HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD
DEERFIELD BEACH, FLORIDA
365 South Dixie Highway (Old Dixie Highway)
THE SIXTH CHURCH ESTABLISHED IN FLORIDA
“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double – minded.” James 4:8
The history of the Church of God in Deerfield Beach, Florida is steeped in rich heritage. God raised the first Pentecostal Church in the city of Deerfield, the sixth Church of God in the State of Florida among the Black Congregations.
On August 6, 1924, Joseph Eleazer Johnson – a tall thin, frosty white haired, sharp featured man – full of the Holy Ghost was inspired to come from Goulds, Florida to bring the message of the ‘Full Gospel”. He began immediately evangelizing from door to door.
Having no church to welcome him or any building opened to him, he and others on August 10, 1924 made the corner of Southwest Second Street and Dixie Highway, their pulpit. The Bailey Club once stood where the first Pentecostal sermon was preached. At the invitation of Bishop Joseph Eleazer Johnson and his wife, Zilpha, a Reverend Nathaniel Edgecombe of Fort Lauderdale, Florida came and ministered the first “Full Gospel” the city had ever heard. His Text:
James 4:8 – DRAW NIGH TO GOD, AND HE WILL DRAW NIGH TO YOU. CLEANSE YOUR HANDS, YE SINNERS; AND PURIFY YOUR HEARTS, YE DOUBLE-MINDED.”
His message was so pure, so unadulterated, and so forceful that many of this scarcely populated city came to witness this “NEW THING”. About fifteen persons from the gathered crowd were convicted and literally “slain” by the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit.
One on-looker, a Deacon Wiley, who owned a small barber shop directly across the railroad track from where the street meeting was being held, now the present Southeast Second Street near the Thomas Roofing Building, offered them his shop to hold services until a suitable place to worship could be found. In the month of November in 1924 the first nine members were fellowshipped. These are known as the Original Chartered Members.
Harcourt G. Poitier Anna Musgrove Poitier
Mary E. Miller Mother Margaret Musgrove
Florence Musgrove Edgecombe Zorah Miller
George F. Miller Louise Miller
As reported by Chartered and our senior members, the first person to be saved in the “Full Gospel” was a young teenager named Emily Augusta (Finley) Miller; she had come to make sport of the Pentecostal people. It was during the course of the service that Emily (Finley) Miller was slain, as if she were dead. As the Evangelistic team encompassed her, the Holy Ghost began speaking through one of them to “Blow in her Face”, which they obeyed. Immediately she revived and was saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost in that service. Due to the fact that she was a minor, her father, Walter James Finley first rejected the idea of her joining a Pentecostal church. Later, both of them became members. There were some others who sought the Lord with the originals but for personal reasons did not commit or present themselves for that initial fellowship. This was the beginning of the Church of God in Deerfield Beach.
Bishop Joseph Eleazer Johnson was appointed as the first pastor of the church. He shepherded the flock for more than a year. Having two churches – miles apart – to oversee, transportation became an increasing problem. He was forced to give up the pastorate of the Deerfield Beach Church of God, and remained as pastor of Hallandale Church of God. The Reverend George L. Sawyer, was appointed the second pastor of the church. This new young church grew as the gospel was preached throughout the community. Toward the end of 1925, the second set of new converts, were fellowshipped:
Ruth Roxanna Poitier Dora Smith West Gibson
Hartman Poitier Mr. & Mrs. Gilchrist
Harriet E. Stubbs Poitier Loretta Thompson Smith
Emily Finley Miller Edith Finley Williams
Malvise Dean Brother Gilchrist
The church increased its membership to twenty. These believers lived the doctrines they preached about in such a forceful way that the effectiveness of sanctification and holiness swept the community.
With this increase, the group moved out of “Ole” Deacon Wiley’s barber shop, which had grown too small for “the congregation”, into a pavilion (a tent) on Old Dixie Highway just a “stone’s throw” north of our present church. They purchased a plot of ground on Robinson Road near the old cemetery and began construction immediately. Bishop Hartman Poitier was both the architect and builder and the building was completed shortly after its beginning in 1926.
