In 1906 the Pentecostal Azusa Street Revival broke out in Los Angeles, CA. The apostolic flames spread across the country reaching Pitt County in 1938. It was in that year that Holy Temple and the Saintsville Community began in Pitt County as the founding pastor, Elder Irvin Tillery of Tarboro, NC preached the same apostolic message that was preached on Azusa Street. Initially, services were held at Brown’s Chapel Church on a site 3 miles from the present Holy Temple Campus. Through unfortunate circumstances, Brown’s Chapel burned down. Elder Tillery continued to preach moving across the canal to the area that would latter become known as Saintsville. Initially church services were held under the towering oak tree on the grounds, but later, saints and other supporters build a small cinder block church in which to worship.
Based upon Acts 4:32, Elder Tillery envisioned a church community that would be self-sufficient where “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul; neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.’ Under his leadership, the church members pooled resources and acquired 40 acres of land for $740.00 or $400.00 through bidding. According to sources, “Roger Whitaker, Robert Lee Tillery (son of Pastor), and Dolong Perry were responsible for scouting out the land for purchase.” Original families included Adams’, Harris’, Tillery’s, Langley’s, Moore’s, Perkins’, and Whitaker’s. A portion of the land was cleared and cultivated for farming. Some of the founding members built homes for their families on the acquired property using a cinder block maker invented by Lonnie Ervin Tillery. Today two houses (Tillery and Moore) still stand which were built by HTC saints from cinder blocks manufactured in Saintsville.
As the community and church prospered it became known as Saintsville. It is believed that bill Moore who later served as a faithful deacon is responsible for naming Saintsville. Saintsville centered around the church. Everyday at noon the church bell would ring calling saints from the fields to prayer. According to Reverend Wiley Whitaker who lived here during the time, “the bell could be heard for a one mile around.” All knew it was time to gather at the home of Deacon Billy Moore for prayer. One interview suggested that Billy Moore was so strict that he “did not want anyone to wear short sleeves in his house.” However, any self-denial was rewarded in his ability to pray for healing and receive by faith. The bell would ring again on Sunday morning calling all to Sunday School.
The naming of the community Saintsville not only indicated it was a place created by and for saints, but it also suggested the beginning of economic wherewithal commonly associated with a small town. As these saints grew in faith, they also grew as farmers and skilled tradesmen able to work with their hands as carpenters and cinder block makers. Various enterprises were set up to provide work and meet the needs of families now residing in this community of saints. These innovative black holiness farmers developed in Saintsville their own “tractor operated hay baler” and “”peanut picker” that was used to harvest peanut crops and bale the hay for livestock. A cucumber market operated at the edge of the community allowing other farmers to come to Saintsville to sale their crop. A country store which sold among other things smoked sausage and sodas was operated by Mother Emma Tillery, wife of Pastor Irvin Tillery. A sawmill was purchased and operated by the Whitaker family. Through the operations of the sawmill and skills acquired in Saintsville, it is said that the young Jesse Langley (son of Willie Langley) perfected his carpentry and masonry skills to become a master carpenter who worked for Rev. Leon Sullivan in Philadelphia. Robert L Harris, Sr. who was the resident mechanic in Saintsville later worked for Ford Motor Company in Bridgeport, CT as chief troubleshooter. According to Joe N Whitaker and Zola Barnhill, “Robert Harris could dissemble a transmission, put its hundreds of parts on a table, and flawlessly reassemble it.”
As the community grew, so did the needs of the people. Wiley Whitaker recollects that a church storehouse was built. The saints “tithed” or contributed to it so neighbors could help each other. Food, clothing, and other necessities were brought to the storehouse fore those who had need. This act of love and sacrifice ensured that the elderly and widowed would have food and clothing without a charge. According to Mother Zola Barnhill (daughter of Eliza Walker), those persons who needed food or clothes could “go into the storehouse” and receive at no cost.
In any thriving community, education (formal or otherwise) is fundamental to success. Saintsville was no different. Pastor Tillery began a school to teach the youth of Saintsville. Under the tutelage of Professor Donald E Dorman, the Apostolic Bible Institute (AFBI) was established as a means of “training them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). According to Mother Zola Barnhill, Professor Donald E Dorman and Sister Bertha Harris were teachers in the school. Sister Harris also served as secretary for the church.
