Who We Are

History compiled by the late Bishop Ted Thomas, Sr. and updated by the PR Staff.

Following the August, 1907 meeting, which was held for the purpose of organizing a General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ, Bishop Mason set out, as Chief Overseer, to establish churches all over the country. The church flourished and rapidly spread throughout the North, South, East, and West.

Dad Mason came to Virginia in 1914 and the First Church of God in Christ was founded in the Chuckatuck Section of Suffolk, Virginia. Many souls were sanctified (cleansed from sin) and baptized with the Holy Ghost. The first water baptism service was also held here. For many years, the state would meet at the Friendship Church of God in CHrist for their annual state picnic held each year on July 4th. This was done until the first split took place in 1959.

The first mission of the Church in Norfolk followed closely the opening of the church in Chuckatuck. This church was started on St. Paul Street. However, as a result of being charged with disturbing the peace, the saints were asked to move. Many officials did not understand the work of the Holy Ghost. This mission then moved to James Street now known as Monticello Avenue. Later, as the Lord blessed our work, we moved to a building on the corner of Cumberland and Willoughby Streets. From Norfolk, churches sprung up in Portsmouth, Newport News, Roanoke, Suffolk, Smithfield, Emporia, Richmond, Lynchburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, and many other surrounding cities and towns. The late Elder Caesar Wardell was our first overseer. Deacon Harris, Sister Epps, Sister Mary Reed, Sister Annie Bell, Sister Sadie Stinson, Sister Mary Graves, and Sister Powell were all pioneer members.

Words of this new salvation spread far and wide in a short period of time. Churches sprang up rapidly. Frequently, entire congregations converted to sanctification and became known as the Church of God in Christ. The churches cohesiveness was accomplished primarily by the spirit in Bishop Mason lived and preached. He prayed for hours and was an anointed vessel of the Lord.

Since the growth of the church would not allow the continued presence of Bishop Mason, the following men were appointed Overseers of the State of Virginia:

Elder Caesar Wardell 1915 – 1917
Elder A. J. Reed 1917 – 1929
Elder J. E. Bryant 1929 – 1932
Elder C. S. Cypress 1932 – 1934
Elder William Dove 1934 – 1935
Elder D. C. Love 1935 – 1984
Elder Ted Thomas, Sr. 1984 – 2020
Bishop Marc Thomas, Sr. 2020 – Present

At the time of the appointment of Bishop Love, the Virginia churches number only 24 missions and church buildings. Under his leadership, the First Jurisdiction increased to more than 100 churches by 1959.

In 1959, The Church of God in Christ lost its uniqueness as a state with just one Jurisdictional Prelate. Bishop D. Lawrence Williams, along with some of the other state officials became Jurisdiction Two. Even with the loss of many churches, Bishop Love remained steadfast in the work of our Lord. In 1966, under the leadership of Bishop O. T. Jones, and the Church of God in Christ International, another jurisdiction came about as Elder Levi Willis and Elder A. V. Mitchell along with some Elders from Jurisdiction One and Two formed the New Frontier Church of God in Christ or Jurisdiction Three. This third jurisdiction, once with the Church of God in Christ International, came back to the Church of God in Christ under the administration of Bishop J. O. Patterson.

During the tenure of Bishop Love, the state grew and was led with distinction and Honor. He taught us for 49 years to obey leadership and love the Lord.

Upon the demise of Bishop Love on February 14, 1984 and following the National funeral on February 20, 1984, Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. appointed Assistant Overseer Ted Thomas, Sr., Jurisdictional Prelate.

Bishop Thomas, a young man who had dedicated himself to the work of the Lord and who believed it was of utmost importance to follow the mandate of Bishop Love, became a Joshua for our Moses. Never has there been a young man who was more loyal and obedient to his leader.

Since the Consecration of Bishop Thomas on July 6, 1984, our state has grown, many persons have been installed in state positions and our church buildings have been renovated. Also, five new congregations have been founded and organized during the past four years. Our state is no longer in debt to the National Church. We can truthfully say that we accepted the challenge of our Presiding Chief Apostle, Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. yes, the Lord has blessed us to become a model for the Church of God in Christ in Virginia.

