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Article of the Month

Saluting the Ministerial Body of the
Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
(several missing from photo)

One of the most challenging positions in the church is that of being a minister of the Gospel. Even more challenging is the calling and sacrifice required to be a pastor or shepherd over a flock of God's people. The men of God are entrusted with spiritual instruction of the saints. They may make the difference between heaven and hell for those to whom they preach. The men of God serve as God's spokesman to the human race.

Have you ever stopped to think about the service that the men of God render to you? They counsel with you during difficult times in your life, pray with and for you as you face sickness and life's problems, provide encouragement when you are discouraged, visit you during your illnesses and hospital stays, and most importantly they preach to you the living and uncompromised Word of God. They often sacrifice spending precious time with their families to care for the needs of the saints. How many times have our pastors interceded on our behalf when God would have allowed swift judgment to come upon many of us? Take a moment to read Numbers 14:1-20, and it will help you to better appreciate the intercessory role of your pastor. It is so easy for many to criticize the men of God, without realizing the important role they play in our salvation. Hebrews 13:17 tell us to, "obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

As each of you begin the year 2006, make it a priority to thank God for the pastors, elders and ministers of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. Resolve that you will pray for your pastor and for all the men of God, rather than criticizing them. Pray that God will bless the men of God, under the leadership of Presiding Bishop Edward Smith, and pray that God will continue to give them a "Word from Heaven" to meet the needs of His people. When you have the opportunity, share with your pastor and the other men of God how much you appreciate their labor of love. By far the greatest thing you can do for the men of God is to live lives that exemplify the Christ whom they preach unto you!

A Prayer for My Pastor

Father, let me be a pillar of strength to help hold up my pastor and not a thorn in his flesh to sap his strength, or a burden on his back to weigh him down. Let me support him without striving to possess him. Let me lift his hands without shackling them. Let me give him any help that he may devote more time to working for the salvation of others and less time to gratifying my vanity.

Father, let me appreciate him as the pastor of all the members and not compel him to spend precious time in pleasing me. Let me be unselfish in what I do for him and in what I ask him to do for me. Let my life be an example of the Word of God he preaches.




Archived Articles

 Remembering Our Second Presiding Bishop

 Saluting the Oldest Member of the Progressive Church

 Progress in St. Petersburg, FL
 Progress in Florence, SC
 Project Africa
 Remembering Our Founder

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Remembering our Founder
Bishop Joseph D. Williams, Sr.
1892 - 1966

One cannot speak of the history of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. without reflecting upon the life and legacy of its founder, the late Bishop Joseph David Williams, Sr. For through his sacrifice and labor, the Progressive Church was established. Bishop Williams was born in Georgia on September 2, 1892. As a young adult, he moved to New York City to find work.  In 1922, he heard the Word of God preached by the late Bishop R. C. Lawson and was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ at the Greater Refuge Temple on 133rd Street in New York. He then became a member of the Greater Refuge Temple (Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc.). He later met and married the former Bessie Friday.

Some years later, he relocated to Cleveland, OH and was called into the ministry in 1933. That same year, with only 15 members, he founded the Pilgrim Church of Christ at a prayer meeting in his home in Cleveland, OH. He led the small congregation in Cleveland faithfully and the Lord blessed the small church to grow as souls were saved by the preaching of the gospel. In March of 1944, he came to Columbia, SC at the request of his wife, Sister Bessie Williams, to pray for her niece, Sister Helen Washington. When he arrived in Columbia, he found Sister Washington bed-ridden and very ill. There, he had prayer with her and told her that he wanted her to get up the next morning and eat breakfast. When he returned the next day, Sister Washington was sitting up on the side of the bed eating breakfast. God had delivered her through prayer!

At that time, Bishop Williams took the opportunity to share with Sister Washington the gospel message of salvation through water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.  As it was on the day of Pentecost, she gladly received the Word of God and agreed to submit to water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Bishop Williams inquired with several pastors about using their pool to perform the baptism. However, no pastor in the area would allow him use of a pool. As a result, Sister Washington was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in a bath tub, at her mother’s house on Read Street in Columbia. Eight days later, God filled her with the gift of the Holy Ghost.  From then on, in the words of Bishop Williams, “God began to work signs and wonders in the city of Columbia.”

Bishop Williams returned to Cleveland, OH and continued his work with the Pilgrim Church of Christ. Having been raised in the south, he had always stated that he would never move back to the south again. However, the Lord had other plans for his life and began to move on his heart to relocate to Columbia, SC. As an established pastor in a growing church, that could not have been an easy decision to make. Yet, being obedient to the inspiration of the Lord, he spoke to his Presiding Bishop, the late Bishop R.C. Lawson and made him aware of his desire. Bishop Lawson gave Bishop Williams his blessings to resign his pastorate at the Pilgrim Church of Christ and move to Columbia, SC. In a short period of time, he sold his possessions and he and his with his wife moved to Columbia.

