By LINDA M. LINONIS
The late Rev. Elizabeth Powell left a legacy of love, a welcoming spirit and enduring faith in God at World Fellowship Interdenominational Church.
The Rev. Larry McCulloh, whom she picked as her successor, and the membership continue God’s work as a tribute to the Rev. Mrs. Powell and a commitment to their own faith. The church is marking its 50th anniversary this weekend.
The Rev. Mr. McCulloh; Juanita Sharper, a member for “49.8” years; David Coleman, a 30-plus year member who is a trustee and on the usher board; and his wife, Mary Coleman, a 35-year member and deaconess, recently met to discuss church history. Sharper recalled holding the pastor as a baby and he grew up in the church. Now Mr. McCulloh and his wife, Edna, have a daughter, Imani, 5.
“Rev. Powell left a legacy of ‘doing the right thing,’” said Mrs. Coleman. “She conveyed a spirit of togetherness ... and was a mother to the whole church.”
Mr. McCulloh said Rev. Powell, who also blazed a path for women in ministry, founded World Fellowship in 1962 out of the South Side Prayer Band that she started in the 1930s. Mr. McCulloh’s great-grandmother, Effie Curry, was in the band. Mrs. Powell pastored actively until she was 102 years old. Mr. McCulloh, who will mark his fifth year as pastor in January, said his mentor remained pastor until her death in 2007.
“Her faith in God was the motivation,” he said. Beliefs are based on Jesus’ teachings and the Bible.
He said Mrs. Powell left an example for the membership to follow in how she “sacrified for others and shared her talents.”
Coleman concurred that the founder’s faith was a bedrock for the membership. “She instilled faith in others,” he said. “She encouraged people to ‘let their light shine.’”
“She loved everyone and had a joy she shared,” Sharper said. “When she smiled, so did you.”
With a membership of about 100, World Fellowship continues the mission of its founder. Oldest members are Helen Summers, Mrs. Powell’s daughter; and Purvis Terrell, Dorothy Moody, Elizabeth Kimbrough and Mamie Foster.
Mr. McCulloh said the church offers a food program on the third Sunday of the month with a food distribution. “Anyone is welcome ... you don’t have to be a member. We focus on the South Side area,” he said.
The church gets food through members’ donations and Gleaners Food Bank.
The church offers a breakfast for Sunday school. “It’s a way to reach out to young people in the neighborhood,” Mr. McCulloh said.
Mrs. Coleman supervises the clothing ministry; clothes are free to anyone who needs them. “It’s another opportunity for ministry,” she said.
The pastor noted the Missionary Society with Monica Tolbert president visits Camelot Arms Care Center monthly. The youth choir sings.
Mrs. Coleman said Beautiful UT focuses on young women. “We want to emphasize beauty inside,” she said. The group, for those 10 and older, focuses on issues affecting girls including proper attire. Speakers are featured.
The senior choir offers a Black History Month program in February, and the church has a soul-food dinner featuring skits.
The church sponsors a vacation Bible school in August and it coincides with the church picnic. Mr. McCulloh said the church has the Bible school late so that it uses that activity to distribute school supplies.
A mime ministry for “spiritual expression,” said Coleman is another element of worship.
The church also meets needs in the community through either Thanksgiving and Christmas distributions.
The senior and junior usher boards, which include both genders, serve as greeters to welcome all.
A senior choir sings three times a month and the junior choir, once.
The church also hosts a Feast of Salads in the fall featuring a speaker. It also has a scholarship fund for World Fellow youth.
“Mrs. Powell knew the importance of youth in the church,” Mr. McCulloh said.
Sharper, now a mother of the church, said Mrs. Powell “was like a mother to me.” That was when she was a mother with six children. Then living on West Dewey, Sharper said she liked the atmosphere and Mrs. Powell. Sharper said the church had its “ups and downs” but Mrs. Powell’s “belief in the power of prayer” made a difference.