On November 8, 1896, Prophet William S. Crowdy incorporated our religious organization, the Church of God and Saints of Christ, in Emporia, Kansas. Certainly, this was a significant event in the history of our organization. However, this fact alone is not enough to justify our celebration of this day. This date serves merely as a focal point on which we take time to reflect upon the life and works of the Prophet, the significance of our way of life, and the omnipotence of God Almighty.
In the following paragraphs, we look back on the life of Prophet William S. Crowdy and the events surrounding the establishment of our organization. It is hoped that the reader will come to have a greater appreciation of the magnitude of what the Prophet established, especially if we consider his historical context. More importantly, however, it is hoped that the reader will come away with a greater reverence for God as he/she recognizes the guiding force of the hand of God in the Prophet’s life and work.
According to Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord ordains His prophets before their birth. In addition, St. Luke 13:33 submits that God sustains His prophets. The experiences of Prophet William S. Crowdy show that he was no exception. Prophet William S. Crowdy was born Wilson Crowdy on August 11, 1847 in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, under the oppression of slavery in the United States. Wilson fled the slave plantation and took the name William to conceal his identity.
Even early on, God’s influence in his life is evident. Case in point, at a time when Fugitive Slave Laws were being enforced, God made a way for the young Crowdy to not only escape the control of his slave master, but to elude capture for the remainder of the slavery era.
Later, the young Crowdy enlisted in the Union Army and from 1863 to 1865 he fought in the Civil War against the establishment that oppressed him and his people. After the war, he continued his career in the military, becoming a quartermaster sergeant in the Fifth Cavalry in 1867 before being discharged in 1872. Later, after residing in Kansas City for a time, he settled his family in Guthrie, Oklahoma and established himself as a successful farmer and cook.
At that time, the Oklahoma Territory was being opened up for settlement. It was known as a place that was relatively friendly to African-Americans. In fact, it was once believed that Oklahoma would become the first black state. Oklahoma would later become the home of the affluent African-American neighborhood known as Black Wall Street. Certainly, the Hand of God was at work, leading Bill Crowdy to Oklahoma.
On September 13, 1892, God Almighty stepped out of the everywhere-ness of eternity into the somewhere-ness of time to reveal Himself to Bill Crowdy. It was at this watershed moment in history that Bill Crowdy became Prophet William S. Crowdy. As he later recalled this momentous event, the Prophet said, “The command was so awakening that one could not resist its calling.”
As the story goes, Bill Crowdy was felling trees when he heard what sounded like rushing birds. He also heard a voice speaking to him, telling him to “Run for your life.” Subsequently, the Prophet fled to the woods where he received the vision from God.
Prophet William S. Crowdy’s flight into the woods took him away from society so that God could, in essence, have him to Himself. This separation from the world seems to be a characteristic of the revelation process that goes all the way back to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 17:1-5), Isaac (Genesis 26:2-4), and Jacob (Genesis 28:10-15). In particular, Ezekiel’s experience as recorded in Ezekiel 3:12-15 seems very similar to the Prophet’s initial experience.
God also prepares His prophets to meet the world by teaching and protecting them (Exodus 4:10-12, Joshua 1:8-9, Isaiah 6:5-7). God also infused His words in him. As the story goes, the Prophet was shown a little book and told to “eat it up.” He recalls, “In my mouth, it was sweet as honey, but in my belly, it was bitter as gall,” (see Ezekiel 2:8-10, 3:1-3). Further, God told the Prophet what to expect from the people (see Ezekiel 3:4-7), and God reassured him that He would “make his forehead strong against their foreheads,” (see Ezekiel 3:8-11).
In Prophet William S. Crowdy’s vision, God revealed to him the Ancient Plan of Salvation. In the vision, the Prophet saw himself in a little room with tables coming down. Each table was inscribed with the name of a religious denomination, and each table was filthy. Then, came down a little table, clean and white. Inscribed in it was the name, Church of God and Saints of Christ. When that little table reached the ground, it spread and spread until it filled the whole room, crowding out the other tables. The Prophet went on to preach about this Plan and, ultimately, establish our great organization.