After arriving in Columbia, Bishop Williams lived in the home of his sister-in-law, the late Sister Carrie Brown. Bishop Williams held the first service in Columbia on June 8, 1944 in the home of the late Bishop and Sister Joel G. Washington. During this service, Sister Emma Preston, aunt of Sister Bessie Williams, was saved.  It was a great transition for Bishop Williams to leave an established church and move to Columbia, SC to start from scratch. But he often stated that God had sent him to Columbia with “sealed orders” that would be revealed in due time. Bishop Williams, Sister Bessie and Sister Helen Washington spent many days walking the streets of Columbia and witnessing to all they encountered about God’s plan of salvation and inviting many to come out to services at the Progressive Church.

As the months passed, many came out to services and souls began to be saved. As the congregation grew, Sister Carrie Brown allowed Bishop Williams to hold service in an old building she owned, called the “hole in the wall.” Shortly after this time, Bishop Williams had plans to build a church for the growing congregation. Sister Carrie Brown donated land in the Taylors Community of Columbia and a small church was built there in 1945. A few months later, Bishop Williams invited his former pastor, Bishop R. C. Lawson, to come to Columbia to dedicate the church.

Bishop Williams often told the story of how, at that time, the Lord seemed to be sending in many souls to be saved. However, one night during a Bible Study as Bishop Williams preached the Word of God, 17 of the members of the church became offended at the Word of God and walked out of the church. This certainly must have dismayed the man of God, yet he continued to stand firm on the Word of God. He believed that God would send in a harvest. Shortly after that time, many souls were saved through the preaching of the gospel.

By observing the progress of the church in a casual conversation, Bishop Williams named the church, “Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.” The church was later official chartered with the name. At that time, many of the saints did not have automobiles to drive to the little church in the Taylors Community in Columbia. Bishop Williams would drive his Ford sedan, making several trips, to pick up the saints for church services. Some had such a desire to be in service that they would ride in the trunk of the car when there was no room inside. 

In early part of 1952, Bishop Williams found a rented church at 2217 Waverly Street, a more central location in Columbia. For a short period of time, services were held at the Waverly Street Church and at the church in Taylors. Later, He decided to move the church from the Taylors Community to Waverly Street. When the church at Waverly Street was first rented, it was in terrible condition. There was saw dust on the floor and the theater—style seats had many broken spaces and exposed nails. Some of the saints were embarrassed at the state of the building. However, the saints began to repair the building and took pride in their new place of worship. Bishop Williams and the saints were able to later purchase and completely renovate the Waverly Street Church a few years later. 

Bishop Williams was a man who believed strongly in personal evangelism. During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, he took the opportunity to preach in many of the denominational churches in and around the Columbia area, sharing the true plan of salvation. As a result of his ministry, many came to the Progressive Church to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Many saints that were saved were so convicted and convinced by the Word of God that they would often ask Bishop Williams to come to their home towns to preach to family members and friends. Bishop Williams would readily accept their invitations and would travel all over the state of South Carolina sharing the plan of salvation with anyone who would provide a listening ear. As a result of this form of personal evangelism and witnessing in the late 1940s and 1950s, Progressive Churches were established in Killian, Mullins, Denmark, Lugoff, Bishopville, and Florence, SC.

Bishop Williams traveled to each of the newly founded Progressive Churches to help lay a strong foundation for the young congregations. When the church in Mullins was established, he traveled from Columbia to Mullins for three straight weeks, preaching nightly to help the young church grow. Because of the love and support of the saints, the Bishop would rarely travel alone. Often, several cars filled with saints would follow him wherever he preached. Even in the face of adversity and physical danger, his determination to see souls saved would not allow him to stop. One night in 1955, while he preached at the Progressive Church in Lugoff, SC, someone slashed the tires on his car and fired shots through the window of the church. For some, this would have been enough to make them stop. Yet, Bishop Williams continued with the work in Lugoff because he believed that souls in the area needed to be saved. On another occasion, as he preached at the Progressive Church in Mullins, SC a man entered the church with a shotgun, threatening to kill him. As the saints prayed, the man suddenly turned around and walked out of the church. Later that night, the same man was killed with his own gun in a fight.

Bishop and Sister J. D. (Bessie) Williams
at the Headquarters Church in Columbia, SC

One night in 1959, Bishop Williams traveled along with one of his young pastors, Elder Edward Smith, to pray for a sister  who was ill in Blackville, SC. While traveling down the highway with Elder Smith driving, their car was hit head-on by a drunken driver. Bishop Williams sustained a broken leg and was taken back to the hospital in Columbia by an ambulance. His leg was placed in a cast for several weeks, in order to give him time to heal properly. While some pastors would have taken this time off to rest, Bishop Williams was not the ordinary pastor. Though he was unable to stand, he preached sitting down until his leg healed and the cast was removed.

