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Speak to my Heart
Communities of Faith and Contemporary African American Life.

Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture

Interview with Mrs. Ezelle Howard, Evangelist
Refreshing Spring Church of God in Christ

Mrs. Ezelle Howard
"...faith is believing, but you don't see.  But you can completely, totally trust in God, before he even does whatever it is that your're asking him for..."
MS. MORRIS:  State your name. 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Ezelle B. Howard. 
MS. MORRIS:  And where were you born? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  I was born in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina. 
MS. MORRIS:  When did you move to Washington, D.C.? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  In the year 1950, the fall of the year. 
MS. MORRIS:  And how long have you been a member of Refreshing Spring Church of God in Christ? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Since that very same year. It's '96, that's about forty-six years. 
MS. MORRIS:  Could you tell me about your church experience in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Well, as a girl, already, my parents was -- when I remembered, they were in C.O.G.I.C , which means Church of God in Christ. They were in the Church of God in Christ when I can first remember -- my mother was, not my father. My mother was, and my grandmother. So it's really what we call our family church. And so from my earliest remembrance, I was there. I remember receiving the Lord when I was seven years old, down there, and I stayed, of course, until I was seventeen, eighteen. I moved here. I attended school there, and I -- as a young girl, I started -- oh, in my early teens, I started doing things in the church. I worked with the ushers, and when the bishop would come to our church, most of the time, I wrote the minutes of the meetings that he attended out there, because I served in the Sunday School. Well, there was no part of the church I didn't serve in, to be honest with you, because I love church. Nobody ever had to say, "Get up to go to church," or "It's time to go to church." Nobody ever had to say that. I loved church, just like I loved school. I never had to be awakened to go to school, and I never had to be pushed to go to church. So I had a lovely church, and what it stood for, in my understanding as a child, and at the time, to me, church was a place where we had a lot of joy, a lot of love. You know, hugging, with the older people, and "I'm telling you that Jesus love you, and you want to be a good little girl, because you want to go to Heaven," and things of that nature. Because we don't always understand what it means to be a good little girl, but you're doing what you think it means to be a good little girl, because you want to go to Heaven. So I served [inaudible] and that's what I served. 
MS. MORRIS:  So you became saved when you were seven years old? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Well, yes. Yes. Seven years old. 
MS. MORRIS:  Okay. What are some of the positions you have held in church? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  All right. Okay. They don't call it a position, but the first important thing, to me, was the fact that I wrote minutes for the bishop. But the most important thing as a child there was, I was the minister's reader. 

See, in the old churches, especially Pentecostal churches -- and I am Pentecostal -- in the old Pentecostal church, we used to have what they called read on for the preacher. The preacher would call a Scripture, and somebody would read it for him. Not because a lot of them couldn't read -- some of them couldn't, but it wasn't because of that. But sometimes, he's not going to -- he don't remember all the Scriptures, and right then -- if the anointing is there, he's trying to get a lot of things done at one time. He wants somebody who can hold the Scripture until he comes back to have it read. 

So I served -- and I enjoyed that more than anything I can remember, as a youngster, was reading for the minister. But since I come to Washington in this area, well, I served as the secretary to the Sunday School. And we had a group called the Future Homemakers, the FHG, the Future Homemakers Guild. Young girls learning how to, you know, do things around the house, set tables, cook, you know, that sort of thing, and we had one of the senior women in the church who was the -- I named her "The Navigator," because she didn't have a name, so I named our Navigator. 

But I served as president to that group. When we first organized, and once a year, we'd invite our parents, you know, [inaudible]. But anyway, the younger people who were under us, they would invite their parents, and we'd have them to prepare the meal, and then we'd invite their parents to enjoy. So this was the Future Homemakers Guild. I served as president. And then I served as the executive secretary to the Sunday School. I served in the choir, not as an officer, but in the choir. When we had our youth days, I was the secretary for the youth day planning committee. I served there. 

And then I served as the -- I still serve as the first -- I was the first vice president, first, of the missionary circle, and now I am the president of the missionary circle. I can't think of anything I haven't served on. I'm trying to think of something I didn't serve on. But mostly -- the only thing I didn't serve on was when I was younger, the things that the older folks had that young people couldn't get in. 

I was vice president, also, to the YWCC, Young Women's Christian Council. I served as vice president there, also. Then I served as the vice president to the Hospitality Club of our church. 

So then we had what we called a build up time at the Sunday School, at which time we tried to stimulate the young people and bring them to a love for the Sunday School, not just coming because their parents brought them, but bring them to a love for the Sunday School. So we'd served there with build up time in that capacity, and we just or course I served as the state assistant chair lady to evangelism. And in our church, we have a male and female working together, and all auxiliaries. Usually he's the president, and she is the chair lady, or he is the president and she is -- usually, that's what they're called; chair ladies, or, you know, representatives, Sunday School representative. 

So I served as the assistant, because Reverend Graham, who is the chair lady, is incapacitated at this time, and has been for about -- I think I've been serving here for about three years. As chair to evangelism. And evangelism, you know is an outreach [inaudible] and sometimes we're serving here sometimes we're in another state, other areas. We do travel. As evangelists, we travel, conducting revivals, doing seminars, and the like. 

