First Short Pastorate

Our First Pastorate

It is hard to determine exactly what is meant by one's first pastorate. Perhaps you should make the determination.
1We were first appointed as a pastor to the Church of God located on Douglas Street in Chillicothe, OH. The year was 1969 and it was in the early summer months. The State Overseer was Reverend L H Aultman.

Melvin Harter had preached at this church on several occasions as well as knocked on many of the doors in the local community. The Harters were appointed the pastorship on Monday. However, when Melvin preached there on Wednesday evening, he knew that just turning 19 years old, even though he had been serving the Lord for many years, he was not qualified to be a pastor. He needed to prepare more in the ministry by bettering his knowledge of the Bible. So the Harters notified the Church of God State Office in Columbus, OH that Melvin was resigning. He resigned the following Saturday.

So the Harters served as pastor of this local church from Monday through Saturday.

Second Short Pastoralship
It was September 1972. The Harters just completed their evangelistic work for the summer and were returning to Lee College in Cleveland, TN. Roberta was seven and one-half months pregnant with their first child Tammy Doreen.

Due to the financial situation at the time, The Harters thought it would be best to drop out of Bible school for at least a year so Roberta could have their first child.

The Harters had been traveling in their bus and held many revivals throughout Ohio. One particular revival they conducted was in Alger, OH where their friends Kenny & Dolly Cain were pastoring. Kenny had extra chairs lined up on the sidewalk in front of the church with great expectation for a mighty revival. The attendance of the revival was in the 60s and since the local church could hold about 100 people, these chairs were not necessary. It was a good revival well attended. The Harters were under the impression that the local church averaged about 50-60 in their local attendance and were somewhat disappointed that another 40 were not in attendance, especially since they used their bus to announce the revival services in the local community.

Alger was east of Lima, OH and located in Allen County. 

Melvin spoke with Rev. Ralph Williams, State Overseer of Tennessee and at the same time, Rev. Raymond Crowley, State Overseer of Northern Ohio, telephoned Melvin regarding the Church of God in Alger, OH where the Harters had just completed an excellant revival a month earlier. Rev. Crowley wanted Melvin to become the pastor of the Alger Church of God.

1Brother Williams soon offered the pastoralship of the Rockwood Church of God located in Rockwood, TN to Melvin, which Melvin accepted because he thought he might be able to complete his bible studies at Lee on a part-time basis. Melvin telephoned Rev.  Raymond Crowley in Ohio to inform him that he had accepted the Tennessee appointment.

The Harters were living in a small 2 room up-stairs apartment, even though the one room was much larger and had a divider in it that separated a small kitchen from the living room and then there was a small bedroom off to the side. The only bathroom facilities were offered on each floor which sufficed for all the apartments on each of the two floors. There were no private bathrooms in any of the apartments. 

Immediately, the Harters relocated to Rockwood, TN. They were excited because offered a four-room parsonage and indoor bathroom facilities.  The Harters made preparations in acquiring a doctor and locating the local hospital because Roberta was due to have their daughter in six weeks.

As they prepared for their first Sunday service, Roberta said to Melvin, "I have the feeling that we are not going to be here very long" and she expressed her  feelings about unpacking and putting their pictures on the walls. Melvin told her to get that out of her mind because he was excited about his new church appointment.

A railroad track was located directly behind the parsonage and church. Trains ran day and night on that track. Each time a train would pass by, the house would literaly shake causing even the windows and the pictures on the walls to rattle.

Melvin went to the church on Sunday morning, welcoming the people and shaking everyone's hand. There were two men in the church wearing business suites. When Melvin introduced himself to these men, one of the men spoke up and stated that he was suppose to be the new pastor. Of course, this concerned Melvin, but the man smiled and stated that it was all right, and that he would simply step aside and let Melvin be the pastor.

As Melvin prepared to preach his first sermon, a large woman walked up to the pulpit and extended her left arm. With his right index finger, she pointed to the watch on her arm and stated, "We get out of here at twelve o'clock." Since the woman was rather large, and Melvin was quite skinning at the time, he responded, "Yes, Maaamm." 

The following morning, Melvin contacted the Tennessee Church of God State Offices in Chattoonga. He learned that a new State Overseer was appointed at the General Assembly by the name of D A Biggs. Melvin spoke to Rev. Biggs and stated, "Brother Biggs, I think we have a problem here in Rockwood." Brother Biggs responded by stating, "No, we don't have any problem." Melvin thought that Biggs would state there was a mix-up and that the other minister was appointed to another church, but instead Biggs stated, "The other minister is the pastor and you have a week to get out of the parsonage." Melvin responded to Biggs stating, "But Brother Biggs, my wife is seven and one-half months pregnant. We are expecting our first baby in six weeks." Brother Biggs renumerated his allocated seven days.

The Harters did not know what to do. They have always been directed by the Lord. What were they to do? 

Since the Harters had only moved out of Providence Hall in Cleveland, TN just a week ago, they still had several things in their apartment, including their telephone. The only thing the Harters knew to do was to get down on their knees and go to God in prayer. 

As they were on their knees praying, the telephone rang. When Melvin picked up the telephone to answer it, it was Rev. Raymond Crowley on the telephone.   