We can magnify the Lord for teaching us to be obedient to our leader, to be steadfast and unmoveable always abounding in the work of the Lord, and to take the Vision of our Leader and run with it.

As we culminate our celebration of a continuous 107 years of service to humanity through the Church of God in Christ in Virginia, we envision the Lord continuing to bless us and our future generations to work the work of Him that sent us. We pledge our loyalty, devotion, and service to the work of God and our Jurisdictional Prelate with these works: “Yes, You Can Count On Us!” Not just for church services but for hospital, jail, bus, broadcast, and witnessing ministries.

Upon the demise of Bishop Thomas on June 24, 2020, during the delayed General Assembly on December 28, 2020, Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. appointed Bishop Marc Thomas, Sr., Jurisdictional Prelate.

We Want To Serve Humanity!

Below are summaries of churches that sprung up all of the state of Virginia:

Southeast Virginia (1908) Southern District (1914) Shenandoah (1920, 1960)

Southeast Virginia (1908) | Top

The very first Church in Virginia was started in the home of a Mother Green in Chuckatuck, located just outside of Smithfield. It was founded by Bishop Charles H. Mason, Elder Caesar Wardell, Elder Jones and Mother Elliott. It appears that several arrests were made because of ‘disorder’ created by the saints receiving the Holy Ghost. Mother Green was the sister of Mother Goodwin of Norfolk.

The Church of God in Christ in Norfolk was founded by Bishop Mason and Elder Caesar Wardell of Richmond. The first church, a frame white building, was located on Cincinatti Street between Roscoe and Smith Streets facing Ann Street. Soon after the church was re-located to the 600 block of Cincinatti Street (now known as Goff Street). The building became known as the “tabernacle.” The uniqueness of this faith was based on the belief in the Trinity, in speaking in tongues, in baptism in the Holy Spirit, in water baptism and symbolized in living a life free of sin. Bishop also espoused a philosophy of faith healing. The year of the church’s establishment was about 1908. Elder Andrew Reed was the first pastor, followed by Elder Bryant who served for a brief period. Then Elder William Dove was appointed pastor and overseer.

Affiliating with the Church at that time were Sister Nettie Francis Jones, Elder Wardell’s daughter, Sister Collie Knotts, Arrajah and Rosetta Reid and their daughter, Nannie Mae (Love), Elder and Sister Vaughan and their daughters Ruby (Diggs) and Eunice (Hutchinson), Sister Mary Hunter, her son Buddie Saunders and her daughter, Dorothy Belle (Smith), Sister Laura Wilson and her stepdaughter, Edith Wilson (Stokes), Sister Laura Willis and her daughters, Dorothy and Pinky (Bady), Sister Susie Cypress (her husband, Elder Charles S. Cypress joined later), Sister Powell and her daughter, Lucinda (Baby Lou), Elder James Patterson, his wife and daughters, Virgie (Holloway) and Lorraine, Mother Walton; Mother Melissa Epps, the Church Mother, had four daughters: Rosa (Fitzgerald), Mattie, Elenora (Braxton), and Jenny. She had two sons, George and Sister Sadie Stinson and her children, Fannie, Jordan and Beulah. Sam Gray kept the stove fired. His sister was Sallie Gray. Deacon Harris and his wife, Virginia.

Nannie Reid (Love) was four years old when she received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Edith Wilson (Stokes) says that she was 9 or 10 years old when she and most of the saints were baptized by Elder Andrew Reed in the Lafayette River at Lee’s Bridge which crosses Chapel Street.

The Church had a String Band which was lead by Sister Laura Willis who played the guitar. Bertha Sumler and Estelle Cobb were soloists. Marie Harris played the piano.