We can liken the tables in the Prophet’s vision to the multitude of (religious) ideologies in the world. The imagery in the Prophet’s vision suggests that the ideals embodied within the Ancient Plan of Salvation–within the Church of God and Saints of Christ–would somehow overshadow these other, arguably lesser, ideals. The prophet Daniel was charged with interpreting a similar vision experienced by King Nebuchanezzar in Daniel 2:31-45.
The reader may be pondering the question, “What exactly is this Ancient Plan of Salvation?” Simply put, it is a total way of life that Prophet William S. Crowdy re-introduced to the world. We say re-introduced because the religion he brought embodied those same truths which the Biblical prophets had fostered: the Sabbath (Saturday), the Passover, the Hebrew Calendar, the Day of Atonement, and above all, the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Revelation.
This Plan not only establishes the omnipotence of God and other supporting theological concepts. It establishes the Brotherhood of Mankind. Prophet William S. Crowdy came to gather the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matthew 10:6), to bring us all into one spiritual family. As siblings in this family, we are admonished to love and respect one another, live clean and moral lives, and to take our personal responsibilities seriously. In the February 16, 1902 issue of the Philadelphia Daily Press, the Prophet is reported to have said, “I teach my people to love one another, keep the Ten Commandments, pay their honest debts, and abstain from alcohol and tobacco.” One of the most profound statements that the Prophet ever made was, “Little children, love ye one another.”
Prophet William S. Crowdy also taught us to, “Eat the best, wear the best, be the best.” He promoted self-sufficiency and self-improvement. In fact, he set a wonderful example by fostering the establishment of several kinds of businesses, including a general store, barber shop, restaurant, and printing plant. In addition, he was a landowner, and he purchased land on behalf of the organization as a “home for the saints.”
If we reflect on this all-encompassing Plan, we can see Church of God and Saints of Christ as a vehicle for carrying out this Plan. The doctrine of our organization points us to our Source, the Almighty God. Its departments and auxiliaries inspire us (the Choir), educate us (the Sabbath School), sustain our well being and the well being of others (the Daughters), and foster our secular development and growth (the Mens’ & Womens’ Developing Association). The great thing about the Plan is that it was brought to the whole world. This Ancient Plan of Salvation involves many facets and has the capacity to change the world. It’s no wonder that the Prophet said, “Religion is not something to get. It is a duty. It is something to do all the time.”
In the preceding paragraphs, we have taken a brief look at the early life of Prophet William S. Crowdy, God’s revelation to him and the revival of the Ancient Plan of Salvation as we reflect upon the meaning of our Re-establishment Day holiday. We saw the hand of God as we examined the Prophet’s early life. God led him out of slavery and to subsequently fight against it. God provided a safe, secure, successful home for the Prophet and his family in Oklahoma. Finally, God provided for him and his family as he traveled extensively to establish this great work.
The accomplishments made by the Prophet in just 12 short years are incredible. Although our society had plunged into the depths of Jim Crow, this unsung hero of faith, Prophet William S. Crowdy, excelled not only in the field of religion, but also as a businessman, industrialist, musician, Grand Master of Masons, author, and publisher. The Prophet re-introduced a total way of life to the world that addressed a broad spectrum of issues from religion to economics to positive thinking and self-improvement, a way of life uniquely important to an oppressed people. The Church of God and Saints of Christ is simply a vehicle through which we can carry out the Ancient Plan of Salvation, and consequently improve our lives and the world in general.
Therefore, we celebrate Re-establishment Day as a time to reflect upon the heroic effort made by Prophet William S. Crowdy. We reflect upon the Ancient Plan of Salvation and renew our fervor to keep this work alive and to promote its further development. Finally, we give thanks to the Lord GOD Almighty. We should be especially thankful to Him for loving us so much that He entrusted us with this great Plan!