We had the honor of speaking with Bishop Joe L. Ealy, Prelate to our First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, and gather his thoughts regarding the upcoming Centennial Celebration. Sitting in the pews, within the walls of the North Campus Sanctuary, Bishop Ealy gave some insight into the week’s celebration of events from June 23- June 29.
As we are approaching our 100– year Celebration of our First Jurisdiction, what are you preparing for and ultimately, how would you describe it?
This is going to be a homecoming of the saints. Many, many years ago, we were all under one jurisdiction. I became acquainted with First Jurisdiction when I was a boy about nine years old and I remember everybody in Southern California being in one jurisdiction. And so we would see each other. As we began to divide jurisdictions, we began to see less and less of each other except at a funeral or a wedding. So, the Centennial Convocation is going to mean everyone comes back home. We are preparing the Centennial as a homecoming of the saints of the Southern California area. But even beyond that, Northern California is joining us because way before my time, all of California was together.
Have the invitations been extended to only Southern California?
Oh, no. Not only are we excited about the Southern California, but also Northern California as well. Because many sons have moved, we have people from Arizona, people from Reno, and people from Las Vegas, people from everywhere are coming. So really it is going to be a mini National Convocation. What you would see in the National Convocation in St. Louis, we are hoping to see the same thing at West Angeles Church beginning June 23.
The homecoming celebration, would you say that is where the Centennial Convocation’s theme of “Celebrating an excellent past and focusing on a Promising Future” came from?
Yes, yes that is—
Ok, great. Would you mind explaining that a little further?
California has had an excellent past I believe, one that is above and beyond any other jurisdiction. I don’t think there is a jurisdiction in the United States or foreign that has had the kind of leadership that we have had. We have had giants! And when I say giants, that’s with a capital ‘G.’ When you look at the people who were in leadership in our jurisdiction, they were giants.
You believe this Convocation would be about paying tribute to those giants that have laid a foundation for our denomination?
I think our history is so important. It is said that if you do not know where you came from than you have no meaning as to where you are going. We are pausing to reflect and remember those people of the past upon whose shoulders we now stand. Based on the past that we have had we are looking forward and expecting an even greater future.
God is raising up great men and women in the church community today that are going to take the church to greater heights than it has been in the past.
Amen. Bishop Ealy, in your opinion, what is one basic understanding about our history as a denomination that a new member should know?
One must read or hear something about the books of Acts that’s where the Pentecostal movement began. Matter of fact, that’s where the church really began. And the Book of Acts really focuses on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And that is what the Church of God in Christ is all about. We have been a leader; we have been a pioneer in the field of Pentecostalism and teaching people about receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Prior to Bishop Mason’s time, Christian’s believed that the gift of the Holy Spirit was for a selected few groups of people. With Bishop Mason coming and receiving the Holy Ghost, the message became that the Holy Spirit is for each and every believer and so he began to teach that.
And that’s what the Churches of God in Christ is really all about. That every believer should be a spirit filled and Holy Ghost baptized believer. That is our contribution to Christianity because the Holy Spirit empowers the believer to live an overcoming life and if the person does not have that empowering spirit and ability, so often they lead defeated lives.
What are you hoping people receive from this Convocation?
I am hoping that definitely the people of West Angeles and people at large would be blessed people would be encourages, edified, and that-of course people would be saved and lives would be changed.
Yes, thank you, Bishop. Is there a particular service you are most looking forward to?
Each service is special because we are highlighting the Bishops who have served the jurisdiction in the past. So we are going to portray each Bishop or Supervisor who have served since 1907. Each night is going to be different, but of course the highlight is Sunday afternoon when our Presiding Bishop ministers to us. Thursday, Mother Rivers is going to share the word of the Lord with all our ladies and the men will be supporting them.
If you could give us some insight, for those that are attending, what should we expect on Saturday at the Gateway Sheraton?
Yes, we are having a luncheon at the Sheraton on June 28. We are going to be featuring the various saints in leadership of the past. We are going to be honoring a legend in Gospel music, Andre Crouch and Sandra, and it is going to be a most wonderful celebration. The children and the grandchildren of the Bishops are going to be there to talk about their fathers and/or their grandfathers who were the pioneers of our Church.
Amen. If there is anything I have not asked you, would you like to take this opportunity to share what’s on your heart?
This Centennial Celebration is one of a kind. None of us will be here 100 years from now, and if you miss this one, you would have missed the convocation of a lifetime.
We are asking everyone to come, be involved, worship and know you are a part of history.
What an excellent invitation. We know you are very busy getting ready for the Convocation, so we thank you for your time.
You are very welcome. It was my pleasure.
Southern California First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction is hosting the Centennial Celebration of the Churches of God in Christ in the state of California (1914 – 2014). The celebration beginMonday, June 23 – Sunday, June 29. There will be nightly services featuring outstanding guest bishops of jurisdiction from the entire state of California – Bishop Jerry Macklin (2nd Assistant to the Presiding Bishop), Bishop George D. Mckinney (General Board Member), Bishop J. B. Hackworth, Bishop R.E. Watts, and Bishop C.E. Milton, Bishop Joe Ealy. Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake is the Official Day speaker.