Rev. Crowley apologized to Melvin in calling him again, but he stated that he had been in prayer and that he still felt that Melvin was to be the pastor of the Church of God in Alger, OH.

Melvin responded that it must be God because he had no place to go and he explained to Crowley the situation. Rev. Crowley sent Melvin the funds to relocate to Ohio and they were soon packed again, and traveling north to Ohio.


Alger, Ohio

Actually, the first church where the Harters pastored was at the Church of God located on the corner of McConnell & Smith Streets in Alger, Ohio. It was a beautiful little white frame church with a two-story parsonage on the corner.

Previously during the summer months, Melvin  Roberta who were still utilizing their bus in evangelistic work, had held a seven-day revival at the church. Kenny & Dolly Cain where the pastors at the time.

It was actually somewhat of a strange revival, not so much relating with the people, but actually with the existing pastor, Kenny Cain. There was a sign across the top of the platform in the church that read, PAY YOUR TITHES, and in the bottom of the offering plate was actually a picture of Pastor Cain.

The Harters knew the Cains from Bible College. Kenny & Dolly lived across the hallway in the old Providence Hall facility, which was initially constructed in the 1940s. It was a cheap place for Bible College married students to live while attending Lee College and preparing for the ministry.

Kenny only enrolled at the Bible College for less than a year and appeared to be more interested in obtaining a church to pastor than he was in his studies and classes. Many times he spent more of his time in printing promotional literature than he did in attending his classes at Bible College.  However, Kenny & Dolly were a very sweet couple and very likeable. And even though Kenny missed attending many of his classes, the Cains became good friends with the Harters and they had many good times together.

One such event was the time when Kenny (missing another class) was home printing special literature for the promotion of his ministry. The Harters went back at the end of the class session to say hello. When Kenny answered the door (Dolly not being home due to her working a job), he stated that he had been printing some posters for his ministry. The posters had his pictures consisting of various ages on them. He was protective of touching the posters since they were still wet and not quite dry. So there were many of the dry ones stacked on his kitchen table. Meanwhile, Kenny said he was offered two churches and was praying about which one to accept.  Roberta wanted to have some fun. Uh O, Melvin knew that meant trouble ahead!

Providence Hall had a prayer room located in the attic or what you may call the third floor of the building. Evidentally, someone in the past recognized the need to have a place where residents could spend time with God in prayer and with certain construction skills, had created a Prayer Room in the attic of the building. However, a person could step outside the Prayer Room and be standing on the joist boards that cross the building.

Roberta wanted to have some fun and play God. Melvin told her not to do so, but she was determined to give Kenny an answer as to which of the two churches he should take. She stepped out onto the joist boards crossing the attic and was where she thought just above Kenny and Dolly's apartment because she could hear the old printing machine still printing Kenny's posters.

She began to prophecy. "Kenny, this is the Lord." And about this time, her foot slipped on the board and her legs went through the drywall ceiling of the Cain's apartment. The only thing that saved her from going completely through the ceiling was her ability to catch one of the joist boards with her arm. Melvin was able to help get her out.

Just as Roberta went through the ceiling of the Cain's apartment, Dolly was arriving home. It seemed that just as Dolly opened the door of her apartment, the incident occurred. Dolly cried out, "What in the world is going on?" Kenny's immediate reaction was, "I don't know anything about it." Meanwhile Roberta, while clinging to the board exclaimed, "It's me Dolly. Roberta."

Some years later Providence Hall was demolished to make way for a new buiding. However, if it was still standing today, you could go back to that apartment and discover several of Kenny's posters plastered to the ceiling where Roberta had made a hole falling through it while prophesing.

After that incident, everyone in the old building stated to Roberta, "Come and visit us, but use the front door please!" Everyone had a big laugh.

Regarding Melvin? It was the usual husband response, "I told you so."

Several years later, the Harters are conducting revival services for the Cains at their pastorate at the Church of God in Alger, OH. After one particular night of revival service, the Harters retired to bed and prepared to go to sleep when all of a sudden they heard a strange voice declaring, "I won't come out!"

There were no heat vents in the upstairs bedrooms, only open vents in the floor permitted any heat to enter the room. Kenny had an old A A Allen record entitled, "I Am Lucifer." He put the speaker up to the ceiling vent and began to play a portion of the record where some demon was declaring he would not come out. Boy, did that wake the Harters!  so in the midst of conducting revival services, there was a good time of fellowship as well.

There were about 60 people in attendance of the revival each night. And it seemed to be a good revival, many people were blessed with the singing of the Harters and Melvin's preaching.

But the revival was over, the Harters were back at their old apartment wondering what God wanted them to do. They were on their knees in prayer when the telephone that rested on the floor and had not been disconnected yet, rang. It was Rev. Raymond Crowley on the telephone telling Melvin that he still felt the the Lord would have the Harters to come to Alger and pastor the Church of God.

What else can a person do? The Harters believe that the Christian's life is guided by God. Whenever a Christian has dedicated his/her life to God by surrendering oneself totally over to the will of God, then whatever occurs in a person's life is under the total control of God.

Rev. Crowley assisted financially in the Harters relocating to Alger. In just a week or so, the Harters moved into the parsonage and began to pastor the Church of God in Alger, Ohio.





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