History of Starkville Church of God

Starkville Church of God celebrates 100 years of existence in 2022.  In honor of that, below is the story from the early beginnings of the church up to today.  We are so blessed for all of those who have gone before us and especially to God for his blessings over the last 100 years.

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Early Beginnings

1915-1921

World War I (1914-1918) most likely had a significant impact on man's spiritual life, growing out of threats of a major war and the need for protection - protection of the lives of men serving in the military as well as the well-being of their families and friends left behind.  Hardships often bring people to a realization that God is the only stronghold that is steadfast and sure.

Thus, with the world ripe unto harvest, Carrie Lummus is remembered as the first to preach a holiness message in Starkville.  At that time, Starkville was a small cotton mill town and the home of A & M College (Mississippi State University).

in 1915, Carrie Lummus, a methodist, received the "new experience" and had joined the Church of God, a holiness movement whose basic doctrine was and continues to be principles of Biblical holiness.  She had a strong desire to spread her convictions of this new experience to others. And since her husband was a railroad man, it was convenient for her to travel by train from her home in Artesia spreading this great flame that burned within her soul.

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In these early days, it is said that some people would go to church just to test the believers to see if they were just putting on a show or if it was really true.  Unless one could handle hot coals of fire, hot lamp chimneys, and snakes which were brought to services in paper sacks and turned loose, then your religion was a fake.  Red-hot lamp chimneys and coals of fire as well as snakes were handled by members of this new band of people when they were divinely anointed of God to show these unbelievers that God was able to take care of them and to prove that signs and wonders would follow those who believed as was prophecies.  It is reported that sinners would shake and tremble when this Pentecostal fire would come down such as on the day of Pentecost.

Members of this early band testify to the fact that when one of them would get sick, they would gather all the believers together including those from West Point who worshipped with the Starkville group to pray until they got their healing.  Church worship was a vital part of their lives, and they trusted God for their healing because it was a promise given to them in the Bible. And most of them were not financially able to afford a doctor.  Thus, being poor was a blessing in some ways because it made the people more dependent on God to supply their every need, both spiritual and physical.

Officially Organized

Rev. G. C. Dunn came to Starkville and held a revival in the old schoolhouse.  As a result of the efforts of Lummus, Lamb and Dunn, a Church of God was officially organized in 1922.  Oscar Hamilton, an early student and graduate of the Bible Training School (now Lee University),  was sent to pastor the church since the ministers who had started the church were all evangelists at the time.  However, Dunn did become pastor of the church some years later and also organized the West Point Church of God.

Since enthusiasm ran so high and people would stay up all hours of the night praying and seeking God, they would be unable to work the next day.  Also, people would get under conviction at work and would stop off their jobs and go to the schoolhouse to pray.  Since church worship was interfering with the mill production, the superintendent asked them to stop holding services in the schoolhouse which was part of the mill property.

But God had a place for them to have services.  Clarence Edwards, who had been saved during this time, had crude benches, a rough pulpit, and an altar built under some big oak trees in his yard for worship services to be conducted.  Bro. Edwards later became a minister and was overseer of the Churches of God in Mississippi and Tennessee.

Services were later held in the old theatre building located on South Washington Street next to the parking lot of the old Armory Building while Bro. Hamilton had a tabernacle built close to the house he had rented on Hospital Drive.  The tabernacle was a brush arbor-type structure having only a few poles on the sides to hold a top over the crude benches, pulpit, and altar.

Some of the members of this first church were Mr. and Mrs. Wafer Edwards, Mrs. Mae Edwards, Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Morgan, Mrs. Lola Mae Wofford, Mrs. Grace Edwards Wright, and the pastor and his wife, The Oscar Hamiltons.  However, due to the many hardships and persecutions, the church was officially disbanded for a short time.

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During this time, the church was disbanded and a new holiness movement, the Pentecostal Church of God, was organized with Rev. Oliver West as pastor.  "Bands" of people would gather in homes during 1918 to learn more about this new movement.  As interest grew and houses could no longer accommodate the crowds, services were moved to the old schoolhouse located behind the mill which was used as a meeting place for various occasions as well as a school during the day.  Lou Etta Lamb accompanied Lummus from Artesia to spread this great holiness message.

