A personal observation of the 100th Convocation of the Christ Holy Sanctified Church of America, Inc.
“Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?” — Haggai 2:3 (NKJV)
Sadly, the book of Haggai isn’t read or studied often by many Christians unless the above verse is referenced to in a sermon or topic of discussion. The entire book of Haggai is only two chapters long and covers a span of several months in the year 520 BCE. It is important to note, however, the people were living in a time of transition. Exiled Judeans—though mostly their descendants—returned to Jerusalem and set about the difficult work of rebuilding a city—and their Temple.
In the above verse Haggai states looking to the past has great value, as it affirms the mighty acts of God. At the same time, Haggai suggests it is these past works that point the people toward a future in which God will continue to act. God assures Zerubbabel that “I am with you” and His “Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” (vss. 4, 5). I believe God’s glory and his spirit has not left us today, and he will fill this house too.
On July 25th my wife, Tiffany and I, took a flight to Houston, Texas, and then drove to Beaumont to attend the 100th National Convention of the Christ Holy Sanctified Church of America, Inc. (CHSC).[i] The convention officially began July 24th and ended on the 29th, however we decided to stop in Houston just for a day to celebrate my birthday (July 23rd) and spend time with a few close friends before driving to Beaumont.
This was the first time the convention, also known as “The Holy Convocation,” was held in Beaumont since 1987. Three years after the death of my father, the late Bishop Ulysses S. King, Sr. in 1985—the Convention was moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 1988. The denomination has held its Holy Convocation in various cities and locations since its founding in 1910—Keatchie, Louisiana; Jasper and Beaumont, Texas; and Fort Worth, Texas.
Numerous hurricanes flooded city streets, homes, and businesses in southeastern Texas between 2017 and 2019. Beaumont was hit hardest by hurricane Harvey in 2017.[iii] It was said the church had been nearly submerged in over 3 to 4 feet of water. The entire building and sanctuary had to be restored. Under the leadership of Bishop-elect Stanley Kerr, members, friends, and neighboring CHSC churches in Louisiana New Temple CHSC in Beaumont was restored in time to host the Holy Convocation’s day services.
I believe the Church is living in a time of transition and change. Unfortunately, a global pandemic may force an unwanted change. The theme of the Holy Convocation was: “We’re Out!” Like other denominations and organizations across the nation, CHSC hadn’t met for a general convention for the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was my and others hopes that returning to Beaumont might be a time of renewal, healing, rebuilding and celebration. Expectations were high. One could sense a genuine feeling of joy, excitement and anticipation from the delegates to once again fellowship in public worship with the people of God from across the nation. That feeling was joined with an exuberant spirit and spiritual thirst that flowed from the fountain of our historical beginnings during the early days when the saints believed and saw a better day.
The flow of the services each day and evening had a life of its own. I believe all who were in attendance were inspired, encouraged, and blessed. We experienced God’s (Shekinah) glory in each service—day and evening! Bishop and Prelate, Craig E. Brown, should be commended for his visionary and progressive leadership during the past twelve (12) years presiding in his office.
This year’s convention was blessed with a cooperative, gifted and talented leadership team, staff of volunteers, guests speakers, technical staff, and musicians that were of tremendous assistance in organizing, planning, and implementing a great and successful convention. Obviously, without the cooperation, commitment, and support of people success is not possible. American businessman James Casey[ii] said, “One measure of your success will be the degree to which you build up others who work with you. While building up others, you will build up yourself.”
I was asked and invited to be one of the Holy Convocation speakers on Founders Night. Being one of the grandsons of denomination’s founders, Bishop Judge and Mother Sarah Ann King (1910), I considered it an honor (and an honor to the King Family) to even be asked to speak. I hadn’t been directly active nor involved in many of the denomination’s activities since the death of the late Bishop James E. Williams, Sr. (the denomination’s 4th bishop, 1991-1998). At that time, I made a personal decision to step away from active participation and leadership within the denomination. I knew it would make some people unhappy and disappointed, and others would care less; nevertheless, it was my decision, and one I knew I personally had to make.
There was a beautiful documentary video presentation and homage to our past founders, Bishop Judge and Sarah King created by Jacqui Johnson along with the assistance of my niece, Kimberly Williams. Afterwards, a candle light memorial led by Bishop Erika Braxter of Louisiana—“Bless the Lord, O, My Soul!”[iv] was powerfully sung and rendered as the audience were called to remember our founders.
The audience was kind and received me as the speaker for this special night. My elder sister, Alice L. Williams introduced me as the speaker of the evening. Yes, she has a personal bias—I am her baby brother! I sang a few old congregational songs as a way to invite the audience to share with me in the time I had to speak. They patiently listened to me struggle through my sermon, “In Zaccheaus House” (Luke 19:1-9). The purpose of my sermon was to challenge the church to see itself as a powerful and present witness and voice in world. I attempted to show our need to become not only a denomination that understands dynamic Spirit-filled worship but also to be leaders in community relations, and to fight against systemic injustice and economic disparity. I don’t think I was very convincing.
