Glorious Faith Tabernacle
45637 East Hamilton Street
Oberlin, Ohio 44074

(440) 774-8071

Photo by Maisie Howard, December 2003

A History
Maisie Howard and Anya Temple
Oberlin College
With the Help of Mary Scott, Church Historian
Fall 2003

Glorious Faith Tabernacle has been a part of Oberlin's history since the early 1940s.  In the nearly sixty years of its existence it has played a strong community role.  The church has had a variety of locations.  In its earliest days, services were held in a private home.  A few years later, the members were able to purchase a church building, but it soon became clear that new facilities would be needed.  Community involvement and the effort of the local congregants provided the fundraising and labor needed to provide the church with its current home on East Hamilton Street.  Membership has fluctuated over the years, with as few as 6 members and as many as 100.  Though there have been harder times as well as good, the church has always pulled through.


The original members of the church that would become Glorious Faith Tabernacle modeled their congregation after the Glorious Church of God, which was founded in 1921.  In 1952 (several years after Mother Gulley first began to hold services in her home), the presiding bishop S.C. Bass married a divorced woman, which was generally viewed, in this branch of Pentecostal religion, as unacceptable.  Many members of this fifty-congregation church began to question his right to preside—a disagreement that eventually led to about half of the congregation officially rejecting Bass and reorganizing under the leadership of W.O. Howard.  In this new group, they took the name the Original Glorious Church of God in Christ Apostolic Faith, including the "original" in their charter to signify that they were remaining faithful to the old rules of the church.  It was at this time that the members of the Oberlin church changed their name as well, to Glorious Faith Tabernacle.  Howard was succeeded by Bishop I.W. Hamiter, who has greatly aided the congregation's growth and improvement.  Under his leadership, mission programs have been developed in many different locations (including Haiti and India), and the membership continues to grow steadily.  In 1980, for example, the church had 55 congregations in the US, 110 congregations overseas, 200 ministers and over 25,000 members worldwide. [1]

The Founding and Early Years of Glorious Faith

Oberlin's Glorious Faith Tabernacle was founded about 1944, in answer to the need for a second Apostolic church in Oberlin.  The founding members were part of a group that had separated from the original church, Christ Temple Apostolic Church, in the early 1940s.  They were Mother Gulley, Mother Rosa Farrow, Sister Daisy Steptoe, Helen Simmons, Evangelist Bessie Carter, Evangelist Evelyn Taylor, and Elder Robinson.  Elder Holscloth, also present from the church's founding, served as Glorious Faith Tabernacle's first pastor.  Of these, only Mother Farrow is still living.  She is 95 years old and now lives in West Virginia.  From the Oberlin beginnings of Glorious Faith Tabernacle, female church members have played a large role.  Most founders were women, and for roughly the first two years of its existence, the services were held at 133 South Park Street, the home of founding member Mother Gulley. 

In 1947, the group was able to purchase a church building.  It was a small one-story building at 40 South Pleasant Street, and previously had housed a night school for adults.  The school operated for 18 years and included vocational education as well as lessons in reading and writing for those illiterate in English.  The building lacked some material comforts.  A coal stove heated it, and when it rained, members placed pans on the floor to catch the drips from the leaky roof.  Every week the concrete floors had to be scrubbed before services were held.  At this time there was no indoor baptismal pool, and new members were baptized outdoors, in the nearby Black River.


Elyria Chronicle Telegram, May 7, 1958


In 1947 the church also had a new pastor, Elder I. W. Hamiter.  He presided for two years before going on to become Bishop Hamiter, heading the denomination under the West Virginia charter.  His replacement was Elder Quander Wilson, who would be with Glorious Faith for ten years.  Pastor Wilson soon began the effort that resulted in the construction of the new building, the current location of Glorious Faith Tabernacle.

The years from 1947 through 1958 were active ones for the church members.  Though the physical building had room for improvement, the sense of dedication to the community, both social and spiritual, was very strong.  Members worked together to make the church building livable and went faithfully to services despite the humble conditions.  But soon after Elder Quander Wilson became pastor, efforts began to be made to provide a more suitable home for the growing church.