These brave ladies who stepped out by faith to preach the fullness of the gospel are due much tribute.  It was during this early beginning of the church that severe persecution took place.  Charter members of the church state that while worship services were being conducted, unbelievers full of carnality would take their guns nearby and shoot them in the air as if to say, "this is what will happen if you don't stop holding these services."  However, in the face of this hostile environment, the holiness movement continued to gain momentum.

Since the believers of this new holiness movement, the Church of God, were very demonstrative and exciting, many spectators came to see it in action.  One of the first in Starkville of the Holy Ghost was a motherless girl about 12 years old (Lola Mae Harper Wofford).  She had felt conviction and wanted to go to the altar.  So an unbeliever, Mrs. Mae Edwards, accompanied her because she was so young.  Mrs. Edwards prayed that if this new experience of the "blessing" as the Holy Ghost was referred to then was right that this innocent young child speak with other tongues.  Almost immediately, the child began to speak in another language as the Spirit gave the utterance.  Mrs. Edwards never doubted that it was wrong anymore and received the "blessing" that night also.

Most of the former members of the Church of God worshipped with this sect until Bro. Clarence Edwards rented the store building owned by Jim Rained which later became Dockins Grocery and is now the east end of La Gallery Shopping Center.  He held meetings in the store building and paved the way for the Church of God to be reorganized.

Church Disbands

Church Reorganized

1938

As a result of the efforts of Bro. Edwards, on May 1, 1938, the Church of God was reorganized with Bro. J. D. Taylor as pastor.  The store building owned by Porter Phillips, located on Gillespie Street one block from the Cotton Mill, was rented for the church.  Mr. Wafer Edwards is remembered as paying all the rent and utilities on the store building for approximately 3 1/2 years while it was used as the church.

Some of the members of the church in 1938 were as follows:

Mildred Hawkins Beene                         Eugenia Edwards Rushing

Belton Duncan                                        Lora Edwards Rushing

Nora Edwards                                         Irma Hawkins Smith

Wafer Edwards Pauline Marsh              Joyce Morgan Smith

Gertrude Morgan                                   Berta Parrish Winfield

Mr. J. W. Sanders, the owner of the Cotton Mill, had a community building constructed that was used for worship and fellowship by the people of the community.  The building was located atop the hill of Mill Street on the east end of the mill.  Since most of the members of the church were mill workers, services were held here for a short period of time.

Strong bonds of Christian love and fellowship characterized this early church.  Families would go to church and be so blessed by God that they would not want to part company.  Thus, families would spend the night with each other talking about the wonderful things God had done for them.  These people were poor, but they had a Christian love for each other which overshadowed their humble abodes and made them hospitable and comfortable.  This is when the "holiness Pallets" were popular -- when families spent the night with each other and pallets would have to be made on the floor to accommodate the visitors.  These pallets were comfortable because the people had a love for each other that a hard and often times cold floor could not alter.  They not only believed "thy shalt have no other Gods before me" and "love thy neighbors as thyself," but practiced it.  And so the church prospered and grew according to the will of God.

First Church Built in 1942 on Lummus Drive

Since the membership was getting so large, talk of a church building became a subject of interest.  And so it was that George Morgan located a plot of land owned by the George Washington Estate which proved more suitable on which to build a church since it was near most of the members and since travel was difficult.  M. H. Kennedy, who was pastor of the church at that time, often relates in his ministry how hard Mr. Morgan worked on the church and what an active supporter he was although at that time he did not belong to the church.

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It was around this time that the Church of God in Winona was disbanded.  The Winona church had been fortunate to have had its own church building but due to the "shutdown" of the cotton mill in Winona, the church also collapsed because its members had to go elsewhere to find work.  Thus, the Winona church building was torn down and moved to Starkville on Wafer Edwards' truck.  The church was rebuilt on the corner of Maxwell and Lummus Streets facing Lummus Drive, a street named after the lady who brought the first holiness message to Starkville.  And so, the first church property was purchased in 1942 while M. H. Kennedy was pastor.

In 1944, the first church parsonage was erected under the leadership of Pastor George Tingle next door to the church facing Lummus Drive.  The house was simple consisting of five rooms - 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and bath.

Thus, the church continued to make progress and it ranked second in the state as far as statistics are concerned with the Hattiesburg church ranking first.  In these pioneering days of the church, many outstanding revivals took place.  A revival in which 40 persons were saved and added to the church was conducted by A. D. Gammill.  This is a memory of this outstanding revival that continues to live on in the hearts of people who were witness to it.