Though Bishop Williams labored in each of the Progressive Churches, he spent most of his time in Columbia, SC, where he was pastor. His love for the saints in Columbia was as deep as their love for him. At a pastor’s appreciation service in the late 1950’s, the saints purchased a Chrysler Imperial for Bishop Williams. He could often be found at the church during the day sitting in his Chrysler counseling with the saints. He had an unfailing love for the people of God and would freely give of his money and time for the saints.

Bishop Williams also had a close bond with the youth of the church. He would often sit outside of the Columbia church on Saturday evenings to talk with the youth of the church and to watch them as they played sports. He also believed in training young men and in giving them opportunities to take on leadership roles in the church. Many young brothers were saved under his leadership and after a few years under his tutelage, they were sent to serve as pastors of the various churches around the state. Among those young men were: Joel G. Washington, Edward Smith, Henry J. Breakfield, Ernest Finkley, Herman Jackson, Calvin Jackson, Malon Pollock, Heyward Anderson, Thomas Douglas, and Joe Rutherford.  Although these young men were sent out as pastors in their own right, they would often make their way back to the “headquarters church” in Columbia to get spiritual instruction from Bishop Williams during his weekly Friday evening Bible Class.  As a pastor’s pastor, he demanded commitment, loyalty and dedication to the work of the Lord from all men who served in the ministry.

Bishop Williams was a man of great faith who believed in the power of prayer. Many saints were delivered from their afflictions and illnesses after he prayed for them. As he visited the saints in the hospital, he would often pray for the other sick persons there. Many would later come to the church to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In the early 1950’s, there was a woman from Swansea, SC in the old Columbia Hospital who Bishop Williams prayed for. After prayer, the Lord healed her and she was able to leave the hospital and come to the church to be baptized. After being baptized she went home and became sick once again, and was unable to walk. Bishop Williams traveled, along with Sister Helen Washington and Sister Laura Ashe, to Swansea to pray for the sister. When he arrived at her home, she was seriously ill. He laid hands on the sister and prayed the prayer of faith. As he laid hands on her, the woman received the gift of the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues. She also was able to get up out of bed and began to walk.

On another occasion, as Bishop Williams and other saints traveled to one of the Progressive Churches in South Carolina, his car broke down and would not start. After examining the mechanical parts of the engine to determine the problem, no quick resolution could be found. As others stood by in amazement, Bishop Williams took anointing oil out of his coat pocket. He anointed the car and prayed, asking the Lord to fix the problem. After praying, he cranked the vehicle and, miraculously, the car started running immediately. Bishop Williams believed that faith in action would produce divine results.

What some would deem a “long-winded” preacher, Bishop Williams would take his time to clearly explain and expound the Word of God when he preached. Many recall listening to Bishop Williams preach on a Sunday Morning until nearly 3:00 p.m. and on a Friday night Bible Class until midnight. Yet, no one became bored or disinterested because of their hunger for the Word of God.  He would allow the saints to ask any question they desired during Bible Class and would always point them to a particular scripture in the Bible when giving an answer to their questions. Bishop Williams often taught the saints that, “if God will bless anything, He would bless His Word.” As a “no-nonsense” preacher, he believed in and preached the Word of God, without compromise. For those that did not want to live by and obey the Word of God, he would readily tell them that he would “rather have their room than their company.”

Bishop Williams enjoys a worship service in Columbia, SC

Worship services during the lifetime of Bishop Williams can be described as nothing less than “exciting” and “spirited.” Having been a part of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., he was used to spirited and lively worship services. He, in turn, brought that same “flavor of worship” with him to Columbia, SC. He taught the saints that worship services did not have to be “dead” or “dry.” Many of the old jubilee songs of the church were taught by Bishop Williams. In the early years of the church, there were no musicians to provide music for the worship services. As a skilled guitar player, Bishop Williams would play the guitar to provide music for the services. He often loved to sing songs in the worship services. Some of his favorite songs were: “He’s the Lily of the Valley,” “Sweet Will of God,” “So Wash Me Thou,” and “Your Heart Must Be Clean to See Jesus.” Bishop Williams was not a man who would often dance or shout, when anointed by the Holy Ghost. He instead would simply cry and clap his hands.

