The History of First Assembly Page 1928 - 1965
The Story of the History of
THE FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD
It was established on October 10, 1928 as an Assembly of God church. Today the First Assembly of God still seeks to be the church found in the second chapter of Acts.
YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!
THE CHURCH WHERE EVERYBODY IS SOMEBODY
AND THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS REAL!
Robert M. Gay, Jr., Church Secretary
REVEREND AND MRS. CECIL F. GRAY, SR.
We have seen a lot of things take place in the lives of the people we have met over the past thirty-seven years (37) since coming to Savannah on June 19, 1970. Our family has grown up along with yours and we have met many new people throughout our ministry here. There have been many changes for all of us.
Two things which haven't changed is our God and our desire to serve Him to the best of our ability. We are glad to be a part of the history of this wonderful church which will celebrate its seventy-ninth (79) anniversary on October 10, 2007.
May God bless it, and us, with many more years service to Him.
Rev. Cecil F. Gray, Sr.
It seemed only fitting, with the establishment of our new website, to include information about the history of our church since it is reportedly the oldest Pentecostal church in Savannah. We contacted everyone we could that might have information, or old pictures to share. We received responses from some former members who provided good information.
We fortunately located a copy of the First Assembly of God Temple History, with notes and correspondence, written by the late Sister Lucile Kesler Chandler during 1977-1978. She was selected by Pastor Cecil F. Gray, Sr. to prepare it for the 50th Anniversary on October 10, 1978.
Above is a photo she received of the General Council Headquarters in 1978.
She was a child in the church in the beginning years and her mother, Sister Sena Kesler, was one of the first members and taught a Sunday school class for over thirty-four (34) years.
She made a good source since she grew up in the church and she already knew much about it herself. She was able to contact a number of former members still living at that time and gathered, or confirmed, plenty of good information which she included in her work.
In this current endeavor I especially appreciate the Georgia District of the Assemblies of God headquarters' District Superintendent Phillip Wall, and his staff, for graciously forwarding what information they could provide us. They provided us with copies of the church being set in order and a later letter of recognition received from the General Council of the Assemblies of God in 1929.
Above is a photo of the Georgia District Assemblies of God Headquarters in Macon.
Some items weren't so easy to date so we have included it at what appears an appropriate location for them in this story. It was found that using a chronological listing of the events by dates seemed to be the most effective way to keep the story flowing smoothly as we could get it.
The Story of The First Assembly of God
March 18, 1925: Pentecost thru an unusual messenger
A revival was held at the Savannah Municipal Auditorium in Savannah, Georgia by the girl evangelist, Uldine Utley, on March 18, 1925. She was only thirteen (13) years old when she held the revival in Savannah but God used her mightly to reach the lost.
This young lady ministered mightily for God for a number of years all over the country. She reportedly preached in Madison Square Gardens in New York City in 1926 at the age of 14 years.
The revival lasted for five weeks with many being saved and filled with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This included Sister Bernice Strickland, later Proctor, and most of her family. Sister Bernice Strickland would become a minister and be very influential in establishing the First Assembly of God Church as we see later.
(Note: You can find out more about Uldine Utley online.) Find more searching her name on the internet, also there is a book on her available.
Above Uldine Utley, "Why I Am A Preacher", By TJ Lavigne. In this volume, which is the opening text in a child and teen preacher series, he focuses on the life of a well-known girl evangelist, Uldine Utley.
"John Roach Straton (Baptist Fundamentalist) and Uldine Utley made an unlikely pair as they waited for the revival meeting to begin at Madison Square Garden on October 31, 1926.)" The life of Uldine Utley, who preached in Madison Square Gardens in 1926 at the age of 14, is documented in detail with many pictures.
Now back to our church's history
Seeking more knowledge about Pentecost
A group of people who were saved during the revival decided to congregate on the third floor at the Knights of Pythias Hall located at York and Barnard Sts according to Sisters Stewart and Eason.
Uldine Utley had been accompanied by her parents and Sister Winifred Moseley. They were concerned for the new converts getting established in the Word. Sister Winifred Moseley agreed to stay with them as their guide and teacher for a period of time to get them established in the Word and their faith.
Sister Moseley stayed with them about a year and then returned to her work with the Utleys. Sister Moseley left and the Utleys asked Rev. C. A. Godwin to become the leader since he had received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit during the revival,
They moved their meetings to the Lawton Memorial Building on Bull and Anderson Streets where many more were saved and received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Then they moved to the Presbyterian Church building at Barnard and Anderson Streets where they formed the Full Gospel Church.
That church was first called The Full Gospel Church, until it joined the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Both Bernice Strickland and Myrtle Eason had decided to attend Bible school so they left in 1926 to attend Glad Tidings Bible Institute in San Francisco, CA. This was the same school Sister Winifred Moseley had attended. It was from Barnard and Anderson Sts. these sisters left for Bible school.
