Four and a half months ago, Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. paused as he prepared to read “the word of the Lord” and made an announcement: the Holy Convocation likely would convene in Memphis in two to three years.
On Monday night, word filtered out of St. Louis that the convention held there for the last nine years would indeed return to its roots in Memphis.
“The Church of God in Christ since 2010 has held our largest convention, the Holy Convocation in St. Louis, MO. and today we voted to move the convention in 2021-2023 to the city of Memphis, TN.,” Blake said in a statement released Monday night.
“The City of Memphis has special significance in the spiritual and cultural life of COGIC and we are pleased to return to the place of our origin,” Blake added.
The 111th Holy Convocation began in St. Louis Nov. 5 and concludes today (Nov. 13). The annual convention will be held in St. Louis through 2020. Blake, the General Board and the General Assembly, the legislative body of the Church of God in Christ, voted for the return to Memphis.
COGIC counts 6.5 million adherents in 100 countries and is regarded as the fourth largest Protestant group in the nation.
The annual religious gathering known as the Holy Convocation convened in Memphis from 1907 through 2009. At the time of the move, it was reported that Memphis lacked the infrastructure to serve the estimated 30,000 attendees.
There have been several efforts and pitches made to lure COGIC back to Memphis since its departure, including a 2014-bid to secure the convention for 2017-19. That came during the administration of then-Mayor A C Wharton Jr.
Two years later, Bishop David Allen Hall, pastor of Temple Church of God and Christ, wrote Mayor Jim Strickland with these suggestions for luring COGIC back to Memphis:
“Pay the two current bond issues on the FedEx Forum and the Pyramid. Start a new bond issue for two purposes: (1) to renovate the Cook Convention Center with increased capacity for larger conventions (2) to demolish the Liberty Bowl Stadium and build a new domed stadium with a seating capacity of 50,000.”
When he announced at a gathering last June (2018) that COGIC expected to be back in Memphis in two or three years, Blake said, “We had a thing or two that we needed to teach Memphis. So we are going to go back and see whether they learned it or not.”