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Second Church Built in 1953 on Maxwell Street

Bro. W. E. Roberts was the man who had a vision for a new church and worked hard to see his vision become a reality.  He drew the blueprint for a new brick church.  The church was fortunate to have bricklayers, carpenters, and electricians who were willing to donate their time to the building of a new church.  And so a two-story church building was erected containing an auditorium, Sunday School rooms, 2 baths, a kitchen, baptistery, and fellowship hall.

In April 1953, church services were transferred from the plank church to the new brick church which was constructed in the back of the first church facing Maxwell Street.  The old church was sold and moved from the property.

Bro. Roberts also designed the plans for a modern brick parsonage.  The new parsonage was built facing Maxwell Street on the lot vacated by the old church.  It contained 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, and study.  And so once again, Bro. Roberts labored to see his vision become reality and moved into the parsonage in 1955.  The old parsonage on Lummus Drive was rented to help pay the church payment until it was sold in 1965 and moved from the property.

The record revival held in this church was conducted by Bro. A.C. McKaeg of Mobile, Alabama.  At the close of this 6-week revival approximately 18 were saved and added to the church.

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Under Bro. R. G. Hathorn's leadership from 1960 to 1964, the church made progress in both finance and attendance.  The church, for the first time in its history, was financially able to put its pastor on a salaried schedule.  Until this time, the pastor had to supplement his salary by some other means.  Putting the pastor on salary proved to be beneficial to the church since the pastor could then give his full time to the church and not have to worry about holding down another job.

Bro. Ralph A. Boyles pastored the church when the highest yearly Sunday School average attendance was achieved (119).

A church music program was begun in 1972 by the director, Mrs. Paulette (Joe) Edwards.  The choir boosted membership in excess of 30 voices strong.

 

Three Children choirs were organized in 1982:

 

Joyful Noise

Kings Kids

Daybreak

 

The music program has been a real asset to the church as well as other places such as nursing homes and other churches. 

An Outreach Ministry began in 1975 under the direction of Alex Romanoff and Pastor Joe Taylor.  The first church bus was purchased and a bus ministry began.  An organized program of regular visitation and services was held in nursing homes, hospitals, and jails as well as monthly meditations with the National Guard Armory. 

As a result, church attendance grew so that a Sunday School class had to move to the bus to have enough room to accommodate them.  Later on, the old Catholic church was also used for Sunday School class.

Third Church Built in 1976 on Montgomery Street

1976

It was evident that the church had outgrown its present facilities, so the property was purchased in the most prestigious area of Starkville on South Montgomery Street and plans for a new church were initiated.  A Bible was placed in the cornerstone of the foundation of the church.  In February of 1976, the new church was ready for occupancy.  Thus, once again the members worked laboriously to build a church dedicated unto the Lord.  The church totals over 10,000 square feet of floor space which contains a 20' x 60' fellowship hall, 40' x 85' sanctuary, 16 classrooms, nursery, kitchen, baths, and offices.

Under the direction of Mrs. Paulette (Joe) Edwards, a church kindergarten and prekindergarten were established and licensed by the State Board of Education for operation in 1976.  The kindergarten employed four personnel and had an average enrollment of 60 children.

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1977

In 1977, a parsonage was erected adjacent to the church.  The parsonage contains over 2,000 square feet and contains 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, kitchen, living room, dining room, and a great room.

1980

In 1980, a television program was begun as a part of the Outreach Ministry televising a Sunday morning worship service.  The program is entitled, "Alive in the Spirit," and is aired twice a month.  The church purchased its own T.V. camera, monitors, etc., and was blessed by having a church member, Bill Davis, a professional photographer, as the cameraman.

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1990                                                          Steve McCullar
1992/1993    Parking Lot Paved
1995             1st Phase of Family Life Center Built
1997             2nd Phase of Family Life Center Built

2006                                                          Hank Anderson

2014                                                          Jesse Duncan

2021                                                          Dennis Laughlin

Compassion Pantry Launched

Over the next couple of decades, the church continued serving the community through its music and outreach programs and as a result seeing lives being transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. 