Three other young people who left for Bible school were: Catherine Von Dolteran, Hugh White, Jr. and William Workman. They attended Toccoa Falls Bible School in Toccoa, Georgia.
After these left to attended school in 1926 Rev Godwin led the Full Gospel Church into the Christian and Missionary Alliance movement.
They desired a Pentecostal Church
After a disagreement over the evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, a group separated themselves from The Full Gospel Church and started their own meetings. They set up a tent at Montgomery St. and Victory Drive where they held meetings without the benefit of a pastor, or leader for a period of time.
This is the group which named themselves "The First Pentecostal Mission" and then eventually became the First Assembly of God church in Savannah, GA.
Was God's Providence at work for them?
It is reported by some that the beginnings of what later became the First Assembly of God Church were meetings held in the home of Mrs. Clio Strickland and Mrs. Bernice L. Strickland's mother, Sister Eugenia Strickland, on Augusta Avenue at Rt. 1 Box 444 in Savannah, GA.
Rev. Bernice Strickland had been led to go to Hawaii on missionary work but wasn't ready to leave at that time. She came home where she was praying and planning for it. She, Rev. Myrtle Eason and Helen Stewart had been licensed to preach by the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, MO.
Both Rev. Myrtle Eason and Rev. Helen Stewart had stayed in Livingston, CA to co-pastor an Assembly of God church there after graduating from Bible school.
When Rev. Bernice Strickland returned from school in 1928 she started a children's bible study in her mother's residence on Old Louisville Road. She also taught some adults in her neighborhood and some members of the original group which pulled out of the Full Gospel Church.
She found that a small group had left after it affiliated with the Christian Missionary and Alliance denomination. This appears to have been a real turning point for the group which was now seeking to establish themselves in a church which believed as they did.
They had been meeting with a new "Holiness" group but there were still many differences of opinion between them and they needed their own meeting place. This was when many of the members withdrew and started gathering under a tent at Victory Drive and Montgomery St.
They learn about a Pentecostal Denomination
They called themselves "The First Pentecostal Mission" and members served as lay ministers for a while. Rev. Bernice Strickland suggested they contact the Assemblies of God denomination to establish a church since she was licensed by them and knew its teachings as being Pentecostal. They contacted the Assemblies of God District Headquarters and asked them to help set them up as an established church
There was an Alabama/Georgia District of the Assemblies of God at that time. This was called part of the South Eastern District of the General Council of the Assemblies of God.
Rev. Samuel Noles accepts the call to the church in Savannah, told by his wife, Sister Docia Noles.
While at a Council meeting in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in July 1928, Sister Docia Noles was handed a note by the Superintendent of the Alabama/Georgia District. A Brother Quarterman had written him requesting someone to come and help set up a church in Savannah, Georgia.
She showed the letter to her husband and he immediately agreed with her to go. They had just taken over the pastorate of a church in Biloxi, Mississippi six weeks prior to getting this letter. Their church didn't want them to leave but they persuaded them it was in God's will.
They are set up as a Pentecostal Church
Aug. 1928-Dec. 1928 Rev. Samuel Noles
Rev. & Mrs. Samuel Noles of Mississippi came in August of 1928 help establish it. They had a real burden for establishing new works so they readily set out to come.
They had to face a terrible storm while coming to Savannah and had to wait another day before they could travel safely. They had to avoid many damaged areas during their drive to Savannah.
When they arrived they found the storm had torn down the tent and caused a lot of problems for the little group they were coming to help. They prayed and worked until they got things back together. They got the tent up and met there for a while.
Then they held services in Sister Eugenia Strickland's home where they lived until a storefront was rented at 140 Montgomery Street. They came in August 1928, and set the church in order October 10, 1928.
October 10, 1928
They become an Assemblies of God Church
Finding a ready and willing group of members he set up the First Assembly of God church on October 10, 1928 with forty-four (44) members. The group was calling themselves the First Pentecostal Mission which they continued to do for some time afterwards.
"The Assemblies of God" (name given the church by the General Council), as recorded in paperwork received from the Georgia District of the Assemblies of God in Macon, GA, was set in order on October 10, 1928.
The meeting was called to order by Rev. S. W. Noles, General Presbyter of the Georgia District of the Assemblies of God headquartered in Macon, GA. Rev. Bernice L. Strickland was elected Secretary of the meeting. The first recorded co-pastors on this form were, Rev. Myrtle Eason and Rev. Helen Stewart.
The first recorded Deacons were, Mr. T. G. Conner, Mr. L. R. Barnett, and Mr. C. A. Pacetti. There were forty-four members in the church body at that time.
They moved into a storefront building at 140 Montgomery Street. Rev. Noles stayed until December 1928 when he reportedly became the first District Superintendent of the Georgia District of the Assemblies of God in Macon, GA.
