In the year of our Lord 1932, Minister Charles Edward Poole was led by God to open a mission on the Westside of Chicago, Illinois. In obedience to the Holy-spirit, Bethlehem Tabernacle was born which was later renamed Bethlehem Healing Temple in 1954. The mission was located on the corner of Lake and Leavitt Streets.
In 1938, Bethlehem Tabernacle relocated to 114 N. Leavitt Street – a garage that was converted to a place of worship. It was about this time when Evangelist Mattie Belle Robinson Poole joined her husband in the ministry. In 1944 the church relocated to a storefront on the corner of Lake and Campbell Streets. It was at this location through much dedication, prayer, suffering and persecution that God so mightily blessed the Mission by placing the gift of healing in our midst in such a dynamic and glorious way. Many miracles were performed, the lame walked, the blind were made to see and deaf ears were opened. Many of these persons make up the congregation to this day. The word of healing spread throughout the city, the country, the world. The theme statements, “Why Should You Suffer When Others are being Healed? Why Should You Die before Your Time?” began to take root.
The storefront was filled to capacity until 1953 or 1954 when we were forced to build a new church building on Campbell Avenue, adjoining the Lake Street Mission. The seating capacity was 500 -600. This new structure was known as Bethlehem Healing Temple.
People came from far and near to experience the mighty moving of the Holy Spirit, as God’s two servants ministered to the needs of the people. Thousands of souls have been baptized in Jesus name and filled with the Holy Ghost. The Bethlehem Healing Temple has been and is an asset to the Community.
Bethlehem Healing Temple grew to include many auxiliaries and office staff. The church continued its outreach over several radio stations heard nationally and internationally. Additionally, our communication has been extensive through literature, record albums and tapes. A Chapel where people from all walks of life can come and pray throughout the day was constructed in the 1960s.
Bethlehem Healing Temple outgrew the building on Campbell and Lake and through much prayer and careful maneuvering Bishop and Evangelist Poole acquired our present building, and in the month of June, 1961 we marched from 2500 West Lake Street to 12 South Oakley Boulevard, where for years God has shown His power and thousands have been brought from darkness to light.
Through extensive traveling of our leaders and the workers throughout the country, the congregation grew, churches were added birthing the Living Witnesses of the Apostolic Faith, Incorporated founded and directed by Evangelist Mattie B Poole. Some of these churches include Bethlehem Healing Temples in Brooklyn, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; Atlanta, Georgia; Gary, Indiana; Lockport, Illinois and Revival Tabernacle on the Southside of Chicago. We also have several Bethlehem Healing Temples in Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria, West Africa. Many of our Elders, Evangelists and Ministers have branched out and established churches throughout the city and other sections of the country.
The mailing list grew to well over 25,000 persons who were corresponding with us throughout the years not including writers from Jamaica and Barbados, West Indies, Haiti, England, Israel, Africa, Canada, China and India.
After a serious confrontation with the United States Postal Service in 1955 where Elder and Evangelist Poole were summoned to Washington, DC to answer questions relating to our beliefs, God marvelously gave us victory, leading to the United States Postal Service awarding Bethlehem Healing Temple the Blue Ribbon Commendation as a seal of recognition. Out of this situation was born the annual “Day of Thanks”, a day set aside each year to thank God for giving us the victory in Washington, DC.
Evangelist Mattie B. Poole served as assistant pastor until her death in 1968. Other assistant pastors include Evangelist Fannie Mae Poole (1968- 1973) and Evangelist Mary Poole (1974-1985). Four members who have served under Bishop and Evangelist Poole at the Bethlehem Healing Temple the longest are Mother Charity Walker Pettis who joined in 1943, Mother Lavina E. Jordan who joined in 1948, Trustee Herbert E. Jordan who joined in 1948, and Deacon Clarence Brownlow who joined in 1949.
In April 1984, after the death of Bishop Poole in January 1984, the congregation elected Bishop Arcenia C. Richards as pastor of Bethlehem Healing Temple. Through his ministry more believers came to Christ and were taught, counseled and encouraged to continue in the Faith.
Bishop Richards died on August 9, 2001. After his death a church dispute arose from a small splinter group and as to who would be the Pastor. This led to a serious confrontation that took six years to wind through the Circuit, Appellate and Supreme Courts, resulting in victory for the members of the church on September 14, 2007. During the court battle the large contingent of members who were forced to leave the Bethlehem Healing Temple Church voted to change the church name to Greater Bethlehem Healing Temple.
In January, in the year of our Lord 2006, Bishop Chester Hudson was elected Pastor of Greater Bethlehem Healing Temple and the vision continues…
Compiled from the writings of:
Lavina E. Jordan, January 1984
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