Bishop Nelson Clark poses at the Power House Tabernacle Pentacostal Christian Church in Toledo. He is celebrating 50 years as a minister.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
For Bishop William Nelson Clark this is a year of anniversaries and milestones.
Wednesday will mark 50 years since he preached his first sermon as an evangelist, this is his 40th year as a pastor leading a church and he will turn 65 in November.
There is much cause for celebration and fortunately a party is planned.
On Sunday at Power House Tabernacle, 1228 Campbell St., both the 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. worship services will observe the bishop’s 50th year as a preacher, with guest speakers Pastor Mark Smalls at 11. Bishop Nolan White of Christian Community Church, 2500 Nebraska Ave. will be guest speaker at 6. Bishop Clark has spent 37 years at Power House, which is now part of the Pentecostal Christian Church.
It is also Pentecost Sunday in the Christian calendar, 50 days after Passover, when Christians believe the holy spirit filled the apostles after Jesus’ resurrection.
It helps to reach a half century in the pulpit when you start as a teenager, as Bishop Clark did. “I didn’t want to preach,” Bishop Clark said. “I wanted to sing and play [music].”
Worship has not always gone as planned. “I was in Dayton (Ohio) one time doing a revival. In our churches we pray and we lay hands on people. I start praying for this lady, and I’ve got my eyes closed tight. She had on a wig and a scarf, and I had slipped my hand under the scarf. Well, the woman fell out on the floor and I’m standing there holding her wig and her scarf. I just laid the wig down on her head.”
After Bible college in Cincinnati, Bishop Clark became pastor of a Church of God in Christ in East Toledo. “It’s how I got to Toledo,” he said. “I stayed there for three years, and then I opened up Power House and we’ve floated around the city.”
At a worship service, Bishop Clark sings, plays and preaches. He’s comfortable at the church organ’s keyboard with a microphone to lead the hymns and songs, and of course standing in the pulpit. On a recent Sunday, Bishop Clark was in his red bishop’s clothing starting the service from the organ bench, and the music was helped along by some tambourines in the congregation.
When it was time for the sermon, he spoke about prayer, making the point that “You don’t put your business out there with everybody.... It is important that we learn not only to pray the corporate prayer in the church, we need that secret closet prayer by ourselves, or somewhere with people where we can be sincere and tell God everything.”
Bishop Clark worked for Buckeye CableSystem “running the warehouse for 30-some years,” he said. Now retired from that position, besides pastoring at Power House and serving as PCC bishop, he is on the advisory board of Lucas County Children’s Services “trying to get fathers to be reunited with their children.”
For 17 years he coordinated church participation for a gospel music show on WTVG-TV, Channel 13. If a choir didn’t show up, “I would have to do the program; I would sing and play,” he said.
But Power House Tabernacle is central to Bishop Clark’s life and career. He had been at Power House and with the Church of God in Christ until he formed the PCC and became a bishop. Bishop Clark said that a couple of young preachers he knew in Cleveland and Columbus said they could look to him as a bishop. “I began to pray,” and the name Pentecostal Christian Church came to him. He formed the denomination and was consecrated as bishop November 6, 1993.
“We started with four [churches], we went up to nine and now we’re back to four again,” Bishop Clark said. “I grew up in a church called the Fire Baptised Holiness Church, and then I left from there and went to the Church of God in Christ, so this is a mixture of the two.”
He will continue with Power House and the PCC for the foreseeable future. “If I get to the place where I cannot function, I would not want to hinder the church holding me here because I’m the pastor and founder,” he said.
“Right now I’m listening and looking for somebody to mentor so that I can make a shift. I really want to enlarge the place before I go. Once I complete that, then [the congregation] can do what they want to do and I’ll have established the fact that I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.”
Contact TK Barger at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.