Brown Memorial Church of God In Christ now stands as a pillar of light to wayward souls in need of Gods guidance. The founder Elder John B. Brown humble beginning started as a faithful Deacon and later Minister at College Hill Church of God In Christ at that time known as the “Mother Church” under the leadership of Elder J. J. Flowers. After proving himself he was elevated to the Office of Ordained Elder by the late Bishop S. P. Nesbitt, Sr.
During the year 1934 Elder Brown responded to the voice of God and felt the need to begin a Church in Central Tampa. Elder Brown set out on his own after much opposition being considered an ignorant and unlearned man to establish the First Church in Central Tampa on Orange Street. The first Church stationed in a sand bed, was met with hard times. Orange crates were used for the podium and pews. The rent was hard and difficult at times to pay making eviction imminent. The Second Church was obtained on Long Emory Street. On occasion there was music with Brother Moses Simpkins assisting with the services. Times being hard, the Church was packed in a wheel barrel and moved during the night to the Third location at Governor Street. While at the Third location and being led by a vision Elder McKnight of Georgia came to give Elder Brown extra man power. Elder Brown was a generous man and obtained a room from one of the saints for Elder McKnight to sleep but he slept on the floor of the Church eating out of cans. Later Elder McKnight returned to Georgia and God sent Elder McCloud from Panama City who lived in the back of the Church to assist with the services. The difficult economy made it necessary for the Church to be moved to Scott Street and then back to Governor Street.
Due to the lack of heat in the building Elder Brown came down with a severe cold with chronic coughing, possibly pneumonia. A neighbor, Mrs. Annie heard Elder Brown coughing and found him sleeping on the floor of the Church. The next day Mrs. Annie and the ladies of the Church; Mother Mary Jones (the first member and first Church Mother of the Church), Mary Lloyd (Brown) and Annie Bryant came to the aide of Elder Brown, giving him a cot and some blankets. Because there were no men members of the Church, the Church was called the “She Church”. In 1940, Mother Norma Bell of Jacksonville, Florida held a revival service and prayed that God would send more men. Thru the revival the church membership increased along with the finances. Mother Bell gave the proceeds of $1,500.00 to Elder Brown and sent him to find another Church site. Elder Brown found and purchased an old house called the Harris house. Because the owner was considered a spiritualist “root man”, nobody was able to occupy the building. Elder Brown believed God and dedicated this building to be God’s Sanctuary. The ground floor was converted into the main sanctuary and Elder Brown and his family resided on the top floor. Later Urban Renewal purchased this property and the Church was forced to move to a new building on Charlotte Street. The church continued to prosper enabling Elder Brown to purchase property along Nebraska Avenue (one block long and one block wide).
Elder Brown became a prominent minister in the surrounding area. He was chosen as President of the Baptist Ministers Alliance, he was the State President of Western Florida YPWW (Young People Willing Worker) and Sunday School Superintendent of the St. Petersburg Florida District. The Church flourished and was known thru-out the city as “Holy Ghost Headquarters”.
In the early 1960’s Elder Brown was appointed by Bishop S. P. Nesbitt, Sr. of Western Florida to the office of District Superintendent where he continued his call for the Lord until his health began to fail. In 1968 the “old” Brown Temple Church of God In Christ located at 2314 E. 27th Avenue was erected and due to his failing health, Superintendent Brown relinquished the pastorship to his son, Elder W. W. Gilyard.
Elder W. W. Gilyard added greatly to the church. In 1975 under his reign an annex was erected and memorialized to the second Church mother, Mother Hanna Cox. The annex was named “The Hannah Cox Educational Building”. Elder Gilyard with continued dedication and loyalty worked vigorously to insure that God’s Assignment to Supt. Brown would not die. But this was to become a year of great joy and sorrow, for on April 18, 1975 the founder, Superintendent J. B. Brown found the greatest reward from all of his labor by going home to be with the Lord. Later, the Lord showed Elder Gilyard a vision that someday Brown Temple would own all of surrounding properties to the church. But this would not be accomplished under his reign for in 1985, Elder Gilyard relinquished the pastorship to the Assistant Pastor (his nephew), Elder Matthew Williams.
Since Elder Matthew Williams took the reigns in 1985, the church membership has grown tremendously. He caught the vision of our founding Father; Superintendent J. B. Brown (his grandfather) and Elder W. W. Gilyard (his uncle) and kept “The Word” through principles and doctrine of the church alive. Elder Williams begin acquiring property to build God a new house and in March 1996 lead the membership across the street to the present location, 2313 E. 27th Avenue.
The new edifice was dedicated Brown Memorial Church of God In Christ in memory of our founding father, Superintendent J. B. Brown. As foretold, Bishop Williams have purchased various properties in the surrounding area.
Through hard work and dedication, Elder Williams has obtained various distinguished offices throughout the church; namely National Adjutant Overseer, Second Administrative Assistant to the late Bishop W. E. Davis, Superintendent of the Greater Suncoast District. Upon the demise of Bishop W. E. Davis; he was consecrated to the Sacred Office of Bishop, by the Presiding Bishop of the International Church of God In Christ, Bishop Chandler Owens, etc.
With God’s help and dedicated pastors and members, today the church that was expected to fail, has stood the test of time and became the Jurisdiction of Southwestern Florida’s State Headquarters. Under Bishop Williams’ reign many churches have been added to the Jurisdiction.
Also, under Bishop Williams’ reign many churches were born namely; in Clearwater Florida, the Overcoming COGIC lead by Mother-In-Charge, Mother Alberta Baker (who later became the Jurisdiction of Southwestern Florida Supervisor of Women), Dominion & Power COGIC lead by Elder Isiah Williams; in Tampa, Florida, Rainbow Ministries COGIC lead by Elder Joseph Green, International Church of the Harvest COGIC lead by Elder Larry Troupe, Agape Ministries COGIC and others to follow.
In celebrating and praising God for the many years of existence it must be understood that the founding father and pioneer saints fasted, prayed and made great sacrifices to make this day a reality!