Some of the original members (according to Sisters Stewart & Eason) were: Brother and Sister C. A. Paccetti, Sister Bedgood, Sister Thornton, Sister Smoaks, and Brother T. G. Connor.
Jan. 1929-Apr. 1929 Rev. Bernice Strickland
The work was turned over to Rev. Bernice Strickland until April 12, 1929 when she left to go to the missions fields in Hawaii as she had already been planning to do.
Rev. Bernice Strickland had been inspired to leave on April 12, 1929 to go to Hawaii to do missionary work but had no way of knowing how God was going to supply her provisions for it.
Uldine Utley returned to Savannah for a short time. During this time she informed Rev. Bernice Strickland she had saved her tithes to give her for her travel expense to Hawaii.
April 12, 1929
Rev. Bernice Strickland headed to Hawaii for ministry work. On the way she stopped by Livingston, California and asked the Rev. Myrtle Eason and Rev. Helen Stewart to consider coming to Savannah to help out the new church. They accepted the challenge and proceeded to move to Savannah, Georgia.
June 12, 1929
June 1929-Sept. 1935 Revs. Helen Stewart & Myrtle Eason
At this time Reverends Myrtle Eason and Helen Stewart assumed the pastorate of the new church. The Mission was still at 140 Montgomery Street when they took the work. They served until October 1935 when they left to work in a bible school.
September 11, 1929
Recognition by the General Council of the Assemblies of God.
The church was officially recognized by The General Council of the Assemblies of God on September 11, 1929. Below is a copy of the letter they received. We were sent a copy of it by the Georgia District Headquarters along with the copy of the church being set in order on October 10, 1928. We were later sent a copy of the names of the members present October 10, 1928 and those added August 25, 1929 when the affiliation of the church with the General Council was consummated.
They had been re-named "The Assembly of God" by the General Council on September 11, 1929.
Sometimes during this year the church moved to 138 Barnard Street as they needed more room.
During 1931 a lot was bought at Montgomery and Anderson Streets where they built a new church building over the next two years.
July 22, 1931
They are incorporated as the First Pentecostal Assembly of God Tabernacle by the Superior Court of Chatham County by Judge Peter W. Meldrim. Petitioners on the form are, Lee Roy Barnett, George E. Kersey, and Mathew D. Creech.
They used the pay-as-you-go method and it took some time before the building was completed enough for them to move into it.
It was their home until March 1950 when they moved to Whitaker and 43rd Streets.
In October 1935 both Rev. Myrtle Eason and Rev. Helen Stewart left to go to a new Alabama Bible School called the Shield of Faith to work there.
Oct. 15, 1935-Dec. 15, 1935 Revs. Rogers & Renfro
Dec. 15, 1935-Dec. 31, 1935 Rev. Neece
Jan. 1, 1936-June 15, 1936 Rev. Bernice Strickland
June 15, 1936 - Sept. 17, 1937 Rev. Hardwick
1938 Rev. Voight
1939-June 1960 Rev. Elmer L. Green
They officially changed the name they used to "The First Assembly of God" in 1939.
A new neon sign with the officially used name, "The First Assembly of God" was hung in 1946.
It is recorded that they changed locations in 1950 to Whitaker & 43 Streets.
They enjoyed tremendous growth during their time at this new location.
This photo was reportedly taken during 1952 and shows the continuous attendance they enjoyed.
Aug. 1960-1962 Rev. Lincoln G. Weech
Nov. 1962-Oct. 1965 Rev. Clarence E. Winn
December 1965-May 1970 Rev. Hayward T. Chapman
Further History Information on 1966 - Present Page
The Assemblies of God grew out of the Pentecostal revival, which began in the early 1900s in places such as Topeka, Kansas, and the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. During times of prayer and Bible study, believers received spiritual experiences like those described in the book of Acts. Accompanied by “speaking in tongues,” their religious experiences were associated with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Acts 2), and participants in the movement were dubbed “Pentecostals.” The Pentecostal movement has grown from a handful of Bible school students in Topeka, Kansas, to an estimated 600 million in the world today.
Many participants who were baptized in the Holy Spirit during revivals and camp meetings in the early 1900s were not welcomed back to their former churches. These believers started many small churches throughout the country and communicated through publications that reported on the revivals. In 1913, a Pentecostal publication, the Word and Witness, called for the independent churches to band together for the purpose of fellowship and doctrinal unity. Other concerns for facilitating missionaries, chartering churches and forming a Bible training school were also on the agenda.
Some 300 Pentecostals met at an opera house in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914, and agreed to form a new fellowship of loosely knit independent churches. These churches were left with the needed autonomy to develop and govern their own local ministries, yet they were united in their message and efforts to reach the world for Christ. So began the General Council of the Assemblies of God.
Assemblies of God churches form a cooperative fellowship. As a result, the organization operates from the grass roots, allowing the local church to choose and develop ministries and facilities best suited for its local needs.