After I finished my sermon, I sat down and questioned myself whether I had made sense and whether the message was received? Some of the attendees later were gracious and kind and thanked me for sharing what I believed the Holy Spirit had given me to share with them. I didn’t feel however confident or sure that I belonged in this space. I felt increasingly disconnected from the church and the people I once knew. I tried desperately to search the audience for the faces of my family and friends for support and strength, but my own fears and emotions blocked their faces. Part of my discomfort is by my own making. Years later after I stopped attending the Holy Convocation, I realized I had loss many connections with the saints and those in leadership.
Many have asked me why I had not been chosen to be a bishop in the church? The truth is, I had been asked and I have graciously and respectfully declined. I considered it an honor to have been asked, however, as I’ve tried to explain to friends and family being a bishop is something I didn’t take lightly. It’s not just a title to me. What is more important to me was being called and appointed by my father (just before his death) to serve the people of God as shepherd and pastor over the church he served as shepherd and pastor for forty years. My grandfather founded and established the church in Oakland, California in 1925. Becoming a bishop is of secondary importance to me.
I had gone through some difficult and challenging moments in my personal life and ministry over the years, and I needed time for myself to reflect and process what I was feeling about the church and the people within it. I had given the church my life and had loss so much in the process. During this time of reflection, I read the apostle Paul’s message to the church at Philippi. Philippians 3:7-8 caught my attention and pressed me to ask myself what I truly valued most? Was it the denomination I was serving, or was the Holy Spirit calling me to a deeper relationship with Jesus? Paul said, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ . . .” (NKJV).
So, how do you see the church in its first glory?
Haggai wrote, “In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?” I cannot nor will I make any comparisons between the old church and the new. It was a different time, place, and people. Even the Holy Spirit’s presence, strength, and dynamism felt uniquely different in terms of the lived experiences of the people of that day. People’s needs and expectations were different. I think what can and should be said is, the delegates to this Holy Convocation were spiritually and uniquely blessed! The saints in attendance were not disappointed.
While in attendance, I sat in the audience reminiscing over past years and wondered who was left among us who remembered this house in her first glory? Nothing, however, could ever replace or duplicate those days of intense and dynamic Spirit-filled worship of those early saints. The word “sanctified” had an important emphasis and meaning in the life of the believer then. You could hear it expressed each and every time someone got up to sing, testify, or preached. “I thank the Lord for being saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost!” was the prelude to the lived experiences of the “saints”. It was a powerful expression of a changed and transformed life.
Most of the saints of the early church are now gone. It would take an entire book to recall the events of that era and the people that made this great church and denomination what it is. Most of the attendees at today’s convention have no reference to the glorious church that I remembered 40-50 years ago.
People often make reference to not looking back to the past but rather to move forward. I thought to myself, “Forward to where and what?” I must be honest I wasn’t sure at this point where we were going. I do, however, trust the Holy Spirit to give the church and its leadership direction and a vision for the future of the church. I honestly believe the denomination has the potential for greatness and greater things.
I believe we got a small taste of what it may have been like back in the day, but it will never be the same—and no one expects it too. No, I realize the past is behind us and God has something new and fresh for his people. He is a God of newness! God desires that we press forward and experience the newness that walking in faith and righteousness brings, but not to the detriment of neglecting those things from the past that are timeless. God likes repeat performances. God is always calling us to remember. Having created the world in six days and hallowing the seventh, God tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). Then, in establishing a relationship with the Israelites, God calls them to “remember that … [I] brought you out of there” (Deut. 5:15). God doesn’t mind repeat performances, so God calls us to remember—NOT to forget.
So, God is asking us today to remember our history with him. God doesn’t mind repeat performances. It’s a new day, and God is asking, “How was your yesterday? Did I make a way when you thought there was no way? Been there, done that; and I’ll do it again. Did I pick you up when others wrote you off? Been there, done that; and I’ll do it again.”God did it! And you know what? God will do it again, my brothers and sisters. And He’ll do it again.”
[i] Bishop Ulysses S. King, Sr., Fountainhead: The Beginning: A History of Christ Holy Sanctified Church. Published by Xulon Press, 2021, revised and edited by Ulysses S. King, Jr.
[ii] Wikipedia contributors. “James E. Casey.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Jul. 2022. Web. 7 Aug. 2022.
[iii] “Flooding Hits Texas Towns Devastated by Harvey.” The New York Times, pub., September 19, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/us/houston-beaumont-flooding-imelda.html
[iv] Songwriters: Andrae Edward Crouch (Bless the Lord lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., O/B/O Capasso), 1973.