He preached in houses, woods, and cotton gins, fusing God’s words with traditional African spirituality. He created religious space for formerly enslaved Africans navigating hardships of Jim Crow.
But some felt threatened by him.
Bishop Charles Harrison Mason founded the Church of God In Christ – by 1906 there were 110 churches.
One year he attended the Azusa Street Revival, where worshippers participated in “emotional prayer, weeping and ecstatic spiritual experiences.”
At the revival Mason spoke in tongues. Later he wrote, “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. My soul was then satisfied.”
Mason brought this practice to his church – Black middle class supporters who fell into the trap of appealing to whiteness didn’t like this and left. But Mason pressed on, determined to center traditional African spiritual practices within his church.
When he died in 1961 COGIC had 400,000 members and 4,000 churches – today it has 6.5 million members and international congregations.
Bishop Mason was ahead of his time. Generations before Civil Rights and the Black Power Movement he encouraged Black people to unapologetically celebrate their cultural heritage.
Who are spiritual leaders who shaped you? How can you continue their legacy?
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