Book details church's local history
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 10, 2011 1:50 AM
The love of reading as a child and the ability to open up the world to children led Jane Rustin to become a librarian. At the end of this month, she will end that career as she retires as the director of Wayne County Public Library.
News-Argus/MICHAEL K. DAKOTA
Danny Rollins, an ordained minister and chief of the language and communications department at Wayne Community College, stands in the sanctuary of Maranatha Seventh Day Adventist Church, once home to the Oak Street Pentecostal Holiness Church, which is now The First Pentecostal Holiness Church of Goldsboro. Rollins was commissioned to write a history of the Pentecostal denomination, which has many ties to Goldsboro.
In downtown Goldsboro, at the base of the courthouse steps along Walnut Street, is a weathered green plaque commemorating the origin of the Pentecostal Holiness church.
The site marks where Abner Crumpler of Clinton first pitched his gospel tent in 1898, kicking off the revolutionary Protestant movement.
At the outset, the denomination was considered a somewhat radical offshoot of the Methodist Church, said Danny Rollins, an ordained minister and lifelong member of The First Pentecostal Holiness Church in Goldsboro. Also chief of the languages and communication department at Wayne Community College, Rollins recently authored the book, "Forward, Ever Forward," a history of the North Carolina conference.
Goldsboro is actually steeped in the church tradition, he pointed out -- from the initial denomination headquarters on Laurel Street, to one of the largest Holiness churches in the U.S. in the early 1900s. The late evangelist Oral Roberts even had ties here -- in 1949, he held a 13-day crusade in a B-29 bomber hanger on Seymour Johnson AFB.
"People don't realize that this area was such an important part of the denomination," Rollins said.
Commissioned in 2008 by the executive board to research the denomination's history, Rollins completed his book in time for the 100th anniversary of the merger of the Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church in Falcon in January.
When the state conference officially began in December 1898, it had three churches -- Oak Street (now The First PH) in Goldsboro, Person Street (now Baywood) in Fayetteville, and Culbreth Mem-orial in Falcon, where the conference currently has its headquarters.
"Pentecostalism is the largest Protestant movement in the world and we're part of that," Rollins said. "Our faction of it started here. Between here, Duplin, Johnston and Cumber-land, this area, especially southeastern North Carolina, was just filled with Holiness and Pentecostal people."
The movement spread quickly, he explained, and upheld very strict traditions -- forbidding the use of alcohol and tobacco, no jewelry and no haircuts for women.
"The whole idea was, 'We need to set ourselves apart from the culture,'" Rollins said. "That was not a very inviting atmosphere to come in."
Then came Eddie Morris, "one of the most revolutionary church planters," he said.
Only 31 when he was approached in 1941 about being nominated for the conference's highest office, Morris completely changed the denomination's culture, Rollins said.
"He said, 'We're not showing grace or mercy to anybody,'" Rollins said. "He knew that women needed to be involved, helped them to make headway in the ministry and moved the youth more ahead than anybody we had ever had.
"He would have had a Pentecostal Holiness church on every corner if he could have."
And through his influence, Rollins continued, the church "became more forgiving."
Today, three of Wayne County's largest churches are affiliated with the denomination -- First PH in Goldsboro, First PH of Mount Olive and Whitley Church -- but the reason for the growth is not easily explained, Rollins said.
"I don't know that I can explain what's happened in our churches except we have focused on young people, we have focused on families and we have focused specifically on teaching the Word of God," he said.
What has changed, though, he continued, has been the delivery method -- one example of which is the annual "Judgment House" program at Goldsboro's First PH.
"Our pastors began to emphasize that it's not just about ministering to Pentecostal Holiness people," Rollins said. "You minister to everybody.
"The Pentecostal Holiness (church) was always very faithful in helping organize, starting our own schools, helping people, but it was our people, you had to abide by our rules. Now we're starting to go out into the neighborhoods -- how can we help you, how can we serve you? It's not about just building big buildings, it's not about having a big choir. We want to give something to the community."
Rollins' own reverence for the church made the decision to write the book an easy one.
"Being a third-generation PH -- the stories from my grandmother (who had joined the church in 1928) and my mother -- and I enjoy history and understand that we're still making it because we're still here, doing a very vital ministry," he said. "It just all collided for me.
"There are people that really sacrificed their entire lives because they believed in the God we were preaching ... people of a solid faith, those people need to be commended. They were spiritual warriors."
And that kind of history, he said, needs to be preserved for future generations of the church.
"I love this story. I can't tell you how inspired I have been by the people that came before me," he said. "They were just strong people who don't back off their beliefs for anything. I just wrote the stuff down."
Much of his research was found in the denominational archives, but he was able to have conversations with many whose examples had inspired him in his own youth.
Covering more than a century of history and condensing it into a 373-page book took more than two years but it was a labor of love, Rollins said.
"I think the story's remarkable," he said. "If you live in this area, you can see where it started.
"We have learned a lot of lessons and we have learned how to be more graceful, more forgiving people and that's allowed us to do a lot of ministries."
Copies of the book can be obtained through the conference office in Falcon or First PH Church of Goldsboro. One was also donated to the Wayne Community College library.