In 1951, following the departure of Elder Irvin Tillery, Bishop George B White, of Washington, DC became the pastor. Bishop White traveled to HolyTemple every fourth Sunday to minister. In his absence, associate ministers including Elder Sidney Roland, Elder Jack Richardson, Elder David Payton, and Elder Isaac Robinson assisted with various functions within the church such as baptisms, revivals, funerals, and weddings. Bishop White was hardly an emotional preacher but an avid student of the Word and expository preacher. He would often say, “I may not get you to dance, but I hope I can get you to think.” Under his leadership in 1969, the church was rebuilt to include a fellowship hall, pastor study, ladies lounge, and indoor bathroom facilities. Bishop White served until his health failed. During the interim Elder Jack Richardson followed by Elder Isaac Robinson served tenures as Assistant Pastor until Bishop White’s death in 1979.
Elder Isaac J. Robinson became pastor of HolyTemple in 1979 following the death of Bishop George B. White. As he began to teach the principal of tithing, the church continued to prosper. Under his leadership, Holy Temple Church was incorporated as Holy Temple Apostolic Faith Church of God, Inc. under the North Carolina not for profit status and recognized as 501 C (3) organization. Several building projects including the external beautification project (bricking of sanctuary, establishing of an asphalt parking lot, and installation of electric signage), the acquisition of a 26 acre farm, and the construction of the 5100 square feet IsaacJacobCenter were completed during his leadership. Because of his love for the people of God, the HTC Benevolence Fund and the Seed Food Pantry were established and dedicated to meet the local mission needs (housing, utilities, clothing, food, etc) of persons in the community and HTC members. Also, BUILD of NC, Inc-a subsidiary of HTC, was established to provide community development services to PittCounty and beyond. BUILD operated an award winning after school program, (PC STARS, (Pitt County Strategies for the Total Advancement of Rural Students) for up to 34 PittCounty students. Having completed his assignments, Elder Isaac Robinson announced his retirement on September 20, 2007.
Upon announcement of his retirement in 2007, Elder Isaac Robinson recommended the appointment of his son in the Gospel and “knee baby”, Elder William Robinson as the successor pastor. From a child William had served his father “carrying his father’s ministry bags” and later assisting administratively as the Administrative Assistant to the Pastor. In 1997, he was named Assistant Pastor where he assumed greater responsibility for the spiritual affairs of ministry. The Religious Executive board and general membership of HolyTemple affirmed the pastor’s recommendation during the annual member’s meeting in September 2007. Thus, effective January 1, 2008 Elder William S Robinson became the 4th Pastor of Holy Temple Church.
In an attempt to continue to build upon the same foundation of his predecessors, Elder William held a series of meetings in early 2008 with ministry leaders and laypersons designed to chart a bold course for ministry focused on meeting diverse needs of the community through Christ centered preaching ad care focused reaching. With much prayer and communication, Elder William Robinson sought to share his vision for taking the Gospel to every home within a 5 mile radius of the church over a seven year period, 2008-2014. Thus, the Radius 5-7 Harvest Ministry was born with the CBTW (Church Beyond The Walls) focus. What began with a church-wide consistent prayer in 2008 continues today as community wide evangelism through community crusades in high crime neighborhoods, discovery home bible study groups (7), and other focused efforts to reach the lost of our community. In an initial training effort in preparation for outreach, the inaugural Summit On Holiness (November 2008) attracted attendees who share Pastor William’s desire for reaching our community and beyond. To date over 1,000 bibles and copies of The Way U Magazine have been delivered to homes within a 3 mile radius of HolyTempleChurch.
In November 2009, the church purchased the Billy Moore home place directly in front of the church in a strategic move to prepare for future opportunities to serve the young and/or old. In December 2009, the retrofit of the old fellowship hall into an evangelism center (outreach, finance, and hospitality) began as a HTC economic stimulus program for brothers in the church who were unemployed or underemployed. With most of the work on the center being performed by HTC members, the center was dedicated on May 29, 2011 as the center of operations for Radius 4-7 and the CBTW (Church Beyond the Walls).
While he continues to focus primarily on preaching Christ and teaching holiness, Pastor William encourages all HTC partners to stay connected to Christ through the Word and fellowship of other believers. Thus, a variety of ministry opportunities are continuously offered and being developed which focus on making better disciples and serving others. In the area of building disciples, HolyTemple’s mainstay is the preaching of the gospel and teaching holiness as a commitment to the highest standards of God through “precept upon Precept” exposition of the Word. In the area of service, the church acquires and distributes in excess of 87,000 pounds of food to 4,000+ individuals each year. In addition, a summer faith based “digital media” camp is offered to community youth at no cost to attendees.
Holy Temple is still located on its original campus in Saintsville, a community so named because the community primarily consisted of those saints who affiliated with the church. The road perpendicular to the church now bares the name of “Saintsville Rd.” As we continue to focus on Christ-centered and care focused ministry, we appreciate our past and expect God to expand our territory as we look to the future. At the end of the journey, we will continue to say “To God be the Glory!”
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