Construction and Growth

On June 25, 1958, after several years of intensive fundraising events such as Pew Rallies and Bake Sales, the congregation of Glorious Faith Tabernacle was financially secure enough to purchase some land on East Hamilton Street.  Construction began immediately; Elder Wilson personally hired a small group of local men to work on the building: Alvin Scott, Percy Tower, John L. Thompson, Melvin Harris and Erky West.  There was no architect hired to lead the project, so Elder Wilson also arranged for the blueprints that these men used to construct the main part of the building.  The congregation was also active in the building and finishing of the church; church Historian Mary Scott recalls that she and her friends Lucy Smith and Walt Harrington "painted the concrete floors and stained the wood floors in the pulpit" [2] themselves.

Photo: Glorious Faith Tabernacle Chruch Records, December 29, 1968

Services began in the newly constructed church in July of 1958.  After Elder Wilson left the church later that year, Elder Robinson (the father of current church member Linda Isabelle) held the church together for several months until Elder Beane, of Elyria, came to take over the pastorate.  During his two short years as pastor, Beane and the members of the congregation all worked hard to pay off debts incurred in the construction of the new building. Flora Johnson and Mother Lucy Smith held bake sales and rummage sales, Deacon and Mother Farrow "sold dinner out of their home, and sometimes Elder Beane gave up his third Sunday pastoral offering" [3] to help raise money to pay off the debt. 

Bishop Steele served as pastor from 1960 to 1961.  Although he greatly enjoyed the pastorate, he and his wife had to travel from Columbus every Sunday, and eventually this "got to be too much for him" [4] and he handed over the pastorate to Bishop Onez Fitzpatrick, who served as pastor for fifteen years.  Bishop Fitzpatrick was steadfastly devoted to improving the new church, and soon after his arrival much was added to the main building:  in 1962 the baptismal pool, Pastor's study and furnace room were completed, and the dining room, kitchen and bathroom were finished by June 1965. The participation of all members of the congregation continued to be strong: Deacon Donald Farrow helped out by always being available to "transact all of the legal businessÉto borrow money, get affordable insurance on the building, etc., " [5] while women in the church "divided up and fixed Sunday dinner and served the Pastor" [6] so he would not have to go home to Elyria for dinner.  Because of this arrangement, Sunday services went all day, from Sunday School in the morning up through evening service.  The choirs were organized during this time as well, with Mary Scott as the first director.  Throughout Bishop Fitzpatrick's time at Glorious Faith Tabernacle, the congregation thrived; when the Bishop left in 1976 to take over Bishop Smith's church in Elyria, it was indeed, as Mary Scott puts it, "a sad day for Oberlin.  We thought he would be here forever." [7]

Baptismal Pool
Dining Room
Photos by Maisie Howard

Life in the Church, 1970s -1980s

After Bishop Fitzpatrick left Glorious Faith Tabernacle in 1976, Elder Larry Harris came from an Akron church to take over the pastorate.  Elder Harris was with the church for a decade, during which time he continued the good work of Bishop Fitzpatrick.  Both pastors firmly endeavored to encourage a strong community spirit within the congregation and outside of it.  In this respect, Elder Harris did much for the improvement of the church.  For example, it was during his pastorate that the Voices of Faith choir began to travel to towns all over northeastern Ohio.  In November of 1980 the choir sang at the Second Annual Fall Banquet in Elyria.

There were also many revivals during Elder Harris' time in the church.  Some revivals were arranged for young people, some were "street revivals" conducted in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park and in Tappan Square, and still others were extensive, 3-day events.  These revivals served both to draw new members to the church and to celebrate those members already present and active.

In the early years, Glorious Faith held its annual Sunday School Picnics in Cascade Park in Elyria and at the Roadside Park in Oberlin.  In the mid-1980s, during Elder Harris' time in the church, the Picnics began to take place at Cedar Point in Sandusky, where they are still held today.