MS. MORRIS:  Okay. Could you tell me what faith means to you? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Faith is believing without seeing. If you have it, you don't have to really believe for it. So then faith is believing, but you don't see. But you can completely, totally trust in God, before he even does whatever it is that you're asking him for. Faith brings it fast. 
MS. MORRIS:  And do you have a favorite Bible verse? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Oh, several. But I quote a lot -- often, I quote Psalms 134 and 2. 
"Behold, bless you the Lord," -- and you don't want all of this, but the first verse is, "Behold, bless you the Lord, all the servants of the Lord." And the second verse, "Which by night standing in the house of the Lord, lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord." And I quote that often. 
MS. MORRIS:  Why is that one of your favorites? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Because -- well, as a girl, I took -- when I was a child, my grandmother said to me once, she said, "You need to learn a complete -- you need to learn a whole chapter in the Bible. So anywhere you want to just learn a whole chapter." 

I was being, what I thought smart. I said, "Wait a minute I just didn't feel like learning one." So I said I'd find the shortest thing in the Bible. And so that was Psalm 117, and I said, "This is just too short." I said, "I would find something a little bit longer than, you know, than this." And so then I went to Psalms 134, but Psalm 117 has two verses. Psalms 134 had three verses. So I went to Psalms 134, and in that, I got that Scripture. And I didn't get the revelation of this Scripture until I was a young adult, and then once I was praising God in his sanctuary, and the revelation came. "Stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary," and then bless the Lord. 

I said, Now I know what I had been saying all that time. I was just saying it before. Now, I could actually do this. And so I began to do that, and then I would also have the whole church to stand. 

Everybody who knows me here would tell you, I would get everybody on their feet to bless the Lord, from Psalm 134. 

MS. MORRIS:  Okay. What does it mean to be saved, to you? Being saved? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Saved is repentance, true repentance. And turning to God, giving him the right. 
MS. MORRIS:  Okay. 
Mrs. HOWARD:  True repentance. Because people were are repenting with their mouth, and talking. True repentance and turning to God with everything they have. 
MS. MORRIS:  Now, what was your inspiration for starting an annual missionary retreat? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Oh. Okay. I thought the missionaries should do something together. Without anybody but just us. And I thought perhaps just come together -- we'd been doing that all the while, you know, at different meetings. But then, let's have some fun with it, and not get serious, get down to brass tacks. Let's do it all. 

So then, how do you do that? The Lord says to me, "Have a retreat." And I thought a retreat at the church -- I felt just like I did when they asked me, "Where are you going?" And I said, "Nowhere." "Where are you going?" "We're going to have a retreat, and we're not going anywhere and I said no." He said, "You have to go to church." 

Well, [inaudible] this was crazy. And I could tell by their expressions, this is crazy, here comes Sister Howard with something stupid. But after the very first one, I've never had to call any of those ladies again to say, "Let's have a retreat." It's always, "Are we on the calendar?" Because it was so fulfilling. It's very good -- there, you could have almost anything met, your needs for the spiritual man, the physical man. You know, for mentality. It was all there in the retreat. And it just left us ready for the next go round, because we talked to God, and then we had the marches, you know, exercises, and so then -- we tried our brain out. And more than anything, the bottom line, we got the word of God. And I mean, it -- and the speakers have always been anointed when they. They have given us something that has been real good for us. They help us to grow and [inaudible]. And we need to look at the word, that we might grow. [Inaudible] and look at the word, and . [Inaudible] that we might grow thereby. This is for the people at the [inaudible]. And I guess milk because milk is one whole food. The Bible doesn't explain why it says milk, but as we learned -- all of us is learning school that milk is the one whole food. Even back in the writing, in the Scriptures, before we understood them to be, he said, "Get the milk." And today, we know it's the whole food, we understand now that's why God said, "Get the milk." Because one place, he said to one of apostles, one of the prophecies, "Eat the whole row." And so we've got the whole row, so we've got the whole food. And that's milk. 

MS. MORRIS:  What do you see as women's role? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  In the church? 
MS. MORRIS:  In the church? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  There was a time when we were really the subordinate. We only moved when we were told to move. And by that, I mean in auxiliaries and ministries, to the ministries. But the Lord has opened it up. He's opened up to us to realize the ministry now knows, the preacher now knows, that there's neither male nor female in Jesus Christ. 

The only thing we do -- we are subject, because the Bible teaches us that man is, you know, over the woman. The Bible teaches that. God is head of man, man is head of woman. So we know that. 

But we now -- thank God -- we are what we call -- there's been a freedom move among the women. So now our role is that to support, to preach, and to preach word and whatever ministries are in the church, it's our role to support them. 

So when the Lord gave out gifts, we are to support every gift. If we're not the one with the gift, we support the one that has the gift, whether it's male or female. 

MS. MORRIS:  In closing, what has been your most memorable moment here, at Refreshing? 
Mrs. HOWARD:  Oh, now, that's a hard one. That's really, really a hard one. I don't know. There have been so many of those good times. 

But the pastor said something once, my pastor who's passed away -- well, let's say the former pastor of Refreshing Spring. Said something once and I think, when I go to Heaven, unless the Lord take my memory, I'll remember it. 

Someone said something to him about me once. You know, just out, walking in the church. And he said, "Oh, you know, here comes Mrs. Howard. She's a nice lady," or something to that end. 

And the pastor said to that preacher, "You know," he said, "She'd be pastor of that church, if I'd let her. But I'm not going to let her. But she will speak on a Sunday morning. I'm going to let her do that when I'm out of town." 

And I don't know. That was just -- it said, "I have confidence in ." To me, it says, "I have confidence in Mrs. Howard." And to have your leader to have confidence in you, I don't know what else you could ask for. It just -- well, it satisfied me, though he's gone to sleep. But the Lord, that just did something to me. And after that, it was, like, whatever the rest of them did, I said, "Well, the pastor is on my side." And that's important, that your leader be with you, and that you be with your leader. That's very important. 

MS. MORRIS:  Thank you very much. 

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