The First Apostolic Faith Church received its initial commission from God – as prescribed on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost descended upon the 120 believers who were gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Believing wholly on the message given to and preached on that day by the Apostles and Disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, this church was conceived in the heart of Joseph Morsell Turpin. Having heard the gospel preached out of the King’s Apostles Holy Church founded by Mother Carrie V. Gurry, God led him to salvation and filled him with the Holy Ghost.
It was Joseph Turpin’s tremendous faith in this great gospel that sustained him in the trying times that were to come. In 1912 Joseph Turpin left King’s Apostle and opened a small mission in his home with his close friends, Samuel Watson and George Molton. Molton, Watson and Turpin were ordained by a Pentecostal preacher, John W. Pitcher in 1916. Many people were saved at this small 3-story building, 311 North Gilmor Street. Because of the rapid growth, his followers moved to a larger mission at Biddle Street and Myrtle Avenue. Turpin was a man given to much prayer and was always seeking a closer walk with the Lord. In 1916 he heard about the revelation of the Oneness of God and Water Baptism in Jesus Name. He and his wife, Ruth, traveled to Philadelphia to hear Henry Prentiss, Pastor of the Apostolic Faith Assembly. Prentiss was one of the first African American’s who went to the Azusa Street Revival, in Los Angeles, CA and received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. After hearing Prentiss, Mother Ruth Turpin was baptized in the name of Jesus and her husband, was baptized soon after. Prentiss, traveled to Baltimore to preach the revelation of Jesus Name at the mission on Biddle Street and Myrtle Avenue. Some of the congregation rejected the message and the doors of the church were padlocked, denying access for them to continue the revival. Without a place to assemble Prentiss held services at Turpin’s home, 311 North Gilmor Street.
A seminal moment in the history of First Apostolic took place during Bible Study. It was here that Minister Turpin came in contact with his neighbors, the Dyson family. The mission held a baptismal service for candidates, and Young Alethia Dyson (Camphor) was the first person baptized in the name of Jesus by Joseph Morsell Turpin during this service.
Through the prayers and faithfulness of J.M. Turpin and a few God-fearing members, enough money was accumulated to move to larger quarters at Forrest and Lexington Streets in East Baltimore. It was here that Turpin established the Apostolic Faith Church in 1917, the first oneness apostolic church in Baltimore, Maryland. Among the congregants of the early church included the families of Geneva Watts, Robert McGoings, Estella Chambers and Henrietta Walker. God blessed the now ordained, Elder Turpin with unshakable faith in the redemptive and keeping power of the Holy Ghost and through his preaching, teaching, fasting and praying the church’s membership continued to grow.
In 1921, the congregation moved again to an even larger facility on Spring and Mulliken Streets. However, the church remained at this location for only four years; God was adding to the church such as would be saved. By 1925, the church was bursting at the seams, needing space to accommodate a rapidly growing congregation. They were able to purchase and renovate the “National Theatre,” located at Eden and Monument Streets. God continued to give Elder Turpin visions to equip the ministry and enlighten the workers for God’s service. In 1937 the Turpin School of the Bible was organized to facilitate his belief that it was vital for God’s messengers to be trained and qualified in the Word in order to understand, explain, proclaim and apply it intelligently.
Elder Turpin was insightful as a pioneer in the Apostolic Faith. He joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) in 1918 and shortly after he was elected to serve as one of the 21 field superintendents. In 1919, he was appointed to the board of elders and shortly thereafter he became one of the founding members of the Eastern District Council (Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia). After the racial split in 1925, G.T. Haywood was appointed the first Presiding Bishop and Joseph M. Turpin was elected one of the first of five founding Bishops of the organization. As First Apostolic continued to grow, it became one of the largest and most vibrant churches in the PAW.
Bishop Joseph Morsell Turpin will always be remembered for his praying spirit, in-depth study of the Bible and impromptu singing in the middle of his sermons. He was a giant in the faith and a pioneer who contributed to community outreach and was sensitive to the call of young ministers. His nephew, young Winfield Showell, served as his chauffer. While under his uncle’s guidance and tutelage, God began to work His will in the life of this future pastor. Bishop Turpin imparted many of the principles and foundational teachings into his nephew so that the work of the Lord would continue to prosper. Bishop Joseph Morsell Turpin departed this life on March 17, 1943 at the age of 55, but had fully prepared his nephew, Winfield Amos Showell, so that the work of the Lord would flourish and the apostolic legacy would continue.
During the eighteen-month period between Turpin’s death and the election of a new pastor, the affairs of the Church were administered by Elder Joseph C. Lee, who served as the interim pastor.
