A writer once said that “history is made up of the lives of individuals. Great men have made history. Sometimes one man stands out so clearly that history becomes the story of one.” This is the case of William Saunders Crowdy, a great Preacher, the World’s Evangelist, who later was known to the world as a prophet of the Almighty God, the man who re-establish the Church of God and Saints of Christ in 1896, an organization with many affiliate branches throughout the United States of America, Canada, Africa, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
Elijah the Prophet
Active Leader 1896-1908
The year 1847 saw days of racial, political and religious upheaval and agitation right across the United States. However, God kept his promise according to Daniel.7:24-27, 12:11 and sent us a prophet (Proverbs 29:18). There was a yearning for a better life, in the way of religion and this was not conforming to any particular race, country or creed, but was a need voiced by humanity in general.
Based on past religious writings, there was knowledge of something better that mankind had lost, a direct communication with the divine power, the power that made heaven, earth and the sea; the power that caused lightning, rain, snow and changed the seasons. This power created miracles and made a way out of no way and sent manna and quails to Israel in the wilderness. Mankind had lost connection with this power since the days of the Prophets and the Apostles and many of the spiritual-minded of men who cried out in their dire distresses and exigencies were wont to say in the words of Elisha. “Where is the God of Elijah?”
A baby boy was born of slave parents, Basil and Sarah Ann Crowdy, at Charlotte Hall, St. Mary’s Co, Maryland, on August 11, 1847, in a time of uncertainty, lynching, mob killing, racial prejudice and had been denied all the privileges and rights of mankind. The baby was called “Wilson” and grew up on a slave plantation where his mother was a cook. He was fat and well fed. Little Wilson was often used as a house boy to help his mother with the management of the house, but God had designed something better for him according to Amos 3:7.
It was in the days before the civil war, when a lonely “Negro” was the prey to any white man that happen to see him. One would nettle a Negro in some way or another and made him fight or beat him almost to death. Whether he fought or not, the slave was supposed to get the worst of it. For Wilson, it was the other way around. Once in an altercation of this kind, Wilson was caught when he struck his tormentor so that he fell. He immediately became afraid due to the consequence should the thing be known. That very day in 1863, he ran away from home, hiding in the cover of the dense swamp by day and following the direction of the wagon trails from the edge of the woods through the night; going in a Northwesterly direction.
For approximately forty years he was lost to his family. During this time he changed his name to William Saunders Crowdy and joined the army between 1863 and 1867 where he was assigned to the quarter master corps cooking for the officers. He fought for the cause of freedom in the civil war and when the war was over he was mustered out to the western parts of the United States. Like many other veterans, he purchased land, buying some one hundred acres near Guthrie, in central Oklahoma.
He remained in Guthrie for over twenty-five years at which time he joined the Baptist Church, and was ordained a Deacon. Around 1890 he moved to Kansas City where he was employed as a cook in a Hotel, owned and operated by the Santa fee Railroad.
While there, he fell in love and married Lovey Yates Higgins and resided with his mother-law. Shortly after the birth of their third child, Crowdy and his family returned to the farm in Guthrie, Oklahoma where he supplemented his income as a cook. He returned to the Baptist Church and resumed his activities as a Deacon and performed other chores.
Will, as he was now known, built a lovely house on his land and made a respectable farm out of his one hundred acres and held a job at the same time. Lovey taught the little boys to cook and keep house and to look after themselves because both parents were in town working for the betterment of their lives. The adventure of all occurred in 1893. The father and happy-go-lucky Will, whom every body loved, began to act strangely and often didn’t know when people were talking to him, but would sit staring for longer and longer periods of time. Sometimes his lips were moving but no sound was coming out. His wife thought this was the result of too much carousing with his “brothers” whom she accused of making her husband drink when she was not at home. She asked him to give up his lodge meetings, for he was an ardent Mason, but he had really not attended his meetings in quite a while.
His ‘strange’ behavior was actually a series of divine revelations through which William S. Crowdy received instructions about the beliefs and the manner of establishing the Church of God and Saints of Christ. The command was so awakening, said the Prophet, “that one could not resist its calling.” He did resist at first, but became obedient to his calling due to the will of God. Shortly after his revelation, the prophet began to preach on the streets of Guthrie converting and baptizing people as he went. The Prophet organized the first tabernacle at Emporia and the second at Lawrence.
The Prophet met with much opposition from the authorities and some of his listeners, but he realized that he must bring back the true teachings of God, “Ancient of Days;” those that the prophets and patriots heralded in their days, as he strove to re-establish this doctrine and gather the lost sheep of the House of Israel. (Matt10:6)
During his heralding, he was arrested 22 times, but he continued to preach. His membership increased rapidly in that region that it gained the attention from the major newspapers. He was referred to as “the Black Elijah”. He replied“, I am not Elijah, but I am come in the spirit and in the power of Elijah”. After establishing tabernacles in three cities in the states of Kansas, (Lawrence, Emporia, and Topeka) he ordained men to the ministries and put them in charge of the tabernacles. He then moved on to Sedalia, Missouri ,Chicago, Illinois and many other cities in New York, establishing Tabernacles and ordaining men, putting them in charge and kept moving establishing tabernacles as he traveled.
The Prophet of God moved to Philadelphia in May 1899 and it was in this city that he took up permanent resident naming it the organization’s Number One headquarters. By 1901, over 1300 members joined this Philadelphia congregation, and several businesses including a barber shop, general store, restaurant and a printing plant were established in this same city.
On April 14-20, 1901 the Prophet convened the first Passover in the east in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thousand of saints came from many cities throughout the country to attend this service. As his congregation in Philadelphia continued to grow, he ordained several ministers and sent then to various cities throughout the United States to establish Churches. In 1903 the Prophet purchased 140 acres of land in Belleville Virginia and in 1905 the Prophet sent an ambassador, Elder A. Christian, to South Africa, instructing him where to go and to whom he should preach the gospel. He later set up many branches of the Church of God and Saints of Christ, in South Africa.
During the Passover of 1906 Prophet Crowdy designated Evangelist Joseph W. Crowdy Evangelist William H. Plummer and Elder Calvin S. Skinner as the future leaders of the Church of God and Saints of Christ. At the District Annual Assembly of 1909 in Washington D.C. the board of Presbytery publicly confirmed (i.e. supported) the passing of the leadership of the Church of God and Saints of Christ everywhere from Prophet William S. Crowdy to Chief Joseph W. Crowdy. In addition, the Chief Evangelist Joseph W. Crowdy and Evangelist William H. Plummer were both consecrated to the office of Bishop of the Church of God and Saints of Christ.
In the Prophet’s declining years, he spoke to the church about love. One of his famous statements was “Children I want you to love one another.” This is applicable to every generation. The Prophet instructed all members to be meek, patient, temperate, to bear their persecutions, pray not to destroy their enemies, but pray as it is in heaven, and do unto all men as you wish all men do unto you. Bear each others’ burden and so fulfill the laws of Christ, keep your eyes opened and watch all men and women. Try all spirits as the Lord your God has commanded. Jude 1:24-25.
The work and accomplishment of this man is tremendous. He can be placed among the likes of Jeremiah and Isaiah. The Prophet of God fell asleep on August 4, 1908 in Newark. New Jersey, his work will live forever. His great teachings will forever be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.