In 1999, Pastor Steve McCullar had a vision to create a storehouse in case the theories of Y2K (2000) came to pass.  At a conference, Pastor Steve McCullar was confronted with the idea that people were needing food now.  When he returned, the program was immediately implemented.  In April of 1999, under the leadership of Pastor Steve McCullar, the church officially started the new outreach ministry in hopes of making a difference in the community once again.  This ministry was called "Compassion Pantry" alongside the ministry "Helping Hands" as well as a Clothing Ministry.  Compassion Pantry was under the direction of Diane Downer who was accompanied by Frankie Ming, Anita Langley, John and Edna Kennedy, and Jo Ladner in the beginning. 

 

In the beginning stages, church members would be asked to donate non-perishable groceries.  They would pile them up in the sanctuary and then pray over them.  Then they would offer one time a month for people to come where they would receive a bag of groceries and a special service.  The goal of this ministry was to help provide groceries to those struggling and less fortunate in the community once a month.

This ministry was later taken over by Max Keene who has now served as the director for over 20 years.  Currently, Compassion Pantry serves well over 500 individuals a month with groceries operating on a weekly basis.  On the third Tuesday of each month, groceries are given out as well as the continuation of a service with both music and a message.  However, groceries are continually given out on a daily basis for emergency situations.

1972 - Paulette (Joe) Edwards appointed as first Minister of Music

2008 - Joel Barron appointed as part-time Minister of Music/Worship Pastor

2016 - Michael Brand appointed as part-time Worship Pastor

2021 - Joel Barron appointed as full-time Worship/Associate Pastor

In 1972, Paulette (Joe) Edwards was appointed as the first Minister of Music for Starkville Church of God.  It was under her leadership that the choir ministry, Christmas Musicals, and other amazing outreach ministries were developed and the music program continued to grow.  Hundreds would travel from afar for each year's Christmas musical and lives were changed.  The music did not just stay within the four walls of the church but ministry took place throughout the community by hosting singings and services in nursing homes and the county jails, and even personal homes of those sick or shut-in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2008, under the leadership of Joel Barron, the music program continued to shift and progress as the church grew and adapted to changes happening in the world.  The Christmas musicals continued on as well as nursing home and jail ministry from time to time.  Christmas caroling also began to take place more often in hopes of reaching more in the community as well as our shut-ins.  A children's choir was also rebirthed, allowing the children to sing occasionally in Sunday services and on special seasonal events. 

As times began to change, trends began to shift within the church.  Choirs began to phase out, shifting to praise teams and praise bands.  The title of Minister of Music was changed to Worship Pastor, and much more.  It was during this time that God placed a calling on the heart of Joel Barron and his family.  In 2016, the church sent him out as a Missionary to serve in Kniebis, Germany, where he would serve, teaching music to students from over 20 nations and cultures from across the world as well as travel across Europe teaching and leading worship.

In 2016, Michael Brand was selected as the Worship Leader for Starkville Church of God.  The church music program, under his leadership, continued to grow and further develop moving towards the current trends of music programs in churches across the USA.  The church saw more of a praise band setting with a vocal team develop in place of a choir.  The church also began making small changes with the stage introducing lighting and set designs.  

In 2021, Joel Barron and his family responded to God's call to leave Germany and return to ministry in Starkville.  Joel is currently serving as the first full-time Worship/Associate Pastor for the church.  The worship team continues to grow through his leadership, applying blended worship, worship choir for special occasions, and seasonal productions. 

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Worship Ministries at Starkville Church of God

History of Pastors

1.   Oscar Hamilton

2.   J. D. Taylor

3.   Otho Presley

4.   G. C. Dunn

5.   M. H. Kennedy

6.   Fount Sharp

7.   B. L. Roberts

8.   George Tingle

9.   Wilson Sharp

10.  E. C. Christenberry

11.  L. B. Thornton

12.  W. E. Roberts

13.  J. J. Nolan

14.  A. L. Fitzgerald

15.  R. G. Hathorn

16.  Ralph Boyles

17.  Irone Beard

18.  Joe Kelley

19.  Kenneth J. McCoy

20.  Larry Timmerman

21.  Kenneth Smith

22.  Joe C. Taylor

23.  Ron Treadway

24.  Willard Gardner

25.  Steve McCullar

26.  Hank E. Anderson

27.  Jesse Duncan

28.  Dennis Laughlin

If history teaches any lessons for the future, we should expect to see continual change in ideas, methods and institutions.  A progressive church will probably evolve from present and past experiences and procedures.  There yet remains new paths to be marked out, new truths to be discovered and old truths to be rediscovered.

Ruth Morgan

1980