Watson Temple Institutional Church of God in Christ
Watson Temple Institutional Church of God in Christ
By Lucy X. Bastidas, Fall 2015
The Watson Temple is a church that practices the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), which is a trinitarian Holiness Pentecostal denomination. The development of this religious tradition began in the year of 1897 formed by two males who left being minsters of the Baptist church; their names were Charles Price Jones and Charles Harrison Mason. Sir Jones began his own Holiness movement starting in Jackson, Mississippi at the Mt. Helm Baptist Church; this is where Sir Mason first met Jones as an attendee of the event and how it all started. After many local southern Baptist critics; usually pastors; called them and their teachings controversial they were expelled by the Mississippi State’s section of the National Baptist Convention. After this expulsion, both of these pastors were prohibited from preaching in any local Baptist church of the Mississippi State Convention. Due to this circumstance, Elder C.H. Mason founded the first COGIC church in Lexington, Mississippi called the St. Paul Church. The history behind the name began with his first convocation where he adopted the name “Church of God”; to only then realize that other religious groups were adopting similar names for their churches. Later in the year of 1897, Elder C.H. Mason changed the name to Church of God in Christ while visiting Little Rock, Arkansas; because he believed this name was revealed to him by God through the Book of Thessalonians (2:14).
The religious group COGIC did not become associated with Pentecostalism until a few years later when Elder C.H. Mason underwent a baptism in the Holy Spirit during his visit to Los Angeles, California. When he returned to Mississippi, most followers weren’t fond of accepting his Pentecostalic actions. During their 1907 convocation in Jackson, Mississippi; there was a separation of the Holiness church where the followers that didn’t agree with Elder Mason’s Pentecostal baptism, branched out to be the Church of Holiness; and the followers of Elder Mason became the first COGIC Holiness-Pentecostal church. The declared mission of COGIC today is “to seek and save that which is lost”.
The Church of God in Christ was first founded in Tallahassee in 1930 by Mother Cora-Harvey who rented a little building on Boulevard St. where she gave her praying services. As she grew more followers and the number of people attending increased; she met Sister Frances Ming. Eventually Mother Harvey wanted the little growing church to have it’s own pastor, and she wrote to Bishop Nesbitt at the COGIC headquarters asking for a pastor for their church. On his way was Elder Zed Brown, the first pastor of the Watson Temple Institutional COGIC. The church has had 7 different head pastors for this church including the first, Elder Zed Brown. Over time the institution moved to different locations in Tallahassee into different buildings. From the primary location on Boulevard St., it moved to Macomb St. under the services of Elder Brown.
The beliefs of the Church of God in Christ are mainly based on the foundation of four principles. In the Church Of God In Christ, they believe in the Bible as the word of God. They also believe in God as the Father who is the creator of all things; Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and they believe that the Holy Ghost/Spirit is part of the trinity and is as equally powerful and glorious as the the Father and the Son. Their belief in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is necessary to become a saint and to convert completely.
The current pastor at Watson Temple is Pastor Donald E. Sheppard, an FSU alumni. Pastor Sheppard is a twin brother, who graduated third in high school and went to Columbus College of Art and Design and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Industrial Design in 1984. During his junior year in college is when he accepted to be a minister and later became an Elder in the Church of God in Christ in August of 1989. Pastor Sheppard earned his Master of Science degree at Florida State University, majoring in Art Education on April 28, 1995. On December 13, 2013, Florida State granted Pastor Sheppard the degree of Doctor of Philosophy with a major in Art Education. Pastor Sheppard’s father, late Bishop E. L. Sheppard was the pastor before him and his father appointed him as the new pastor of Waston Temple Institutional COGIC on December 8, 1998, after serving 36 years as the former pastor, and also a couple days before passing. During Pastor Sheppard’s service at Watson Temple, the congregation and himself have been able to buy four properties next to the Church. He has also also viewed over the completion of a 1.5 million dollar church addition to the property where the current church services are now held; which was completed in December of 2006.
The Watson Temple has established many affiliations and relationships since it first opened it’s doors in 1930. The most important affiliation is of course with the Church of God in Christ INC with it’s headquarters located in Memphis, Tennessee and it’s leader, Bishop Charles Edward Blake from Los Angeles, California. The COGIC today has more than 6 million members as stated on their official website. And as stated on Watson Temple’s website, Church of God in Christ is the “largest Pentecostal church organization in America and is in every continent in the world including many of the islands”. There are currently congregations of COGIC in 63 countries in the world according to their official website. Another affiliation of the church is being a member of the Western Florida Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, where it’s leader is Bishop Willie J. Matheney from New Port Richey, Florida. Watson Temple also has affiliations within the Tallahassee religious community; where it is also a member of the Big Bend District of it’s Jurisdiction; with it’s leader, Superintendent Dr. Ronald McCloud who is from Quincy, Florida. The church has also made connections with a lot of students from FSU, TCC, and FAMU.