On October 18, 1944, Bishop Samuel Grimes, the Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, installed Elder Winfield Amos Showell as the second pastor of the Apostolic Faith Church. It was on this day that Elder Showell, like Caleb, made his request of God, Lord, Give Me This Mountain. In fact, he made this request the text of his installation sermon. One of the first difficulties to overcome was to find a new church home to replace the city-condemned building at Eden and Monuments Streets. Elder Showell, led by God Almighty and with the support of his Board of Trustees and the church membership, purchased the magnificent building at 21 South Caroline Street, The Evangelical Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
Mountains were moved and high places were brought down as other facets of the vision were realized. In a matter of months, the new edifice was debt free. And God continued granting Elder Showell’s requests by expanding the ministry with additional real estate surrounding the church and the building beautification and renovations inside (balcony and choir loft construction).
In 1945, the live radio broadcast began. The music was initially rendered by the Young People’s Choir each Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. live from the WITH Radio Station. Years later, the live broadcast was moved to Sunday evening services. The broadcast became a Sunday night highlight, not only to the church membership but also to the City of Baltimore. Families from all over Baltimore City and surrounding areas would gather around the radio to listen to the songs of Zion and the Preached Word of God. The radio ministry was also expanded to include the Sunday morning worship service. Many souls were reached for Christ and the Church continued growing. Elder Showell was greatly committed to expanding the gospel through the radio ministry of the Church .
Elder Showell’s vision not only included spiritual development, but also programs that impacted the community. One of the community programs initiated by Elder Winfield was The Sons of Solomon Boys Club, which was founded to develop character in the young men of the church, as well as boys living in
the surrounding community. The Church purchased 22 acres of choice land off of Pulaski Highway, which served as a campsite providing open air experiences for young men. It also served as an overnight campsite for the Boys Scout troupe and housing for the Sons of Solomon Boy’s Club.
During the 44 years of his pastorate, Bishop Winfield Showell’s accomplishments are too numerous to itemize in the areas of church growth and planting, leadership development, ministerial certification, community housing and homeless facilities, as well a food bank for the needy. Like Bishop Turpin before him, Bishop Winfield Amos Showell, had the same spiritual insight to continue and expand the vision of the Lord’s church. In 1957, he became one of the founding Bishops of the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ Worldwide, Inc., under the leadership of his friend, Bishop Smallwood E. Williams.
Bishop Winfield Showell mentored his son, Cornelius and placed him in positions of the Assistant Pastor and church administrator. Under the watchful eye of his father, Cornelius handled the daily functions of the Church. The City of Baltimore would be greatly benefited even more dramatically as a result of the new ministries he established and new mountains he would conquer. The construction of Apostolic Towers, a 150-unit high rise apartment building for the elderly and the handicapped was one of his crowning achievements receiving commendations from HUD and regional awards as an exceptional senior-housing complex. Elder Cornelius Showell was a mastermind in urban development and was the architect behind the Johnston Square Manor, a 64-unit moderate income townhouse complex, Berea Apostolic Towers, a 102-unit apartment complex for the elderly and handicapped. He was also the project manager for the new Apostolic Temple.
In 1987, after receiving the mantle from his father, Bishop Winfield Amos Showell, officially installed his son, Bishop Cornelius Showell as the Senior Pastor of the First Apostolic Faith Church of Jesus Christ, Inc. Through his leadership, the church continued to build uncompromisingly upon its rich foundation; compelling men to receive the love that Christ offers and be filled with the precious gift of the Holy Ghost. In the wise providence of God, within a year from the installation when the mantle had been received, the Honorable Winfield Amos Showell departed this life on July 10, 1988.
Under Bishop Cornelius Showell’s leadership, the church has not only continued its initial vision, but also has seen the realization and expansion to the Community outreach efforts affording First Apostolic numerous opportunities to better serve and be a blessing to Baltimore City and the State of Maryland: a food-buying club with membership of over 1,000 families, a citizens fuel-buying club, city-wide youth ministries, licensed day care center, emergency housing for the homeless, emergency food and clothing center, pastoral counseling and referral services and Alcoholics Victorious (drug and alcohol support group).
By the sovereignty of God, Bishop Cornelius Showell was elevated to the Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the International Bible Way Organization; the organization in which his father was one of the founding bishops. Being called to the Kingdom for such a time as this, Apostle Showell has been a visionary, pioneer and revolutionist for this 21st Century. Engaging in organizational change has led the church into a revolutionary epoch and course of events in which the Church is positioned towards a definite and specified direction with new momentum.
For over 100 years First Apostolic Faith Church has been a beacon of light and has changed the lives of many. During this time of reflection on the legacy and spiritual heritage, the First Apostolic Faith family gives thanks to God for our founding fathers, mothers and the saints of old. We face the next one hundred years with undaunted and steadfast faith and confidence in what God has already promised.