Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Rev. Elizabeth Powell, church founder, dies
Rev. Powell started her life of ministry here in the mid-1930s.
YOUNGSTOWN She was known for her humility, love of God, straightforward approach to preaching and her fabulous hats.
The Rev. Elizabeth Powell, founder and pastor of World Fellowship Interdenominational Church on Dewey Avenue, died Tuesday at age 105.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Third Baptist Church. Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at World Fellowship Interdenominational Church, 494 W. Dewey Ave. Arrangements are by L.E. Black, Phillips & Holden Funeral Home.
The man who ordained her to the ministry, the Rev. Lonnie A. Simon, said the Rev. Mrs. Powell "was a very humble and spiritual person."
"She was very lovable," he added. "Everyone knew her and loved her."
He told the story of how Mrs. Powell, who was actually preaching before Mr. Simon, predicted he would join her in the ministry.
"She was having a revival on the Sharon Line in 1950. I was a musician and playing the piano. She pointed to me and said I would preach one day. I was called to preach in 1951," Mr. Simon said.
She came to Youngstown from Buena Vista, Ga., in 1925, and joined Third Baptist Church in Youngstown that year.
In a 2004 Vindicator feature story on Mrs. Powell, she recalled how she started the South Side Prayer Band in the mid-1930s. The women in the band walked and rode the bus to countless homes to cook, clean or drop off groceries.
The prayer band also raised money for those in need of financial assistance.
Throughout her life, she spent countless hours visiting the sick and the lonely and finding ways to provide food to the hungry.
By the 1950s, Mrs. Powell decided to become more deeply involved in the ministry. She was on her way to becoming a Baptist minister but said the decision was not hers.
"I didn't decide. I was just working in the church doing everything but preaching. I was there all the time," she said. "When you are working for the Lord and he tells you what to do, everyone else better leave you alone."
She became a licensed minister in 1955 but was not ordained in her home church. She said it was unpopular for a woman to be a minister at that time, and the men in charge at her home church refused to go against that belief.
She was ordained the first woman Baptist minister in the Mahoning Valley in 1956 by Mr. Simon at Elizabeth Baptist Church. For ordaining her, Mr. Simon was removed from an office he held with a Baptist association, Mrs. Powell said.
She founded World Fellowship Interdenominational Church in 1962, where she preached every Sunday until she became ill. Every outfit she wore was meticulously accented with one of her trademark large hats.
Mrs. Powell's honors include Woman of the Year, Clergy Woman of the Year and the Sojourner Truth Award. She has served on the Youngstown Human Relations Council and worked diligently for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
She also introduced President Clinton when he made a stop in Youngstown for bicentennial festivities in 1996. She was 94 at that time.