As the organization began to grow, Bishop Williams had a desire to build a church in Columbia, SC to serve as a fitting “headquarters” for the organization. Groundbreaking for the new building took place in 1959. He was able to realize this dream on Sunday, April 8, 1962 at the dedication service for the new edifice. After many years of planning and construction, the Lord blessed the new headquarters church in Columbia, SC to be completed and dedicated. Bishop Williams invited his long-time friend, the late Bishop Hubert J. Spencer, Presiding Bishop of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., to preach the dedicatory message. It was a joyous day for Bishop Williams and he thankfully declared that he was grateful to the Lord for sparing his life to see the vision come to pass. At the end of the dedication service, Bishop Williams led the congregation in a resounding rendition of the jubilee song, “Can’t You See What the Lord Has Done!”

In November of 1963, a major split occurred in the organization. Several of the leading ministers, deacons and members who had worked hard with Bishop Williams for many years left the fellowship of the Progressive Church.  Although Bishop Williams was dismayed by this, he continued to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Lord continued to bless the Progressive Church.  His greatest desire was to see the church progress and be united toward winning souls for Christ.

One of the most joyous occasions in his lifetime was also marked with one of the saddest occasions in his lifetime. In August of 1964, during the 20th Annual Holy Convocation, the national church body honored Bishop Williams for 20 years of dedicated service and faithful labor in South Carolina. This was certainly a time of celebration and reflection upon the rich history of the church. During the week of the Convocation, Sister Helen Washington, entered the hospital, once again seriously ill. On Thursday evening August 27, 1964, she fell asleep in the Lord in the midst of the 20th Annual Holy Convocation.  Despite the loss of the first member saved under his ministry in Columbia, Bishop Williams continued to teach the saints to have faith in God and to continue in His Word.

The Ministerial Body presents Bishop Williams with a 20 Year
Anniversary Plaque during the 20th Annual Holy Convocation

As pastor of the Progressive Church in Columbia, SC and as presiding Bishop of the organization, Bishop Williams shouldered an awesome responsibility in leading the people of God. He devoted much of his time to the development and growth of the church and to the care of the flock, over which the Holy Ghost had made him an overseer. In the latter part of 1965, it was discovered that he was seriously ill. He continued to press on, despite his prognosis, preaching, teaching, visiting the sick and performing his normal ministerial functions. Bishop Williams continued his ministry until his health would no longer permit.  

In December of 1965, realizing that his illness was becoming more serious, he called several of the pastors to his home in Columbia, SC for a special meeting. At the meeting in the living room of his home, he shared with the elders that he was quite ill and that, if the Lord did not intervene, he would not be able to live in his present condition. Bishop Williams appointed five of the elders to serve on a board to provide leadership for the organization. While he could have appointed a successor to his position as presiding bishop, he did not, rather choosing to tell the elders that in time God would reveal to them who should lead them. At this meeting, he also appointed his son, Minister J.D. Williams, to pastor the Columbia Church and asked the Board of Elders to help train the young minister.  Finally, he asked the elders to ensure that his wife, Sister Bessie Williams, was taken care of after his death.

For about two weeks, from late December 1965 to early January 1966, Bishop Williams stayed home and did not attend church. This was an unusual experience for a man who had pressed through many illnesses and sicknesses to attend church, even preaching for several weeks sitting down due to a broken leg in a cast.  Early on the morning of January 10, 1966, he talked with his wife, Sister Bessie Williams, telling her that he was ready to die and not to worry. Realizing that the Bishop’s physical condition was rapidly worsening, Sister Bessie called Sister Mary Collins, a nurse, and Sister Laura Ashe, asking them to immediately come to their home. Shortly after they arrived, they went in to visit with Bishop Williams. Although in bed, he was alert and able to acknowledge their presence. A few short moments later, he fell asleep in the Lord as his head lay in the arms of his wife, Sister Bessie Williams.

The funeral service for Bishop Williams was held on the cold Sunday morning of January 16, 1966. Hundreds of saints filled the headquarters church in Columbia, SC to pay tribute to their fallen pastor and bishop.  Many of the men and women who passed by his casket cried as they viewed his body. He was reflected upon by the various pastors, elders, ministers, missionaries and saints as a compassionate and great man of God. His long-time friend, Bishop Hubert J. Spencer, was scheduled to deliver the eulogy at the funeral. However, he was unable to attend the service due to a major snow storm in the Ohio area. As a result, Elder Herman Jackson, one of the senior elders of the church, delivered the eulogy at the funeral. Bishop Williams was buried at the headquarters church in Columbia.

Funeral Service for Bishop Williams

Those who had the opportunity to know Bishop Williams will always carry a special love and admiration for him. Though he was large in stature, at over six feet tall, he was small enough to take time with anyone in need of prayer, spiritual instruction, or counseling. The principles he instilled in the early saints and his firm stand upon the Word of God have enabled the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ to carry on for many years after his death. Though Bishop Williams is not with us now, his memories will live on forever. We will always cherish the contributions and the legacy left by our founder. We can conclude of him in the words of the Apostle Paul, “he fought a good fight, he finished his course, he have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give him at that day.” 









