Charles Harrison Mason organized the largest black Pentecostal denomination in the United States, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), now based in Memphis, Tennessee. Born to former slaves, Mason grew up intending to be a minister. In 1897, when Mississippi Baptists ordered him to vacate his pulpit for the offense of preaching holiness doctrines (sanctification), Mason received permission to use an abandoned gin house for a revival. Like other early Pentecostals, he sought and later found a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit at the Azusa street revival. During a night of prayer at Azusa, Mason saw a vision. “When I opened my mouth to say glory, a flame touched my tongue which ran down in me. My language changed and no word could I speak in my own tongue.” Early Pentecostals recognized Mason’s special powers of discernment and saw him as supernaturally gifted. Mason said of his experience that the Holy Spirit through him “saved, sanctified and baptized thousands of souls of all colors and races.” Mason led the COGIC until his death in 1961.
As Pentecostalism spread, division arose along racial lines. The enemy forged his way into the church to bring separation. As the separation deepened through the segregated early 20th century, contributions of faith from Black American Christians became more and more obscured. It is our obligation to honor and celebrate these fathers and mothers in the faith. We give praise to our God for their lives, their sacrifice, and their great hope that the Church would one day “come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.” (Eph 4:13, NLT)