In addition to the Sunday School which was taught by Mother Powell there was the Sunshine Band, a bible study group for young people which met on Tuesday evenings. Another organization in the Church was the Young People Willing Workers (Y. P. W. W.). Mother Powell encouraged each young person to read a bible scripture and discuss in their Sunday evening meetings.

Apparently, local missionaries went forth and spread the ‘word,’ inspiring more missions. Some eventually became the pastor. The first pastor of the Berkley church was Elder Powell. Elder James Patterson pastored the Newport News church, later followed by Elder David Dinkins. Members there were Sister Leola White, the Britt family, and Vernice Dinkins. The Emporia church was founded by Elder Hurdle. Members were his wife, Annie and his children, Joseph, Jessie, Annie (Dunlap) and Paul. Elder Randolph Johnson, Sr. became pastor in Richmond. Mother Powell of Norfolk was later appointed State Mother of North Carolina. Mother Fannie Walton because State Mother of Virginia, later followed by Mother Sadie Hawkins Stinson.

By 1931, Elder David C. Love had been ordained and assigned the pretty white frame church in Portsmouth. He commuted back and forth to Norfolk by ferry with his wife and very young children. Prior to that he served as pastor in Berkley. He was later assigned to West Munden, Staunton and then Richmond.

Elizabeth Cypress (Kellem) operated an excellent kindergarten in the dining hall building which stood on the front side of the tabernacle. She taught the children well and they all loved her.

By 1933, Elder William Dove was overseer. In 1934, Elder Love was appointed State Overseer. In 1948, he was among the first twelve to be consecrated to the bishopry by Bishop C. H. Mason. During his tenure the church grew from thirty missions and storefronts to 168 churches by 1959.

Southern District (1914) | Top

(The time between 1914 and 1919 as summarized by Brother Warner Person)

The beginning of the Church of God in Christ in Emporia started with Sunday School in an outside kitchen at the home of Deacon R. T. Person. During that time we got our Sunday School books and cards from the United Holiness Church through Elder Young. Our Sunday School became a community thing where all children were welcomed.

We didn’t have benches to hold all of us so we had to sit on wooden shingles. Our family at that time was my father, Deacon R. T. Person, my mother, Sister Mary Person, my brother, Archer, my sister, Stella, my young brother, Albert and myself, Warner.

Some of the first members of this Sunday School were Lucy Ann Carey, Mary Lundy, Lucy Mae Lundy, and many more in the community. It was, not long before our next door neighbor, Mr. Samuel Wyches’ daughters went to Richmond. They got saved and joined the church under Elder R. N. Johnson, Sr. In those days, the church was located on Lombardy Street. They told Elder Johnson about my father and he came to Emporia to meet him. A firm friendship developed that lasted through the years.

Elder Johnson began to come to Emporia and preached in the kitchens of the Persons and the Wyches and during those years, Elder Young and many other preachers came to preach. I remember a white minister, Elder Hines, who came many times. He always greeted them with a kiss which he would say was a Holy Kiss. His favorite song was “Lord, I Am Out Here On Your Word.”

Many ministers, black and white came. Some were barefooted. I can’t remember any of them being turned away. My father gave them a chance to speak, a place to sleep, and foot to eat.

Elder Johnson began to come every 1st Sunday. Brady and Haywood Person, my uncles, moved to Virginia and they got saved. Soon, Mr. & Mrs. Sam Wyche and Mr. & Mrs. Willie Banks got saved. It was decided to build a church on Lowground Road. My father, Deacon R. T. person, gave the land which was nothing but rats and trees. Everyone got together and cleared the land. They build the church and the pulpit was over a big rock. The building was about 16×16 with four windows on each side. The building got a “nick name,” it was called Turner’s Brick Church.

During these times, Elder Johnson would preach and the offering would be $1.25. My father would give him money to help him catch the train home. He kept on coming and I can remember many nights, Elder Johnson would pray all night and would stay at our home.

So this revival came and Elder Malone was the first minister, he was very good to us and gave us children candy and that was a treat. The church grew and many members joined. It was decided to add the same size building on to the back of the existing structure.

