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Vintage COGIC: Bishop Samuel Kelsey "I Cried, and He Delivered Me"

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Published on May 27, 2010

Samuel L. Kelsey was the founder of the Kelsey Temple Church of God In Christ. He was born April 27, 1898, in Sandersville, Georgia, to the late Samuel and Ella Swint Kelsey. The sixth of thirteen children, he was named after his father.

LIFE AS A YOUTH The Lord took control of Elder Kelsey's life at a very early age. In 1915, he heard his first message regarding holiness preached by Reverend William Howard, a Baptist preacher, in Macon, Georgia. "The services were held in an old school house," recalled Samuel Kelsey, "but the colored folks were so full of devilment, they burned it down." After that happened, one of the more successful Black farmers, by the name of Robert Hooks, who had recently been saved, let Reverend Howard use his small double-room house for service. It was called the Pentecostal Firstborn Church, and was located about 5 miles from the Kelsey home. "The little place would be so over-crowded that folks couldn't get in. I god saved on May 1, 1915, in that house. It was shortly after my mother did. I spoke in tongue on the same night. I went to the altar and got it all at one time. I completely surrendered and stayed there until the power of God knocked me out, lifted me and filled me," he recalls.

On July 23, 1923, Elder Kelsey officially relocated to Washington, D.C., to fulfill the role which God had destined. He faced many difficulties in presenting Pentecostalism to the metropolitan area. However, today the District of Columbia honors him as the "Father of Pentecostalism." He recalled of his sermon, "As a young evangelist, I preached that Sunday, July 4, 1923, on Hebrews 12:14 "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Several persons who were members of the Temple Church of God In Christ were also present at these tent services. He always was a lively preacher and good singer. He used to sing "The Storm is Passing Over," and "Little Boy, How Old Are You." ORGANIZING THE CHURCH Towards the end of September 1923, the tent was closed and a small storefront at 331 C Street, S.W. became the home of the new converts. In October 1923, a great baptizing was held in the Potomac River near 7th and O Street, S.W. The church was organized with 20 members by Overseer Thompson in November 1923 with Elder Kelsey appointed Pastor. There was much excitement during the first year in the storefront. In 1924, they moved into another storefront which was located at 404-4 1/2 Street, S. W. A year later, in 1925, another move was made to a storefront at 2030 Georgia Avenue, N.W. The church flourished in 1925. Membership grew to approximately 35 members. As a result of Elder Kelsey's ministry, other Pentecostal churches had begun to organize in the city. Four COGIC churches were established in Baltimore.

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