The origins of the First Holiness Church of the Apostolic Faith (FHC) can be traced to the year 1909. During this period, George A. Phillips, a Nazarene church member and Sidney J. Davis-described as a street-preaching deacon from St. Stephen’s Baptist Church-organized a small group of believers. They first gathered at 140 Harvard Street, the home of Sidney Davis.
As attendance grew, there came a need to find a larger place to worship. Thus, in 1914, they rented a building at 138 Hastings Street, utilizing the entire basement. The meeting place became known as “the Basement.” Members of the "Basement" group consisted mostly of Black immigrant families from the Caribbean and a few persons from the Carolinas. Most of the members or attendees lived in Cambridgeport, which became known as the “Port.” As described by one historian, the Port, the area between Massachusetts Avenue, Prospect and Hampshire Streets, was a haven for new immigrant families. Now known as Area 4, the Port was the focal community for these immigrant families. According to one elder of the church who grew up and lived in the area, the Port was a close-knit community where families looked out for one another. An outgrowth of this closeness was the formation of an association among the church members, known as the “brotherhood.” The brotherhood was able to assist many church families in obtaining their own homes in the Port area. Most Black families owned their own homes, or possessed other properties (such as three-family homes), or owned many small businesses.
As attendance in the “Basement” continued to grow, George A. Phillips was ordained as Pastor in September of 1916. Pastor Phillips had a vision to acquire a building for the membership. He found a property at 59 Moore Street which required renovations. The property was purchased and a band of faithful trustees set themselves to the task of renovating. They completed the work in April of 1918 and Moore Street became the first established location of the First Holiness Church, with a seating capacity of more than 200.
The now thriving church, under the dynamic anointed preaching of Pastor Phillips, had a strong missionary zeal. This zeal became known throughout the New England area, other states, and the Caribbean. During this time period, aid and sponsorship for Black missionaries was not attainable from established churches or White organizations. Pastor Phillips was contacted by Bro. and Sis. Alexander Howard, a couple from the state of Michigan, who felt the call of God to be missionaries to Africa. The Howards’ desire for missionary service stimulated interest in organizing a sponsoring group, which, in 1919, became the United Pentecostal Council.
In 1941, FHC faced a crisis situation. The property at 59 Moore Street was taken by eminent domain by the government to build a housing project. In that same year, the former St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 211 Columbia Street, built in 1892, was purchased as the new location of the First Holiness Church.
Pastor Phillips continued to be the spiritual leader until his death in 1946. Elder Simon Ambrose served as Associate Pastor from 1948 to 1952. He was succeeded in 1954 by Elder Cleveland Clark, who served until 1976. In 1977, Elder Edward B. Skeete was installed as Pastor and serviced until 1981. In 1983, Deacon Clyde N. Thornhill was ordained a full-Gospel minister and installed as Pastor and served until 1990. In 1987, a fire caused extensive damage to the entire rear of the church. In spite of the loss, the building was restructured and expanded. In 1990, Deacon Cleland Haywood served as the spiritual leader until a pastor was elected in 1997.
In 1997, Lorraine Thornhill was ordained a minister of the Gospel and elected to serve as FHC’s first female Pastor. Before beginning the pastorship, she was a counselor at a local university and served as a Sunday School teacher, youth choir director, and Youth Department president. Her energetic, Spirit-filled preaching and compassion for humanity has led to a new vision and outreach to the community.
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