The many heroes of black history
February is Black History Month. There are so many people, black and white, male and female, who could be considered heroes of Black History.
I want to tell you about one of my heroes. How his life was flipped — turned upside down, and how he penetrated, influenced, and saturated the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, his community, and mentored my life. He has done this from when he first gave his life to God at the tender age of 11, after walking into a P.A.W. church in his hometown of Oxford, Pennsylvania, pastored by Elder R. L. Hancock, who happened to be a Caucasian minister.
Little did young Paul Bowers know that he would go on to become the assistant general secretary, general secretary, assistant presiding bishop, and the seventh presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. He continued to influence the P.A.W. into his late 80s. This is a story you’ve got to hear.
The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World is said to be the oldest Oneness Pentecostal organization in the world. It had its origin in Los Angeles, California, in 1906. This was the “original” P.A. of W., according to Bishop M.E. Golder’s history. There are only brief records of the organization preserved and only a few names of original founders are yet available. In 1925, Elder G.T. Haywood became the first presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. His tenure of office was very short; for he went to sleep in April 1931. In March 1932, Elder Samuel Grimes became the presiding bishop and had the longest tenure of the presiding bishops (more than 30 years). The next presiding bishop, Ross P. Paddock, held the reins of the organization together after Bishop Grimes’ demise. This is when the presiding bishop’s office went from presider for life to an elected position for a set time.
Bishop Bowers was born in Oxford, Pennsylvania on Dec. 11, 1929, and his first encounter with the P.A.W. was at a local level were he was saved at Oxford Pentecostal Church, later known as Christ Temple, under the ministry of Elder R.L. Hancock. He was called to the ministry in 1946 at the age of 17. At the age of 18, after graduating from high school, he was going to further his education in the ministry at Aenon Bible College in Columbus, Ohio. At the time, Aenon Bible College was in a large house led by the founder of the school, Bishop K.F. Smith. On his way to Aenon, Bowers planned to stop by the P.A.W. Convention in Cleveland. The convention was being hosted by the Pentecostal Church of Christ of Cleveland, pastored by Elder Chelcie M. France. Bowers was going to see what it was like.
Understand that in 1947, when you attended the P.A.W. Convention or any conventions with African-Americans, that they could not always stay in hotels. Not due to the lack of money or unavailability of rooms, but due to the segregation laws at that time. During that time, they had housing committees that helped delegates to the convention stay in members’ houses while they attended the convention. By the time young Paul Bowers got there, he was not already on the list for housing. He discovered all the housing slots were full. The only thing that Pastor France could offer him was to let him stay at the host church.
Because of his excitement, even though the host church was a storefront, located at the time at 75th Woodland Avenue (not the church where the convention was held, which was St. Matthews AME Church at 35th and Scovill Avenue), it did not deter young Bowers or diminish his enthusiasm for the convention. He and about 10 other brothers were supplied with pillows and blankets by the church and they slept on the floor and pews of the host church. (In an effort of full disclosure, Pastor Chelcie M. France is the writer’s grandfather.)
Bishop Bowers was ordained in 1950 at the P.A.W. Annual Convention held that year in Boston, Massachusetts. This was a historic event, where he became, at that time, the youngest minister to ever be ordained with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. The P.A.W. rules said that you could not be ordained until you were 21.
God had already put it on his heart to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord. Who knew he would one day become one of its finest generals, and as the Presider, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? His birthday, when he would turn 21, was not until Dec. 11, but the military was calling him now. The forefathers saw his potential and suspended the rules. They ordained him at the age of 20 and made him a National Evangelist. He served as a National Evangelist from 1950 to 1956. In 1951, after graduating from Aenon, he moved to Akron, Ohio and served under the ministry of the late Bishop Raymond Robinson. This was the time that the P.A.W. tagged three of its young speakers from that ministry as the “Sons of Thunder. They were Elder Isaac Parker, Bishop James E. Tyson, and Bishop Paul A. Bowers. Bishop Bowers was the last of the “Sons of Thunder.” Bishop Robinson was the thunder and they were his spiritual sons. When lighting would strike, thunder would roll. Next, he began to pastor Emmanuel Tabernacle, later changed to Greater Emmanuel Apostolic Temple, in Cincinnati, Ohio, in January 1957, a P.A.W. church. He would pastor for over 50 years. During his time as a National Evangelist, he preached so much, so often, and preached so well he was given an additional tag, he was called “The Preaching Machine”
I have been blessed to preach now for over 40 years. This year will be my 39th year as a pastor, and one of the most influential mentors in my life, beside my father, was Bishop Paul A. Bowers. On Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, he went home to his reward.
I celebrate a life well lived, and I mourn that it is over. Black History has so many heroes and heroines who made a difference in their world that books cannot contain them all. My Black History hero is Bishop Paul A. Bowers. He was priceless.
Let’s all go make history and be a hero in somebody else’s life today!