After about two years of service, Bishop E. Johnson was reappointed to the Deerfield Beach Church of God in the latter part of 1927. At the close of 1927 and the dawn of 1928 the church fellowshipped its third group of members which included:
Bernice Poitier Blatche Otis J. Miller
Esau Miller Frances Miller
Walter James Finley Esther Blatche Finley
Jeremiah Cox Rebecca Cox
Reuben Miller James Miller(Little Jim)
The church was steadily growing. Just as everything was going well – disaster struck! It was the 1928 hurricane. The storm was so violent that the entire building was destroyed. Though disheartened, the Believers were not discouraged. They regrouped themselves and almost before “Hurricane 1928” could blow herself across the state into the Gulf where she died, they were already rebuilding their second church building on the same site.. After the rededication of the new building the fourth group of Believers were fellowshipped into the Body. This group included:
James Miller (Big Jim) Malachi Dean
Godwin H. Knowles Florena Cox Hamilton
Branhilda Knowles Ethelyn Miller Knowles
The above buildings rendered many services to the Deerfield Beach community. In addition to its major function, one important service was that of education. It housed what may have been the first kindergarten and probably the first private school in the Churches of God in South Florida. The teachers were Sister Harriett Poitier and Bishop Joseph E. Johnson. The building served as a religious, educational and cultural center. Through these activities, the community as well as the members were enriched in aspects of family and community living.
In 1937 a new church was built on Old Dixie Highway which is our present site. It is reported by many, that the brotherhood of the church which included James Blatche, Albert Hamilton, Chester Williams, Reverend G.H. Knowles and others too numerous to name, assisted Bishop Hartman Poitier with the construction. It is also reported that sister Maryann Knowles (Mamie Rattray) assisted in the fund raising for the new church by purchasing the old property on Robinson Road. Bishop George A. Wallace was Pastor. In 1959, Bishop Poitier began work on the church parsonage which was completed after his death by his son Oral Poitier and Reverend G.H. Knowles.
According to the Articles of Incorporation, The Deerfield Beach Church of God was incorporated on August 4, 1959. The name of this corporation was: Church of God Colored Work of Deerfield Beach, Florida.
The first officers were:
Pastor Harold Wells
Deacons Jeremiah Cox
Church Clerk Emily Miller
Treasurer Reuben Miller
S.S. Superintendent Florena Hamilton
Board of Trustees Godwin H. Knowles
John H. Woodside
In early 1973, the church ventured into a new Sunday School and Educational Building Project. The Reverend Elisha M. Parris and Joan P. Jerkins (Rally Chairperson) rallied the congregation from the construction month of February, until the date of Dedication, December 30, 1973. The building was built debt-free. During the pastorate of Reverend Parris and his wife, Sister Jannett Richo Parris, the Youth and music ministries of the church flourished. They were both gifted singers and musicians (he – trombone, she – organ and piano). Several new choirs were organized in the church and the youth choir, the “Echoes of Glory” gained notoriety throughout the city and state. The Senior Choir of the church had always been outstanding.
In 1978, the Bishop H.G. Poitier, one of the first Chartered Members, came to pastor the Deerfield Beach church. Adjacent property was purchased and work was done to beautify the church as had been started under Bishop C.C. Pratt previously. Bishop Percell Sanders constructed additional parking. In 1983, Bishop Quan L. Miller became Deerfield’s eighteenth pastor. He was the son of pioneer members Emily Finley Miller and Deacon Reuben Miller. It was under his leadership that the decision was made to build a New Sanctuary. During the same time period the church launched its largest fundraising campaign, $60,000.00 IN SIX MONTHS. In the spring of 1985, the church selected Deacon George E. Thompson and Associates from the city of Fernandina Beach, Florida as the contractor. April 21,1985 was an “Historic Day for the Deerfield Beach Church of God and the Community” - this day, commemorated the end of a “Successful Rally”, raising over $68,000.00. Bishop Godwin H. Knowles paid for all of the CBS blocks used in the construction of the new sanctuary that was completed in 1987. (The mortgage was paid off in three years). Bishop Knowles also donated several adjacent rental properties (south side) that were torn down to expand the parking lot.
In 1991, the Articles of Incorporation were updated to enable the church to expand its business interests. With the congregation’s approval, Bishop Quan L. Miller suggested to also update/change the name of the church to Cathedral Church of God. Additional land for parking was purchased and developed under Bishop Jonathan Ramsey, Jr. At the urging of Sister Edris Mae (Poitier) Cox, a major upgrade to the restroom facilities was started under Bishop George Peart and completed under Bishop Eddie Solomon. The facility has become a much sought after venue for major Christian community events.