Project Africa

A delegation of saints from the Progressive Church
visits with the saints in Africa in January 2004

Project Africa came into being as a result of a trip by Elder Lang Priester to the continent of Africa in 2002. While in Africa, Elder Priester had the opportunity to visit and worship with the saints in the cities and in the villages of Africa. He was quite impressed with the appreciation exhibited by the native people for the Apostolic Faith. The places of worship in Africa were very humble, to say the least. Some of the buildings were only four walls with roofs constructed of leaves. Some of the churches were made of cement blocks, but were quite small. None of the churches had air conditioning, pews, or pulpit furniture. In most, there was only a table to stand behind when speaking. Only the headquarters church had musical instruments.

Elder Priester visited a number of churches in several villages.  During one of the services, Elder Priester witnessed the entire offering which amounted to only $1.50 in American money. Walking is the primary means for getting to church for many of the saints, including the pastors. In another village visited by Elder Priester, the saints had purchased land and had begun to erect a building in which they could hold worship services. The building was framed using bamboo and covered with leaves for roofing. There was an acre of land adjacent to the building that the saints also wished to purchase but could not afford to buy the land. When Elder Priester inquired as to why they had not purchased the land, they shared with him that the land owner wanted too much money for the land. He was asking for what amounted to $65.00 in American money for them to purchase the land.  

When Elder Priester returned home from Africa, he had a burden on his heart to do something to help the saints in Africa. After more than a year of contemplating what could be done, he consulted with some of the saints in the Charlotte Assembly and created a program called, “Project Africa.” 

Project Africa has three programs designed to help those in Africa become self-supporting. Those programs are: Adopt-A-Pastor, Adopt-A-School, and Adopt-A-Church. Project Africa is a non-profit organization operated by a board of directors. They recently formed a committee of youth and young adults whose focus is on the involvement of our youth and young adults in interacting and helping the programs of Project Africa reach their goals. There is also a committee of persons in Africa that works with the committee here in the United States to oversee the programs in Africa.

The board of directors for Project Africa is grateful for the saints and friends of the Progressive Churches who have given Project Africa financial and moral support since its inception. In January of 2004, a delegation of saints visited the Ivory Coast and fellowshipped with the saints in Africa. Also recently, Pastor Niamke traveled to the United States from Africa to attend the 60th Holy Convocation and he also spoke at the Progressive Churches in Charlotte, NC; Tucker, GA; and Columbia, SC about the wonderful and miraculous move of God in Africa. The sponsors of Project Africa desire continued prayer for the program and for the saints that are striving to hold fast to the Apostolic Faith on the continent of Africa.

In January of 2005, a delegation of saints will be traveling back to visit the saints in Africa. If you are interested in information about traveling with the delegation, you call 704-392-2803 or you may e-mail ProgressiveChurch@sc.rr.com.



"Saluting the Oldest Member of
 the Progressive Church"
Sister Mary Brown - Columbia, SC

There aren’t many people alive who were members of the first Progressive Church in the Taylors Community of Columbia, SC. Yet, Sister Mary Brown, can vividly remember walking down the long dirt road, with her young children, on her way to services in Taylors. Baptized in 1946, she is the oldest remaining member of the Progressive Church.

Sister Brown recalls that when she was first saved, there were less than ten members in the Progressive Church. Yet, she left a prominent Baptist church in the City of Columbia, because she was convicted by the Word of God. In 1946, while sitting on the choir stand at the Baptist church she attended, she listened to the guest speaker for the evening, Elder Lymus Johnson, talk about baptism in water in the name of Jesus Christ. Sister Brown had never heard this before, and she went home to study her Bible. After reading, She discovered the same words the minister had preached that evening. Shortly thereafter, she went to the Progressive Church in the Taylors Community to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Despite the few members in the Progressive Church and the “storefront” building, she took pride in her church and began to witness to others about water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ everywhere she went. Like the woman from Samaria, she told everyone who would listen about Jesus and the change He had made in her life. Through her witness, many souls came to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  There were only a few children in the church at that time and Sister Brown, who had eight children, brought many of her children with her and they also became very active in the church. During the early years of the church, Sister Brown sang with the Senior Choir and was an original member of the Progressive Harmonetts group. She would often sing jubilee songs which would “set the church on fire.” Sister Brown faithfully supported the Progressive Church and her pastor, Bishop J. D. Williams.

