35 YEARS: Church celebrates milestone in ministry
Published 8:16 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2016
In 1977, Bishop James Lee Woolard embarked on a path to begin his ministry and find a place to shelter his congregation.
United Church of Christ was founded three years later in Woolard’s home, with the attendance of 17 adult members and their children. Sunday, the church, which is now the Temple of Jesus Christ, will celebrate its founders’ day and 35 years of ministry in the community.
In a vision from God, Woolard saw an old mechanical building, one he found at 611 E. Fifth St. in Washington, according to Debra Waters, a church member and its secretary, who was a young girl when at the church’s inception. Woolard purchased the building with his own savings and started the ministry, a divine mandate, Waters said.
“He said the Lord spoke to him and said, ‘This is where you are going to build me a church and take your money to purchase this building for me,’” Waters said.
Woolard, with the help of members of the church, started renovating the building to accommodate their place of worship. The first Sunday in March of 1981, the first church services were held in the form of a weeklong revival, according to Waters.
“The congregation was excited about the new church, and you could feel where love was within the atmosphere,” Waters said.
According to Waters, there were attempts via radio to discourage others from attending the church, but Woolard kept preaching, and the congregation started increasing to the point there was not enough room to accommodate members. Walls were knocked out to expand the sanctuary and make room for the expanding ministry, she said.
Another vision led Woolard to launch construction of a new church, Temple of Jesus Christ, Waters said, and on completion in 1991, church members walked from the old location to the new one, accompanied by a police escort.
“If it wasn’t for the adversity he faced, he wouldn’t be where he is today. (The adversity) gave him the push and drive of wanting to do what God has chosen him for. It’s just amazing we have someone being used as God’s humble servant. I just love it. I think he’s been a great pastor and leader. He has led people to Christ,” Waters said.
With approximately 300 members today, church officials have plans for mission classes: equipping members to go out into the community and introduce Christ to people who don’t know about him, lead them in the Prayer of Repentance and teach them how to be good Christian warriors, according to Waters.
Sunday at 11 a.m., Temple of Jesus Christ will hold a special service led by a guest minister, who will give a message for the founders’ day celebration. A dinner will be held after the service.
“It’s just amazing that we are still here, that Bishop Woolard is still here and teaching and preaching the word of God,” Waters said. “I think people need to know where we come from and what a big milestone it is and that Bishop Woolard needs to be honored for it.”
Temple of Jesus Christ is located at 906 W. Eighth St. in Washington.