|Christ Temple was organized at a little storefront church on 145th Street in August 1958 in Harlem, New York. The pastor hosting the meeting was the late Elder Nathaniel Bryd. It was here that the late Bishop James I. Clark, Sr. (then Elder James I. Clark, Sr.), Elder Odell Lyerly, the late Elder C. W. Jones, the then ministers George A. Gary, Carey Robinson, Roy Powlis, the late Deacon Joseph Powlis and a number of other ministers, deacons, missionaries along with the late Mother Rachel J. Clark gathered to put the finishing touch on this new church.
The Church was organized as the first church established in Harlem representing the newly organized Bibleway Churches World Wide, Inc. (BCWW), an organization established after a split with the Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. Bishop R. C. Lawson was the Apostle of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the time. Bishop James I. Clark, Sr., as one of the founders of the new organization, took the lead in establishing this church in Harlem (there were churches in other boroughs, but none in Manhattan) to represent the newly formed BCWW.
The first leaders of the new Church were as follows: Pastor, then Elder James I. Clark, Sr., Assistant Pastor, then Elder Odell Lyerly, Senior Deacon, Deacon Joseph Powlis, Missionary President, Mother Ellen Edwards. Other officers were appointed later in the year as the church set about to fulfill its mission. The first official meeting of the church was held in the auditorium of the United Mutual Insurance Building on Lenox Avenue between 125th and 126th Streets. The first official home of Christ Temple was located on the second floor of a building contiguous to and owned by the Williams Institutional Church on the corner of then Seventh Avenue and 132nd Street.
The Church later found another location to hold its services after the Seventh Avenue location in the Fall of 1959. It was blessed to occupy the second and third floors of a building at 507-509 West 125th Street. It needed some renovations so with the expert guidance of Deacon Joseph Powlis the men of the church including its pastor, set about to prepare the new location for its services. The Church moved to this location and in addition to regular worship services Elder Clark who was also the former Dean of the Church of Christ Bible Institute established the Bibleway Bible Institute on the third floor. The Pastor's office, a kitchen and recreation room was set up on the third floor as well. The building was ideal for the growth and expansion of the new ministry.
Not long after the Church settled in its new location it became evident that there would be some difficult days ahead for the new Pastor and his flock. Some members eventually left to return to their former churches or, in the case of the Elders, opened their own churches. The church experienced the traditional growing pains in the years ahead. Time will not permit a discussion of some of the most wrenching experiences. Suffice it to say that the Church had its "mixed multitude" as did Moses and the children of Israel as they left Egypt for the Promised Land. There were several dedicated and loyal leaders and members, however, they persevered. During this time, many people were baptized and many received the baptism in the Holy Ghost as well. It seems appropriate to give special recognition to a very dedicated worker during this particular time, the late Sister Florence Mallette. It was mainly through her efforts that the Christ Temple Sunday School Department and the Release Time program realized such growth and success.
After approximately twelve years with the Bibleway Churches World Wide, Inc. that Bishop James I. Clark, Sr. decided it would be in his best interest and that of the Church's that they return to the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. The majority of the members did not agree and so when he announced his plan and made overtures to the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc., the majority of the members departed and opened another (other) Church. His decision was prompted by some disagreement with the leadership of the Bibleway Church's Executive Board and an offer he received from COOLJC to resume the leadership of the Church of Christ Bible Institute. He was named President of the Institute in the Fall of 1968. We did not know at the time that Bishop Clark's health was failing. He experienced a mild heart attack, but it did not seem to do severe damage to him. It wasn't long after that that we realized it would be too much for him to continue as pastor of Christ Temple and carry on the responsibilities of President of the Bible Institute, so his son was installed as Pastor of Christ Temple on Sunday afternoon, September 14, 1969.
The membership had dwindled to just a few by this time. In the beginning of his pastorate, Elder James I. Clark, Jr. with his wife Sister Shirley Lorraine Clark at his side, and their children, James, Renee and Rhonda, was joined by then Minister John Teel and Minister Alfred Gordon, both served as Assistant Pastor, respectively. Mother Rachel Clark remained to support her son and pastor. Sister Marjorie Cummings served as President of the Usher Board. Sister Bessie Reid was appointed as President of the Missionary Department. The late Sister Florence Mallette and Deacon Ambrose Mallette retuned after a short absence and gave full support to the fledging new ministry. Sister Ernestine Teel, Deacon and Sister Raleigh Clark and Sister Deloris Ripley also joined to form a faithful and dedicated nucleus around the new pastor. Sister Hazel Burnside and her family also became a member of Christ Temple along with Sister Evangeline Clark and her son Terrance. All of the above members included their children in the Sunday School and Youth activities of the church thus giving the church potential for a positive future.
The above group was eventually joined by others who contributed much to the growth of this ministry and are still with us: Mother Verdelle Jones, Mother Mercedes Herbert and her daughters, Joan Strawder, Claire Underwood, Sharon Hayes and their children, Elder Ernest Herbert, Sr. also assisted us with our prayer services and other ministerial activities. Sister Margaret Roe became a member during this period as well and has blessed this ministry with her faithfulness and service. Elder Alvin and Sister Albertha Thomas gave much help and support as well. The Church took a new direction and during this time we sought to minister to the total needs of the membership and our community by instituting tutorial programs, working with various community organizations and groups.
In the Spring of 1978 the Lord gave Pastor a burden to move the Church to a new location. By now the Church had grown in number. The all night prayer services on Friday nights and the forty day partial fasts seemed to be sent by the Lord to prepare us for the move. The Lord Jesus granted us favor with the late Hope Stevens, Esq., and Mother Divine and the members of the Peace Nazareth Mission and they agreed to sell us our present facility. On Sunday afternoon, August 6, 1978 we, joined by our dear brother and friend, then Elder Ronald Carter, his wife Sister Phyllis Carter and members of their congregation, marched across 125th Street in the rain to Lenox Avenue and down 128th Street to 13-17 West 128th Street. It was a most joyous occasion.
It can be truly said, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." The glory belongs to God and to Him only. Through His grace many, many peopled have prayed for and supported Christ Temple and as a result hundreds have been blessed. Many have been healed of infirmities. We know of several who have been delivered from demonic influence. Scores have been baptized in the name of Jesus and scores more have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is a very humbling experience to reflect on these past thirty six years and the almost fifty years of Christ Temple's existence, and consider all that the Lord has done for us. He has sustained and blessed us beyond our imaginings. Certainly, "it is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes." The battle is still on, however, and we count not our selves to be apprehended that for which we have been apprehended of Christ Jesus, but we are assured of victory if we continue to trust in his goodness and faithfulness. We are committed to this purpose until He returns to take us back with Him.
Christ Temple continues to embrace and support the foundational teachings of our Apostolic tradition and we are doing all we can to live the teachings of the gospel in a concrete and unequivocal way. To this end, Christ Temple has given full support to its Pastor's spiritual, educational and social vision. (Please see our Mission and Vision Statements and our Core Values at this site). The Church has developed and implemented initiatives to provide relief to the poor and the many victims of the evil forces undermining life in urban America during these times. We have organized a social action agency of Christ Temple which is designated Koinonia. This not-for-profit agency is an extension of the Church's overall ministry. Its focus will be strictly to develop social change initiatives and to play a much larger roll in bringing about progressive social change in the Harlem Community. "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."