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Church History

" For on this rock I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

- Matthew 16: 18 

On Saturday, August 24, 1975 the New Testament Church of God[1] was organized at 58th Street & Baltimore Avenue in Philadelphia with seven members. All seven were West Indians who had been introduced to the Church of God in Jamaica or England. At that time, there were approximately twenty thousand West Indians who migrated to the Philadelphia area and there was no Church of God congregation ministering to them. The Church was organized by the Regional Overseer, Reverend Robert M. Varner.


Reverend Felix F. Poyser, an ordained Church of God minister, felt the call of God to leave England and relocate to Philadelphia to minister to his native people, as well as all others who needed to be reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.


By the hand of God, and under the very able leadership of Reverend and Sister Lilith Poyser the Church has witnessed remarkable growth. In sixteen months, there was a 400% increase in membership – from 7 to 28.  Very soon there would be 40 to 50 in Sunday School and as many as 50 to 80 would attend Sunday Morning Worship Service. The Church continued to grow and their rented facilities at 944 South 58th Street could no longer comfortably accommodate the services.  


In 1978 the Church purchased their first building, formerly a bank, at the intersection of 58th Street, Baltimore Avenue and Cobbs Creek Parkway. This was possible due to much prayer and hard work, and the unrelenting assistance of Reverend Varner.

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Not only did the Church grow in number and in spiritual maturity, but the congregation began to enjoy close fellowship with other congregations in and around the Greater Philadelphia area, New Jersey, New York, Washington and Maryland. These other congregations include the Church of God of Prophecy and other independent Pentecostal churches. Each year they would convene in a Rally with as many as 18 congregations, and as many as 700 people in attendance.  Before moving to their Baltimore Avenue building, they were offered the auditorium at the West Philadelphia Catholic High School for a Rally which was attended by brethren and friends from as far as Florida.


In February, 1981, on one Sunday evening after the singing of the chorus “You better get right with God” a Holy Ghost Revival broke out which lasted for almost a year. During this Revival, there was an extraordinary spiritual awakening with a great harvest of souls, and many - mostly the youth - were filled with the Holy Ghost. That was definitely a turning-point in the existence of this Church.

In 1985 the Church celebrated its Tenth Anniversary with a special function. At that time the first citation was received from the City of Philadelphia, signed by all members of the City Council, extolling the work of Pastor Poyser to the congregation and to the neighborhood at large. The Church has since received several citations, greetings and acknowledgement from Federal State and City officials.


Wherever Reverend Poyser pastors, the building soon becomes “small”. After 10 years at 58th and Baltimore they again outgrew those facilities and purchased a factory at 935 South 53rd Street. As with the building on Baltimore Avenue, the 53rd Street factory building was far from ready to be occupied.  However, the Pastor and members worked fervently overcoming several obstacles.  In order to satisfy some City statutes concerning occupancy requirements, the building was not ready for full scale worship, but (legally permitted) Prayer Meetings were held on the premises. Very soon all City requirements were satisfied and the Church was able to move to these larger quarters.


On Saturday, September 10, 1994, at the official opening of their present Church building, the Mayor of Philadelphia, the State Overseer and Regional Overseer joined in the march from the old building along with diplomatic and other officials. That evening was one a milestone celebration which will never be erased from memory.


In recognition of the services of Pastor Poyser the City of Philadelphia named the Church block “Reverend Felix Poyser Way” and erected signs in time for the Church to celebrate their official opening on “Poyser Way.”  Praise the Lord for His favor.

During the years when the Church of God International Headquarters sponsored the Bible Institute, this group was the first to hold a graduation with the alumnae fully dressed in caps and gowns and the evening complete with a gospel radio personality as their keynote speaker. They have since held many such events, often publicized in the media, and attended by several hundred.

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