.J. Tomlinson when he came to Williamstown.
Mr. Gray was a small boy when the church was established; and promised to give us an interview, but his health is failing and I do not think it will be possible.
Pastor Bethell believed in Divine Healing. I can remember Sister Ada Sears was sick, and unable to walk and when Pastor Bethell prayed for her she got her healing and consequently left the Baptist church and joined the Church of God.
Sister Agatha Seymour
It is a privilege to be interviewed!!
I came to live with Bishop W. R. Franks and Sis. Marion Franks in 1944 (Uncle Willie and Aunt Soley) after the death of my biological father, who was the brother of Aunt Soley.
As a young person I learned to love the Lord and today my life is blessed. As Church of
God children we maintained a standard. We had to be dressed properly, we could not partake in many things, and of course Church was not an option.
I recall Sister Mena Williams conducting Girls Club for the teenagers. There were discussions on how to maintain purity of heart and body. Girl’s voices were to be well modulated. Loud and aggressive behavior was not at all acceptable. As the teens grew older they were taught to establish a “Hope Chest” in preparation for marriage.
Young Boys were mentored by the men of our church in the ways of God, and how to conduct themselves as Christian gentlemen. They were prepared for future leadership roles in the church.
Uncle Willie served in early days of the church and again after Rev. Hughes, as Colonial Overseer of the Church of God. Prior to each annual convention, he would visit every church in the Bahamas.
Children in the Church of God did not attend the movies, regardless of what was being shown. The word “boring” was not in our vocabulary.
Sister Martha Frith was one of our early evangelists. She was also famous for programs. Frith Lane is named in her honor.
Sister Nathalie Baptiste, conducted the Young Women Choir during the 1950’s.
One of their favorite songs was “Surely God is Able”.
The constitution of the Church of God was being prepared for presentation to the House of Assembly to be incorporated in 1953. A copy was given to Bishop W.R. Franks for his perusal. Bishop took the document to a promising, upcoming attorney named Mr. Lynden O. Pindling for his opinion. Mr. Pindling informed Bishop that the resolution would not be approved in the form presented, because there were more foreign persons than Bahamians as Trustees. Mr. Pindling paid his own way to Tennessee, met with the Executives of the Church of God, pointed out problem and made the required recommendation, which was accepted by the Executives.
The Bahamian persons so named as Original Trustees of the Church of God by and Act of Parliament were:
Bishop W.V. Eneas
Bishop W. R. Franks
Bishop Peter H. Patton
I recommend the “old paths”. They made me who I am, and this foundation has helped me to help others.
Rev. Wendell R. Williams
TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS
I was appointed to Turks Islands in 1967 by Colonial Overseer Carnie E. Alredd.
There were fifteen members on my arrival as a missionary to Turks Islands.
Before leaving San Salvador, Bahamas, in a vision the Holy Ghost showed me the condition of the Mission House where we would be living, the distance to the U.S. Naval Base on that island, but I did not recognize the island. I remember singing as I walked along the road. I heard my name called, looked around and saw no one. I said “Lord if you send me, I will go”.
On my arrival to the island, in reality I did approach the Naval Base Authorities to obtain material to make the needed repairs to the Mission House. I was given blocks and lumber to repair the walls.
My wife, Sister Williams suffered greatly, having six children and expecting the birth of our seventh child. I solicited discarded cement from Mr. Outten, who was the mayor of Grand Turk, Turks Island. I mixed the cement and used small stones to patch the holes in the floor. My wife gave no sign of weakness, she stood firm.
I remember one morning at school time, we had one half cup of floor in the house, and she mixed as porridge for the children. When they tried to eat it, they vomited; but God gave them the strength to go on to school. Mission members brought food for us that day.
The water storage tank ran dry and I had to get fifty-five gallon barrels, transported by a donkey cart to the Government Reservoir, to fill the barrels making three trips on a donkey cart. When that happened I felt that all hope was lost. My wife did not complain, but it paid off with a harvest of souls who accepted the Lord in the ensuing revivals.
When my wife was ready for delivery, an air force officer provided a Volks Wagon to use, and told me where I would find the keys. I took my wife to the hospital which was a twenty minute drive away. There were many things, too numerous to mention, but the Lord was with us. Heaven will be worth it all.
I was given a salary of Nineteen Pounds per month, which had to be converted to Turks and Caicos currency. For two years and six months I could not hear from anyone in the Bahamas.
Rev. David Greene and Rev. Edward Missick came up to Turks on Mission and were surprised to meet me there. I was able to give them a letter for the Colonial Overseer, and be confident that it would arrive in Nassau safely. I got no response from my officials. It was in the month of August, and my children had to be enrolled in school, so I decided to pack up and leave. I felt that my mission had been accomplished. I had nothing to leave with, and had to borrow money for our passage by airplane.
Our possessions were sent by boat captained by Ronald Fernander, who was the barge captain at the Naval Base.
I found the people of Turks and Caicos to be very nice. Brother and Sister Steve were left in charge of the church on my departure.
The interview was continued by Sister Williams who gave additional information.
The Lord sustained us during that stressful period. I cried and prayed as never before.
I had packed my sewing machine, and as the people saw my children’s clothing, they brought their clothing to be made, and it helped greatly. The church people were very nice to us.
Boats from Haiti brought fruit and vegetable for sale, and the church members would share with us. If it was not for the church members I don’t know how we would have made it.
There was a boat out of Miami which supplied the Islands once per month, food was scarce and the variety was limited. You could only buy “six penny” tomato paste and “six penny” thread, which was needed for sewing.
There was an old refrigerator which had been left by Bishop Leonard Sweeting, who preceded us.
That was a hard mission. The church was a broken down building, the land was salty and you could rake salt from the walls of the church. In spite of the hardships our prayer life gave us power with God. As Williams would preach, I laid my hands on the sick and they were healed. When we were leaving our assignment, we raked some of the salt off the walls to let Bishop see what we were dealing with.
On our return to the Bahamas, I asked the Lord in later years to let me see the results of our labor, and I have been privileged to return to Turks and Caicos three times. Outstanding persons in the church were Bro. Ronald Steve, Sis. Mary Steve, Sis. Ida Adams and a number of other persons who impacted our lives while there.
On one of my trips to the islands, one of the members who had grown up with my children while we were there, felt I should have been allowed to greet the convention. The present pastor said “he searched the records of the church” and could find no evidence that we had ever been there.
Sis. Clarabelle said,
“Pastor, I know these people; I went to school with their children; I will help to research the old records.