Next, it was convocation in Norfolk and Elder Reed was Overseer. Following the convocation, it was decided to have a month’s revival and Elder Reed came to carry it on. A big tent was erected where Mr. Joe Scott’s house is now. This is across from St. Paul Church of God in Christ. At this meeting many people joined the church. We had Norfolk’s whole string band. It was crowded every night with white as well as black. When this meeting was over, Emporia formed a church band and it was very good.

As time went on and the church grew, Sunday School attendance grew with older people that could not read but always came such as Ms. Ada Turner and Mrs. Ellen Wyche. Then the entertainment came on Children’s Day, Easter and Christmas. We had some recitations of any church. My what a time! During business meetings, it was decided not to get a tent but a shed next to the church. This was done, and many meetings were held there.

Shenandoah (1920) | Top

In the late teens of the 1900’s, Sister Ella Pearson from Natchez, Mississippi came to Staunton, Virginia to live with her brother and sister-in-law. At this time she was a young convert who had encountered the gospel in Mississippi through the branches of Dad Mason.

Moved by the Spirit and the absence of the sanctified presence in that city, she started teaching the gospel on the steps of the court house. Souls were convicted and believed her gospel and soon she moved into the Old Dance Hall at Sunnyside and Baptist Streets.

In 1920, Overseer Reed was called and the church was organized as the first church of God in Christ.

Later, it was decided to take down the old church and to build a new and larger one. This was built out of stucco. A fire destroyed this building but God blessed us (Warner) Mother Ida Person to rebuild a church and name it St. Paul Church of God in Christ. From this meager beginning as a small church, our Mother, Mother Mary Person started the Moton School in the year of 1931. This is the only school in our area started by saved blacks and that retained its name until the 1960’s.


White Chapel Church of God in Christ – Emporia, VA

In remembrance of the founders of the White Chapel Church of God in Christ. The late Pastor, Elder Russell Jackson and Mother Eva. M. Jackson (founders).

Prior to finding White Chapel Church in April 1960, Pastor & Mother Jackson were members of St. Paul Church of God in Christ. St. Paul Church of God in Christ is the oldest church in the Southern District. It’s land was donated in 1916 by Deacon Roman Person and Brothers. Deacon Ramon Person, who was a trustee of the church, his wife, Mother Mary Person, became church mother in 1927 and remained until 1976. The first pastor of St. Paul Church was Elder R. N. Johnson, Sr. and his wife Mother Nina B. Johnson was the first pastor’s wife.

In April 1960, White Chapel Church had its start. The oldest member of White Chapel Church is Brother Curtis Gilbert. The first baby born in White Chapel CHurch was Sister Mary Eva Branch Lundy born to Brother and District Missionary Emma Lundy. The founders of White Chapel Church both passed in 1982, six months apart.

The present pastor of White Chapel Church is Elder James Obie, Sr. Our first lady, Sister Delores Obie and Church Mother today is Mother Mildred Doyle.

Precious memories linger for our late Church Mother whose homegoing was in 1987, Mother Pauline Obey. Other loved ones gone home are Sister Mather Powell, Sister Erma Lundy, Sister Mary Eva Lundy Branch, Brother Walter Lundy, Sister Mary Hawkins, Sister Kitty Jones and her husband, Brother Jones, Sister Addie Wyche, and Brother Marcell Allen. In 1960, one of the first people to be saved and join the church was Brother James Obie. He served God, his church, and pastor faithfully. Twenty-three years later, God blessed him to become our Pastor.

The White Chapel Church is thriving under the mighty hand of God. He has blessed us to make new additions and renovations since 1960. We as a church family are happy to be a part of the heritage of the Church of God in Christ in Virginia.