Today, at the age of 92 years old, Sister Brown is still faithful to God and to the Progressive Church. She still loves to sing the old jubilee songs of the church. It is not uncommon, during a Sunday Night Worship Service at the church in Columbia, SC, to have Sister Brown sing a song that will set the service on a spiritual high. She often says that before she received the Holy Ghost, she could not “hold a tune in a bucket.” But after God saved her, he anointed her voice to sing the songs of Zion. She also presently sings with the Senior Ensemble of Columbia, SC. We are blessed and fortunate to have Sister Mary Brown with us. Perhaps no one alive today has a greater appreciation of our history and the many blessings God has bestowed upon the Progressive Church.






Progress in St. Petersburg, FL

Pastor Donaldson baptizes 100-year-old Brother Major Williams,
the oldest member of the church in St. Petersburg, FL

The Progressive Church in St. Petersburg, FL began in 1992, with the first soul being baptized in water in Jesus name.  In the first few years, Elder Wender Gavin and Presiding Bishop Edward Smith made many trips to the city to provide spiritual instruction for the saints. From that time, the young church has since made significant progress under the leadership of their pastor, Elder Ron Donaldson. Souls are continuing to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost.  

The church offers monthly programs for its members through departmental meetings and outreach programs. Members of the growing congregation are involved in continual witnessing in the community and providing hospitality services to those who are sick on an “as-needed” basis. The saints' efforts in this progressive city, only miles away from Tampa and Clearwater, FL, have paid off. With a congregation of approximately 80 members (including saints from Haiti and Jamaica),  Elder Donaldson proclaims the message of salvation to some 100 congregants each Sunday Morning. 

Presently residing in a small building, and averaging three souls a month in baptism,  most  Sundays are  “standing room only.” On a recent trip by Presiding Bishop Edward Smith to St. Petersburg, in May 2004, two souls were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ during the Sunday Morning Worship Service, and a total of eight souls received the Holy Ghost. God is still demonstrating His saving power through the efforts of this church.   

As one of the youngest congregations in the organization, the saints in St. Petersburg are “on fire” for the Lord and strongly bearing the  name of a “progressive” church. The fruitful congregation is currently in the process of locating a new church edifice that will more adequately meet their physical needs. Elder Donaldson always admonishes the saints to “Just stop and let the Lord have his way.”  Elder Donaldson, who was originally saved at the Progressive Church in Denmark, SC, has always been a man that teaches and believes that God is able. He and the congregation are looking for greater things to come in St. Petersburg, FL. 

Some of the young people of the Progressive Church in St. Petersburg, FL









Progress in Florence, SC

The Progressive Church of Florence, SC has been busy reaching to meet the needs of the community. Since becoming pastor of the church in 1992, Elder Jimmie Deas has had a desire for the church to be more proactive about reaching out to those who are in need. As a result, many great programs and activities have been sponsored by the church.

Recently, Elder Deas and members of the church rendered services at Carriage House Nursing home in Florence, SC.

Pastor Deas greets a nursing home resident


They had a wonderful time in the Lord, as they sang uplifting songs for the residents of the nursing home.

Personal testimonies were given by the clients of the nursing home. One client’s praise was "how God had healed her of cancer.” Another client told us how God gave her strength to use her hands again after having a stroke.” God Is Still Working Miracles!” Elder Deas preached the Word of God, which blessed many of the residents. The service was quite uplifting and the residents of Carriage House Nursing Home greatly appreciated the love and concern of Pastor Deas and the saints in Florence.

Seeking to promote positive health among the membership and in the community, several of saints in Florence participated in Frances Marion University’s  "American Heart Walk." This three—mile walk was designed to increase awareness about physical fitness and its importance to good cardiovascular health. Many of the saints enjoyed the opportunity to fellowship together.

On September 8, 2002, the congregation in Florence, SC broke ground for a new $300,000.00 Family Life Center and Multi-Purpose Building. Elder Deas and the saints together had a vision for a building that would provide a place for wholesome activities for the saints of God, as well as a facility through which they would be able to sponsor greater outreach programs to the Florence Community. After approximately one year of construction, the new facility was dedicated on Saturday, July 26, 2003 by Presiding Bishop Edward Smith. Saints from the neighboring churches came to celebrate with Elder Deas and the saints in Florence on this wonderful occasion.

As a man who believes in providing programs and activities that will meet the needs of God’s people, Elder Deas has been blessed to lead the church in Florence, SC to new heights over the past 12 years. They continue to look forward, expecting God to bless them to achieve greater accomplishments in the future.





Remembering Our Second Presiding Bishop
Bishop Joel. G. Washington, Sr.
1907 - 1987

After the death of our founder, Bishop J. D. Williams, the Progressive Church was blessed with another great leader.  Bishop Joel G. Washington led the church forward into its second generation and continued to build upon the foundation which had been laid by Bishop Williams. Bishop Joel Gilbert Washington, Sr. was born on May 29, 1907 in Hopkins, SC to Mr. and Mrs. Joel and Selena Washington. He was one of five children. After graduating from high school, he moved to Columbia, SC. In 1935, he was united in holy matrimony to Helen L. Smith and to this union ten children were born. However, of those ten children, only one child survived, Joel Gilbert Washington, Jr.

