Charles H. Mason was born outside Memphis near the end of the Civil War to Jerry and Eliza Mason, freed slaves. Eliza prayed earnestly that her son would be dedicated to God. The child soaked up those prayers and was soon joining his mother at the throne of grace, asking for faith like that of the old slaves and of his parents.

When Charles was 12, yellow fever broke out in the area. The Masons packed their scant belongings and quickly moved to Plumerville, Arkansas, where they became tenant farmers on a swampy plantation. The plague followed them, took Jerry’s life, and, wrapping its deadly tentacles around young Charles, laid him low with chills and fever. His death seemed certain. But early one Sunday morning “the glory of God appeared to Charles as never before,” as his wife later put it. “Being instantly healed by the divine presence, (he) got out of bed and walked outside all by himself. There under the morning skies, he prayed and praised God for his healing. During these moments, (he) renewed his commitment to God.” Meanwhile his mother, who had risen to check on him, was astonished to find his bed empty. She discovered him outdoors, trotting and skipping and shouting, “Glory to God! Hallelujah! Praise his holy name!”

Not surprisingly, C. H. Mason grew up to become a preacher, but his holiness message rankled fellow Baptists. One day while walking down a street in Little Rock pondering 1 Thessalonians 2:14, a name came to mind: The Church of God in Christ. Mason and the Baptists parted company, and he began organizing his like-minded brethren into a new group. Between 1897 and 1906, the fledgling organization grew in fits and starts. Then in 1907, at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, Mason received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He returned home with dramatic zeal, and the young denomination was reorganized and inflamed.

The Church of God in Christ was the first major denomination to emerge from the ardor of Azusa Street, and by Mason’s death on November 17, 1961, it was among America’s largest Pentecostal denominations.

We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn’t something made up by humans. You accepted it as God’s message, and now he is working in you. My friends, you did just like God’s churches in Judea and like the other followers of Christ Jesus there. (1 Thessalonians 2:13,14a)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Nov. 17.


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