Posts Tagged ‘ Haven Ministries ’

Haven Ministries: Church of God of Prophecy – Visited on 11/20

This week we return to Southeast Clover, South Carolina.  The object of our visit is Haven Ministries, a member church of the Church of God of Prophecy.  In the past Churchspotting covered two other Church of God affiliates, Greater Life Ministries (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-1c, http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-1c) and East Clover Church of God (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-1Y).

The Church of God of Prophecy is a Pentecostal Christian religious association based in Cleveland, TN.  At approximately seven million adherents worldwide it is one of the larger Protestant denominations.  Past Churchspotting experiences with Church of God affiliates included: worshippers speaking in tongues; a style of prayer where each member of the congregation conducts their devotions at a volume and with words of their choosing; and a general trend towards low-income, family-based membership.

Haven Ministries is a small, tan building on the shoulder of Hilltop Lane.  Its neighboring homes are trailers and low-cost construction.  Its porch looks out upon exposed ridges of the mossy grey stone that lies beneath much of the town of Clover.  Inside a short wood-paneled hallway opens onto the sanctuary: a low, square room filled by two columns of pews facing a stage ringed with purple bunting.  A flag stands to either side of the stage, one American, the other Pentecostal.  A wooden pulpit stands at the center, draped in garlands of autumn leaves and set with Fall-blooming flowers.  Behind stand racks and seating for several guitarists and a full drum set.

Haven Ministries is a small church in terms of its congregation as well as its architectural footprint.  On the morning of 11/20 the church could boast of around twenty-five adult participants in the congregation, with a maximum of thirty-five including children.  Many members of the congregation were absent due to family illnesses; according to the church’s pastor, Olivene Martin, a more average size is closer to forty or fifty.

Worship at Haven Ministries is not for the faint of heart.  The service observed by Churchspotting began at 9:45 AM and continued till past noon, with a second service planned for that evening.  That time includes a Sunday School class on Biblical scripture taught after the initial recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and a prayer of thanksgiving.

That morning the prayer of thanksgiving began by asking for God’s blessing on the United States Military, then upon the nation’s schools and teachers, then for individuals put forward by the congregation.  The service’s sermon, delivered by Pastor Olivine Martin, followed the Sunday School and took up the remainder of the worship service.

It is worth the time to explain the phenomenon of Pentecostal prayer to the uninitiated.  At the prayer leader’s prompting, be that the church’s pastor or some secondary leader, the congregation commences to pray.  This is done at a volume of each worshipper’s choosing, discussing matters also of their choosing.  Thus any number of congregants begin speaking during the prayer time, at independent volumes, with individual words.  The result is what Churchspotting now terms “cacophonic prayer.”  Each individual’s words blend together into a pulsating river of sound, swelling before it diminishes as each worshipper completes their devotions.  The service moves on only once everyone finishes speaking.

After the morning’s worship I sat down with Pastor Martin and her husband, James, for a brief interview.  Olivene and James Martin are an older couple; Pastor Martin described being ‘saved,’ i.e. giving herself to her faith, at the age of 17 in 1954.  She has lived in York County since at least that time as a member of the York Church of God, before being named pastor of Haven Ministries in 1982.

When the original Church of God of Prophecy candidate for that Haven post, an elderly man at 82 years, passed before construction could begin on the church the duty fell to Olivene.  At the time the Church of God organization owned the plot of land in Clover, but no church yet stood.  Pastor Olivine led the foundation of what is now Haven Ministries nearly thirty years ago, and has served as the church’s pastor from then till now.

Pastor Martin believes that the End Times, and the Rapture of Pentecostal tradition, are near.  During the interview she and James referred to the Book of Matthew, where scripture describes an age of war, upheaval and false prophets as precursors to the second coming of Christ and the end of the world as we know it.  They believe that our modern era fulfills those criteria.  She and her husband spoke of how the weather has grown more unpredictable since their youths, and of earthquakes striking in areas where they were formerly unknown until recently.

She also spoke of a diminishing of love and trust in American culture, which she attributed to a decline in the power and prevalence of American Christianity.  In language very similar to that used by Rev. Raymond of Will of God Ministries (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-4P) she claimed that America is now awash in foreign religions, and that the government favors these groups, whom Rev. Martin referred to as ‘pagans’, over Christians.  In her own words, “The love of many would wax cold, and you don’t find people who have that love that they should have, like with back in the 40s and the 50s.  It’s diminished.  When the 60s era came in with their “free love,” that’s when Christianity began to diminish.”

The Martins cited the removal of prayer from public schools in 1962 as a key grievance in the struggle they see between American Christianity and these ‘pagan’ influences.  Regardless of the societal decline they see in the United States, regular donations and attendance at Haven Ministries have remained stable since before the global financial collapse of 2008.