5 Star Story: 25,000 ‘saints’ begin 8 days of worship, workshops in the Bluff City

Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 11:13 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Church of God in Christ’s 115th Holy Convocation got underway in Memphis on Tuesday with a midnight call to prayer. At least 25,000 “saints” from around the world are expected to attend eight days of worship, workshops, and assembly in the Bluff City.

The annual COGIC gathering has a multi-million dollar impact on Memphis, and this week Kym Clark explores the origins of the largest African American Pentecostal denomination in the U.S.

According to Bishop Brandon Porter of Memphis, it’s always “a glorious gathering” when the Saints once again march into Memphis — resplendent in stylish hats, and for Godly reasons.

“You gonna look good in the club, you oughta look better at church. Beauty is something that God does; he beautifies the meek with salvation,” explained Bishop Porter, who is a former Church of God in Christ general board member, leader of Greater Community Temple of Deliverance, and 4th generation COGIC member.

He describes the Bluff City as the church’s base.

COGIC returns to Memphis for 115th Holy Convocation
COGIC returns to Memphis for 115th Holy Convocation(Action News 5)

“I believe Memphis means a lot; it’s our Mecca to the Church of God in Christ. They know it’s our place of beginning, it’s our world headquarters and everybody needs a base, you know?” Porter described.

The Church of God in Christ was founded by former Baptist preacher Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, who in 1907 established the church and its world headquarters in Memphis while bringing what was then considered new Pentecostal teachings.

“We’ve been known to be kind of boisterous in our praise and our celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ and believer of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Porter said. “See, we kind of started out as loners, but then, everybody else kind of caught on. We were the only ones with drums, you know, and tambourines.”

Bishop Mason dedicated Mason Temple in Memphis as the church’s national meeting site and international headquarters in 1945. He is also now entombed in a marble crypt inside the temple. And church membership has grown exponentially since then.

Bishop Brandon Porter
Bishop Brandon Porter(Action News 5)

“We’re in 115 countries and we brag and boast of about 6.5 million members or so, with thousands and thousands of congregations all throughout the U.S. and of course, throughout the world,” said Bishop Porter.

After more than 100 years in Memphis, in 2010, the annual COGIC Holy Convocation moved to St. Louis, taking millions of dollars in yearly revenue with it.

“And it’s because of some complications, as we’ve always had with the hotels and other people gouging the prices because they considered COGIC peak season,” claimed Bishop Porter.

Then, 12 years later, and with incentives and support from city leaders, the saints returned to their roots.

“Whether they’re from Korea or Japan or wherever they might be from, Africa, various parts of Africa, of course and just all over. And they’re excited to be home at our Mecca,” Porter expressed.

But, even after the Holy Convocation left the city, the saints continued their work here, like the recent Christmas in November at Greater Community Temple, giving away food, clothing, appliances, and household goods to those in need.

Bishop Porter explained how the church even provides housing for some of our most vulnerable:

“We partnered with the State of Tennessee to provide some additional housing that we had in the church for the young people that were in transition in between getting permanent housing for foster care because many of them were sleeping on the floor of offices and so on.”

The church is also developing senior housing near Mason Temple.

”We’re just trying to impact Memphis the best way we can, as well as in other parts of the country,” the Bishop expounded.

The Church of God in Christ has provided 115 years of sacred assembly and fellowship with a ministry that Bishop Porter describes as finding a need and meeting it.

The Holy Convocation ends Sunday, November 12, followed by the General Assembly which runs until November 14. For more details about the Church of God in Christ or the Holy Convocation, click here.

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