- Category: News
02 Jul 2011
- Written by Dorothy Bracy Alston
Special to the Tri-State Defender
Three days of memorial services for Church of God in Christ Bishop James Oglethorpe Patterson Jr., who died June 25 at age 76, climaxed Friday (July 1) at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, the World Headquarters of the 6 million-plus member church.
“What a significant day this is and what a tremendous loss we have experienced,” said Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle Charles E. Blake at Friday morning’s National Homegoing Celebration Service at the church at 938 Mason Street.
The National Service brought out an assemblage of “Who’s Who” in COGIC spiritual leadership to honor Bishop Patterson – the son of the late Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson Sr., the grandson of COGIC Founder Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, and three-term chairman of the COGIC General Assembly. The celebration – replete with pomp and circumstance – featured adjutants, missionaries, the General Assembly, judiciary leaders, bishops and elders, all dressed in “Class A vestments,” as required for this caliber of service.
“It’s not often that we can get the entire General Board together at one time. The presence of the entire General Board of Bishops recognizes the esteem we feel for our beloved brother,” said Blake.
“There are national representatives from California, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan, Maryland, Wisconsin, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Chicago and other parts of Illinois,” said Bishop Cody Vernon Marshall, Northern Chicago Jurisdictional leader and member of the General Assembly, who served under Bishop Patterson’s chairmanship.
“All who could, came to say goodbye to a man who impacted the business affairs and constitution of the entire church,” said Marshall.
The National Celebration was stately and regal, from the series of narrated processionals, to the ceremonial “sealing of the bier” (closing the casket) by Presiding Bishop Blake, the assistant presiding bishops and a company of adjutants.
Pomp and pageantry momentarily gave way as those in attendance – ushered forward during a processional – said heartfelt and sometimes tearful farewells to Bishop Patterson, a former state lawmaker, Memphis City Councilman, and the first African American to serve as mayor of Memphis. After multiple days of public mourning, hearing and participating in the services of a man extolled as an exemplary leader and servant, for a moment Bishop Patterson was simply husband, dad, granddaddy, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend.
Throughout the service – punctuated with music that was melodious and at times upbeat – the messengers kept to a few dominant themes: glorifying God, relating their personal encounters with Bishop Patterson, and comforting the family.
“If there was aristocracy or royalty in the church it would have to be this family,” said Chief Overseer Bishop Blake. “We met in 1958. It was his support that enabled me to become General Overseer.”
General Secretary, Bishop Wilbur Wyatt Hamilton, noted Bishop Patterson’s COGIC lineage, and then said, “By his own talents and skills he blazed a unique trail of the Church Of God In Christ in his unique way.”
Bishop Patterson, he said, stood for the foundational truths and principles of the Church Of God In Christ. “Let the minutes reflect that the Church Of God In Christ loved Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr.”
Many times while chaos was about to take over the General Assembly, Bishop Patterson’s wisdom and wit saved the day, said Trustee Board Chairman, The Right Rev. Charles Mason Ford.
“When the city and the state needed an articulate, brave, unifier, he was there. When the church needed a teacher, preacher, he was there,” said Ford.
Presiding Bishop Blake transferred Bishop Patterson’s cross and ring to Bishop Patterson’s youngest son, Elder Charles H. Mason Patterson.
“This symbolizes Bishop Patterson was a slave to the Lord and to the Word,” said Blake, as he transferred the cross.
“The ring is a constant reminder of his priestly authority and is given to the next generation,” Blake said, as he placed the ring on the finger of Elder Patterson, who was ordained by his father in 1998. During Bishop Patterson’s brief illness before his death, Elder Patterson preached regularly at Pentecostal Temple, where his father served as senior pastor.
In an earlier interview (June 30) with the New Tri-State Defender, COGIC Elder Dickerson Wells, who coordinated the three-days of celebratory services and served as administrative assistant to Bishop Patterson, said, “According to the COGIC constitution and jurisdictional guidelines, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake is responsible for both the local congregation and the jurisdiction, which is Tennessee Headquarters Jurisdiction, until permanent leadership is given.”
During the eulogy, Blake committed publicly to Pentecostal Temple, saying, “I will work with you to secure your future and your growth.”