Bishop Washington and his wife, Sister Helen Washington, provided their home to Bishop Williams for the first service of the Progressive Church held in Columbia, SC. Although he did not immediately submit to water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, he supported the church and supported Bishop Williams in his early endeavors to establish the Progressive Church. After several months, on March 28, 1945, he was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. He often told the story that after he first received the Holy Ghost and returned to work, it seemed to him that the machines at work were making noises that sounded as if they were saying, “Jesus-Jesus-Jesus.”  

Brother Washington served in many capacities in the young church. During the mid 1940’s, when the church was located in the Taylors Community of Columbia, he was the only adult male in the church. Despite the absence of men in the church, Brother Washington worked diligently to support Bishop Williams. He was the first brother to be ordained as a deacon, and he maintained the finance records of the church. He was the first superintendent of the Sunday School Department, the first brother to be licensed as a minister, and the first minister to be ordained as an elder in the Progressive Church.  

In 1952, Bishop Williams began a second mission in Columbia, SC at 2217 Waverly Street. He assigned Elder Washington to serve as pastor at this location until the entire church was moved from the Taylors Community in Columbia to Waverly Street. During this interim period, Elder Washington provided spiritual instruction for the saints who worshipped at Waverly Street.

Elder and Sister Joel G. (Helen) Washington - early 1950s

In 1948, Bishop Williams went to the Columbia Hospital to pray for a sister who was ill. While at the hospital, he prayed for another young lady, Ms. Mary Anderson, who shared a room with the sister he originally went to visit. After praying for Ms. Anderson, God healed her and delivered her from the hospital. She later came to the Progressive Church to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Sister Anderson lived in Killian, SC and through her desire, a Progressive Church was established in Killian, SC. In 1953, Bishop Williams appointed Elder Washington to serve as pastor of the assembly in Killian. Under his leadership, many things were accomplished in Killian. The first block church was built shortly after he became pastor. Also, under his leadership in Killian, several men were ordained as deacons and licensed as ministers.  

Although Elder Washington worked in Charleston, SC for US Steel Company, he made the sacrifice to travel back and forth to provide spiritual instruction and teaching for the growing congregation in Killian, SC. As one of the senior elders of the church, Bishop Williams often relied on Elder Washington to support the work of the church and to provide guidance for the younger ministers in the gospel.

Elder Washington was also very dedicated to supporting his wife, Sister Helen Washington, throughout her many illnesses. At times, when she was unable to handle the affairs of the home, he would often cook and take care of the daily chores. He loved and provided for Sister Washington faithfully until her death on August 27, 1964. Although he certainly was saddened by her death, he remained faithful to God and to the Progressive Church. As a dedicated son-in-law, after his wife’s death, Bishop Washington faithfully ensured that the needs of his mother-in-law, Sister Carrie Brown, were always met.

Just prior to his death in January 1966, Bishop Williams appointed Elder Washington to serve as a member of the Board of Elders to provide leadership and guidance for the national church. After the death of Bishop Williams, the Board of Elders collectively governed the Progressive Churches. Shortly after the board’s establishment, Elder Washington was elected to serve as chairman of the Board of Elders. Members of the Board of Elders were assigned to oversee districts of churches to maintain the unity of the organization. Elder Washington served as the District Elder for a number of churches including: Columbia, SC; Killian, SC; Lugoff, SC; Hopkins, SC; and Winnsboro, SC.  

From 1968—1973, Elder Washington served as a co-pastor for the headquarters church in Columbia, SC, along with other members of the Board of Elders. In addition to serving as pastor of the church in Killian, SC, he would preach in Columbia one Sunday out of each month and also teach Bible Class in Columbia one Friday night out of each month. During the week, when many of the other members of the Board of Elders were unable to be in Columbia, SC for the local worship services, he would often attend mid-week services to provide counseling and leadership for the membership.  

In 1973, Elder Washington was consecrated to the office of Bishop, along with the other members of the Board of Elders. After the establishment of the Board of Bishops, the members of the board had an important decision to make regarding the leadership of the organization and determining who, among them, would serve as the new presiding bishop.  After prayerful and thoughtful consideration, Bishop Washington was elected to serve as Presiding Bishop of the Progressive Churches.  He was chosen because of his years of wisdom and experience in the ministry. At this time that he was also appointed to be the sole pastor of the headquarters church in Columbia. After being appointed pastor in Columbia, he relinquished his pastorate in Killian, SC after 20 years of service.  Minister J. D. Williams, Jr. was appointed to replace him in Killian, SC as pastor.  

