The History and Spirit of the House of the Lord Churches
1393 Pacific Street
After two years of pastoring 2024 Fulton St, we moved to 1393 Pacific St. It was a giant step for us. We still had only a few people. Our membership had increased from fielders to 10 adults. But there was a goodly number of youth, mostly preteens about 20-25. We had secured them through a pickup service. We used our cars to accomplish this vital function. We knew we had to have children/ youth. We started our youth department and then Sunday school. Eventually, Jack came home. Jack had been one of my first disciples for a while in Trenton NJ State Prison. He took charge of the youth, especially the Sunday school. He, along with one of the deacons, Deacon Watts used their cars. Jack would drive from Newark NJ in time to pick up the children, bring them to church, (they were scattered around the city) , teach them and then take them back home. When he left the church and moved to California “the Sunday school has never been the same since Jack left.” We will always remember the organizing and teaching job he did, including conducting a pickup service in his car.
In time I felt a call from the Lord to leave my job. I still worked as a presser in Brooklyn. The business was owned by a Jew named Herb Cohen. I mentioned his name because working for Herb Cohen was like working for family. We became close friends. When I told him I was quitting he almost cried and offered me anything I wanted. In fact, Herb as I mentioned was Jewish, however he still attended our church worship occasionally. He gave the first gift to our first-born daughter, Leah. As much as I regretted it I had to tell him no offer could make me stay. I had to obey the will of God.
For a while my wife and I, and now a new baby, was able to survive. However, with no money coming in our resources, even our reserve, was depleted. We began to go through a season of tough times the likes to which I had never seen or experienced before or since. The church was experiencing no growth. It seemed we could never get a member, no, not one. Our food supply was empty. There was always misunderstanding among the members, which I attributed to their age, not understanding my holistic approach to ministry. But they were faithful, loyal, dependable and generous, especially the original five members from Fulton Street.
We had reached the bottom when we did not have enough money to buy the baby's milk at a cost of $0.25. We were short one penny for milk. After searching every crevice in the house, and every pocket in the closet. I went into the street to find the penny. When my effort proved fruitless, I borrowed a quarter from a man I had met a little while back. I came home with milk and a package of stale donuts. The next day we invited a young minister to our home named Clarence Williams. When he departed, he left a $10 bill on the table. He must’ve sensed our barrenness or the Lord told him our condition. From that day things began to get increasingly better in every way.
Let me go back and mention two developments that helped me to survive, not just survive but even I would say, make progress against the raging storms. Although I didn't recognize it, at the time I was at my lowest point and unequaled ever since. It was my hill upon which I would die or fight until I would win the victory. There was no milk for the baby, as I stated, there was no food in the pantry and nothing in the refrigerator. We did have a few tea bags and at least there was running water.
On one occasion Evangelist John Lawrence, remember him, he was with me when I started my spiritual journey in 1953 in the Hudson County Jail. He came by the house and we sat and talked for a while, never mentioning our desperate state. The next day, John Lawrence returned and opened the trunk of his car which was loaded with food stuff. We carted food upstairs. John Lawrence never mentioned anything related to food, in fact, he never said a word as was his usual custom, he said “let us pray.” He returned to his car and departed.
And then later the experience with Leah and the milk. At this point, it was do or die. I went down into the basement, where the furnace was. It was not a finished basement, but dusty, dirty, and cobwebbed. It was a dark place. Even with the light on it seemed dark. There I started jumping up and down, praising God and quoting the Scriptures “I have been young and now I'm old but I've never seen the righteous forsaken and his seed begging bread.” Psalm 37:25 and another favorite Scripture from the book of Habakkuk 3:17-19 though they are no meat, cattle in the field, oil in yet will I trust in God.
I lost track of the time, I came upstairs dusty, but exhilarated. Somehow I felt everything was going to be alright. Often, I look back upon that experience in the basement and it is such a joy as many times against many battles and obstacles I refer back to that occasion. At my lowest ebb, I didn't complain or murmur, but I forced myself to praise the Lord.
There was another experience we had. This came in the form of an affirmation. During this same period of desperation, my wife Dr. Karen had gone to a revival in Philadelphia and she heard an expression, “I believe God.” She came back and told me about what had happened at the revival and the expression. I can't remember if it was in a song, or if someone shouted it, but it was said, “I believe God”. The saying immediately spoke to my entire being. I felt that was a message God was sending to us. We made it a part of our greetings. We would greet each other with, “I believe God, how are you doing?” we would ask each other, “I'm doing well and I believe God.” We made it a part of our phone conversations. Whenever a call came in we would respond with “I believe God, hello this is the Daughtry residence.” In addition, it cut through unnecessary negative chatter. But most of all it was a bold assertion that we believe in God no matter what comes our way. And what came our way was what Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play expressed, “the whips and scorns of time and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes and 1000 natural shocks that the flesh is heir to….” yes Brother Hamlet, that is what I felt. The difference, of course, is the God that we’re committed to love and serve, no matter what would come our way with either allowing or directing the hardships, troubles, and all the problems we were having. But we could still say, I believe God. I would say it during the day and the last thing at night. We taught the church to say the affirmation with us. We would say it from the pulpit, say it in all our testimonies. I would use it in my sermons. I would start my sermons with, “I believe God. Let us all say, I believe God.” These two events, the basement and the “I believe God” experience inspired me to get through and literally overcome.
There are so many lessons which I learned and have taught ever since. If you were to ask me now would I go through the same experience, I would immediately declare with a hearty YES! That is for me personally. You must ask my wife the same question. She will speak for herself.
Among the lessons, I learned, and there were many. God sends people into your life which means more than just the issue. Clarence Williams entered our lives not just to leave $10 but through Clarence Williams, he introduced me to Operation Breadbasket and the revolutionary change in my life that our meeting brought.
Of course, John Lawrence, I cannot say too much about him. Already I told our story many times. Since 1953, he had been in my life, in good times and in bad times. Thank God. I am eternally grateful for him, and all the people God has sent to be a part of my life.
Overall, I could see from a distance why God called me from the job and why I had to go through the experiences I just relayed. It was all a part of the preparation, getting me ready for greater things ahead.
For nine years at Pacific St, 1960 through 1969 when we moved into 415 Atlantic Ave, was a Moses wilderness experience. It was hard lessons to be learned – all necessary to bring about history-changing – liberation of a people. You learn to say thank God for the wilderness as it was necessary to get me to the mountaintop.
During the wilderness time at Pacific St., we made a little progress and we managed to have a few people that we called a choir. I remember the few people marching into the church on Pacific St, a brother named Alfonzo leading the way and singing at the top of their voices, one of the songs they loved to sing, We Come This Far by Faith Leaning on the Lord.
To be continued…