There were dedicated Church Clerks that served the Pastors and the congregation through the years. They included: Emily Finley Miller, Regis Cox Butler, Priscilla Miller-Jones, Richard Broxey, Jr., Carrol B. Stubbs, Jr. and Gus H. Turner (2011 – present).
In July, 2010, the 73rd International General Assembly of the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee convened in Orlando, Florida and voted to allow women on the Pastor’s Council of the local churches. Under the interim pastorate of Bishop Jonathan Ramsey, Jr. (then State Administrative Bishop of Florida/Cocoa Offices), the Cathedral Church of God elected sister Mary Fulmore and sister La’Netta Henry as the first women to serve on the Pastor’s Council of the Cathedral Church of God. Two years later, 2012, in a local church business conference under Bishop Patrick L. Kelly, a new council was elected with ten (10) women and two men.
Through the years, the Cathedral Church of God has grown as many individuals and families have put their faith in God and bear witness to the power of the Gospel. The descendants of many of the founding members continue to fuel the church and are still actively involved in this ministry of faith. Membership has been recorded to have exceeded 600 at one time. It was often said by Bishop Quan L. Miller that “it’s the Good People of Deerfield that are the Driving Force Behind this Ministry and all Project Successes.” The church celebrates a rich history and legacy that has lasted for several generations. Cathedral Church of God is one of the leading congregations in the Florida/Cocoa Church of God (Cleveland, TN). It has produced numerous leaders who have planted and pastored other Churches of God and several of our Pastors have gone on and served the state and national offices in administrative positions. Various other ministries have also emanated from the church.
Current community outreach includes an afterschool tutoring program, bi-weekly feeding program and support for various social service agencies. All of which are an expression of an abiding faith in God and a desire to demonstrate that faith in service to others.
Like everything else, the Cathedral Church of God has seen its good years and even some very poor years. But…it has survived through them all. For the Lord has declared that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church…” Today we look at our church with pride and joy… “Linking to the Past… Living in the Present… Looking to the Future…”
The members of the DEERFIELD BEACH CHURCH OF GOD (Cathedral Church of God) stand TALL. We have had good shepherds upon whose wisdom we relied and were guided. These are the Pastors who have served this church:
Bishop Joseph Eleazer Johnson (1925), Bishop George L. Sawyer (1927); Bishop Joseph Eleazer Johnson (repeated); Bishop James A. Wallace, Bishop George A. Wallace (1938); Bishop John H. Curry; Bishop F.B. Bell; Bishop Solomon Mackey (1948); Bishop R.M. Hanna (January 1959 –April 1959); Bishop Joseph Z. Smith; Bishop Albury Burrows; Bishop Harold Wells ( July 1959 - May 1966); Bishop Walter Jackson*; Bishop Elisha M. Parris (July 1966 –May 1974); Bishop Claudius C. Pratt (June 1974 – July 1978); Bishop Harcourt G. Poitier (August 1978 – June 1982); Bishop Percell Sanders, Sr.( July 1982 – June 1983); Bishop Quan L. Miller ( July 1983 – August 1990); Bishop Jonathan Ramsey, Jr.(September 1990 – July 2000); Bishop Quan l. Miller (August 2000-September 2000)*; Bishop Anthony T. Pelt ( October 2000 – August 2002); Bishop George S. Peart (September 2002 – January 2006); Bishop Arnold L. Williams (February 2006 – May 2006); Bishop Eddie L. Solomon (June 2006 – March 2010); Bishop Doyle Scott (May 2010-July 2010)*; Bishop Jonathan Ramsey, Jr. (August 2010-October 2010*; ( Bishop Patrick L. Kelly (November 2010 – Present).
*acting title while Administrative Bishop
This information was obtained from Bishop Quan L. Miller, Bishop H.G. Poitier, Joan P. Jerkins, Bishop G. H. Knowles, Sister Mary E. Miller, Sister Jestina Dean, James Blatche, Oral Poitier, and Old Pioneers of the Church. Updated by Cheyenne Cox Stubbs, Linda M. Johnson and Gwendolyn Mitchell Major.
In the words of Bishop Quan L. Miller “There is no Field like Deerfield.”