During his tenure as Presiding Bishop of the organization, the Progressive Churches experienced unprecedented growth, with ten new churches added to the organization. It was under the administration of Bishop Washington that many of the present pastors were sent out, as young men, to pastor the newly established Progressive Churches. Bishop Washington would proudly send young pastors to new cities telling them, “I want you to baptize everybody in the city in the name of Jesus Christ.” It was because of the faith that he placed in these young men, that many of them are in leadership roles today. In 1983, Bishop Washington appointed Bishop Edward Smith to assist him in providing leadership for the organization, serving as Assistant Presiding Bishop.  

Bishop Washington was a man who believed in giving opportunities to younger men in the ministry. Not a man who was lifted up in pride or boastful of his position, Bishop Washington always displayed a meek and humble demeanor.  Bishop Washington had a great love for the youth of the church. He often provided them with opportunities to conduct the services, participate on the programs, and allowed the young brothers to give exhortations and sermonnettes during the worship services.  

Bishop Washington was a man who believed in and taught the importance of faithfulness in church attendance. During his tenure as pastor of the headquarters church, worship services were held four nights out of each week in addition to services on Sunday. While this may have been too busy a schedule for many pastors, rarely would Bishop Washington miss any of the week-night services. He would also make every effort to attend the regular noon prayer hour at the church, and pray with the saints who were in need. As a man who believed in order, he was a stickler for making sure services began on time.  He would always instruct those conducting the worship services to make sure the services began on time. Rarely would he hold meetings or counseling sessions during worship service time because he believed that he needed to be in the worship service along with the saints.  

Bishop Washington observes work on the new edifice
being constructed in Denmark, SC - 1985

A man known for his “witty” saying, he would often proclaim to the church when preaching, “If there are one thousand gods, only one died for you.” Another one of his favorite sayings was to use the analogy of the game of football to remind the saints how God will “look out” for his people. He would often say that, “the Lord will run interference for you.” Many of the saints who were saved at the headquarters church in Columbia under Bishop Washington’s leadership will never forget his love for them and for the church of God. Many saints still recall the words of wisdom and the godly advice given to them by the late Bishop Washington.  

In the 1980's, the Lord enabled the Columbia Church to purchase some of the land adjacent to the sanctuary at 2222 Barhamville Road. Bishop Washington had plans to build a new sanctuary for the growing congregation. However, he did not live to see this plan come to fruition. From 1986 to 1987, Bishop Washington’s health began to significantly decline. Although he was unable to preach as regularly as he would have liked, he regularly attended the worship services and relied on his assistant pastor, Elder Theodore Jenkins, to provide spiritual instruction for the saints. During the latter months of his life, he was placed on dialysis due to the failure of his kidneys. While many would have allowed this to stop them, Bishop Washington continued to remain faithful in the service of the Lord. When he was too weak to enter the pulpit, he would simply sit on the side pews by the door because of his desire to be in the house of the Lord. When he was so weak that he should have stayed at home to rest, he still continued to come to the house of the Lord.  

Bishop Joel G. Washington (R) and Bishop Edward Smith (L)
visit Elder Wender Gavin (M) at the Progressive Church in Tallahassee, FL

On April 14, 1987, after a short stay in the hospital, Bishop Joel Gilbert Washington, Sr. passed away. His death occurred just shy of his 80th birthday. A special memorial service was held for Bishop Washington on Friday, April 17, 1987. Many of the saints gave special remarks, reflecting upon his life and legacy. One of his favorite jubilee songs was, “Lord, I Thank You All the Days of My Life.” He would often say that no one could sing that song like his late wife, Sister Helen Washington, and Sister Laura Ashe. In tribute to Bishop Washington, the Memorial Service ended with Sister Ashe leading the congregation in singing, “Lord, I Thank You All the Days of My Life.”

The Funeral service for Bishop Washington was held on Saturday, April 18, 1987 at the headquarters church in Columbia, SC. Hundreds of saints came from all over the southeast to pay tribute to this great man of God. He was eulogized by Bishop Edward Smith, the Assistant Presiding Bishop, and was recognized as being one of the patriarchs of the Progressive Church. The Lord blessed Bishop Washington to have a long and successful ministry that resulted in many souls being won for the kingdom of God.  He was buried beside his wife, Sister Helen Washington, at the Palmetto Cemetery in Columbia, SC.

Bishop Washington’s patient spirit, words of wisdom, and his quiet and humble leadership style will always be remembered and cherished by those who knew him well. He will always hold a special place in the hearts of the saints who were saved under his pastorate in Killian, SC and in Columbia, SC.  We will always remember the contributions of this great man of God.