In addition to encouraging his congregation to become more involved in the community, Elder Harris was also willing to help out a person in need.  Mary Scott recalls, "he didn't mind visiting the hospitals and sick members at home," [8] and he even painted the outside of the church all by himself.  Elder Harris was a dynamic preacher and an enthusiastic member of both the Glorious Faith and the Oberlin community.  Just as Bishop Fitzpatrick's presence was greatly missed after he left, "it was another sad time when Elder Harris gave up the church in the year 1986 and moved to Miami, Florida." [9]     


Life in the Church, mid-80s – present time

After Pastor Larry Harris left Oberlin, the congregation found themselves without a pastor.  For this brief period, from March until August of 1987, Minister Tondia Vilyus took on the role of pastor.  She was a member of Glorious Faith and the Junior Missionary President.  However, she did not take the role on a permanent basis, possibly because at that time, many members were uncomfortable with the idea of a female pastor.  Tondia Vilyus later left Glorious Faith to found her own Oberlin church, True Praise and Deliverance.

In September 1987, Elder Harold Brown was installed as pastor.  Pastor Brown and his wife Sister Viola helped to get the church back on its feet after its time without a permanent pastor. They stayed for two years, until 1989.  In that year, Elder John Colbert and his wife Evangelist Naomi Colbert replaced them.  During this time many improvements were made to the church building: the outside and inside were given a new coat of paint, the pews were covered and a new refrigerator purchased.  This was also the period when membership was down to as few as six people.  Pastor Colbert stayed for eleven years, until he suffered a stroke in 2000.  A going-away service was held for Pastor Colbert and his wife in March of 2001.  By this time Glorious Faith had welcomed its current pastor, District Elder Steve Robinson.

Nurses Guild. Photo from Church File

Pastor Robinson and First Lady Marcie Robinson have been a part of Glorious Faith Tabernacle since February 2000.  In that time, membership has increased again to around 40 members.   The services are lively, with congregational participation as an integral part.  Many are part of the choir, which still travels to participate in gatherings in other parts of Ohio.  There is an active children's choir, and the pastor's sons, aged thirteen and eight, play the organ and drums during services.  Church is at 11:30 and may last until two in the afternoon, reconvening later in the day for evening worship.  It has always been important in this church to make services the major part of one's Sunday.  As Pastor Robinson preaches today, "If you put time on God then God will put time on you!"




Pastor Robinson and his wife, 2002. 

Sunday School c. 2002                                  

Pastor Robinson's Son at Drums, c. 2002
Photos from Church Files

The Pastors of Glorious Faith Tabernacle in Oberlin, Ohio

Elder Holscloth (late 4os)

Elder I.W. Hamiter (1947-1948)

Elder Quander Wilson (1949-58)

Elder Beane (1958-1959)

Bishop Steele (1960-1961)

Bishop O. Fitzpatrick (1962-1976)

Elder Larry Harris (1976-1986)

Elder Harold Brown (1987-1989)

Elder John Colbert (1989-1998)

District Elder Steve Robinson (2000-    

Mothers Rosa Farrow and Lucy Smith.  Photo from Church Files  


Special thanks to Mary Scott, Church historian, Glorious Faith Tabernacle Church.  We conducted an oral history with her on November 15, 2003, in Stevenson Dining Hall at Oberlin College.  At this time Mother Scott provided us also with her own written history of the church, as well as several documents pertaining to the church history.

We also attended services at Glorious Faith Tabernacle on December 7, 2003.  From this experience we were able to form an impression about the way the church is run today.

Photos by Maisie Howard, December 2003

[1] Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions 4th ed.  Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993.  pages 438-439.

[2] Mary Scott, "Basic Institutional Information and History", September 2003, page 2.

[3] Mary Scott,"The History of Glorious Faith Tabernacle", September 2003, page 2.

[4] Scott "History", page 2.

[5] Scott "History", page 3.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Scott, "History", page 3.

[8] Scott, "History", page 4.

[9] Scott, "History", page 4.