Following Overseer Reed’s pastorage, the following clergy served the congregation:

Elder Malone
Overseer Charles Cypress
Overseer J. E. Bryant
Elder M. P. Phillips
Elder O. D. Hurdle
Overseer Dove
1933 – Overseer David C. Love
Elder Henry Russell
Bishop J. P. Dabney
Elder Melvin Clark
Elder P. A. Darcus
Superintendent Joseph Pride

Out of this Mother church, Elder Henry Darcus opened the doors of the House of Deliverance Church of God in Christ, in Harrisonburg, Virginia and Elder Booker T. Howard opened the doors of Gospel way Church of God in Christ, in Lexington, Virginia.

Sister Phoebe Brooks started a work in Lyndhurst, Virginia and at the request of the membership, Bishop Love, was called in and took this congregation in which later was to be known as the Steadfast Church of God in Christ, where Elder Winston Harris was appointed pastor. Out of this church, Elder Edward Massie opened the doors of a storefront in Waynesboro, Virginia. Out of the Waynesboro church, Elder C. Daniel Brown opened the doors of the Christ Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in the Oak Grove Section of Waynesboro. This church was opened on July 7, 1968. On September 11, 1977, Elder C. Daniel Brown opened the doors of a sister church in Charlottesville, Virginia, Deliverance Temple, 711 W. Main Street.

Dates to Remember | Top



1908 Arrajah, Rosetta Reid and their daughter, Nannie Mae joined the Church then located in Cincinatti (now Goff) Street in Norfolk. I think there might have been one other location prior to this
Affiliating at that time were Elder Wardell (Richmond), a founder, his daughter, Sister Nettie Frances Jones (Rachel’s mother), Sister Collie Knotts, Elder David Dinkins (Newport News), Elder William Dove who was then pastor in Norfolk. The Reid family received the baptism of the Holy Ghost under him. Mother Dear was 4 years old.
Other names that I recall were Elder Vaughan, Sister Eunice Vaughan (Hutchinson), Sister Mary Hunter, her son, Buddie, her daughter, Daisy Belle Stith, Mother Susie Cypress and Elder Charles S. Cypress (Suffolk), Elder Hurdle, his wife, Annie, their children, Joseph, Jessie, Paul, and Annie (Emporia), Elder Randolph Johnson, Sr. (Richmond), Sister Laura Wilson (Norfolk), Elder David Dinkins (Daddy was saved under him), Aunt Leola White (Newport News), Elder Gatlin (Virginia Beach), Britt Family (Newport News), Mother Walton (Norfolk).
1924 At the age of 23, Bishop Love was ordained to the ministry in 1924, first pastoring in Berkley, then Portsmouth, West Munden, Staunton and Richmond.
Elizabeth Cypress Kellum operated an excellent kindergarten in the dining hall building which stood on the side of the tabernacle. It is now 56 years later and I can still recite the litany she taught us
1931 Bishop Love pastoring in Portsmouth
1933 Elder Dove was Overseer. Bishop Love pastoring in Staunton. David, Jr. was born there in 1934. Some of the members of the Church there were white.
1934 Bishop Love was appointed State Overseer.
1948 He was among the first twelve to be consecrated bishop by Bishop Charles H. Mason. During his tenure, the Church grew from thirty missions and storefronts to 168 churches by 1959.
1959 Some of the State Leaders split from our Jurisdiction and formed Jurisdiction 2, Bishop Williams became their Jurisdictional Prelate.
Herald of His Coming Church of God in christ was started and the building purchased on 27th and Fawn Streets in Norfolk, Virginia
1962 Bishop Love moved to Norfolk but continued to Pastor Love’s Temple in Richmond.
1966 Bishop Willis and Elder Mitchell separated from Jurisdictions I and II and formed Jurisdiction III.
1970 Love Temple in Fulton was sold and the new Love’s Temple, now Community Church of God in Christ, was purchased.
1984 After the passing of Bishop David C. Love, Elder Ted G. Thomas, Sr. was appointed as the seventh in succession as the Prelate of the Historic First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Virginia.
2020 After the passing of Bishop Ted G. Thomas, Sr., Bishop Marc A. Thomas, Sr. was chosen to follow after his father and was appointed as the eight in succession as the Prelate of the Historic First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Virginia.