MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Church of God in Christ is ready to come home.
Memphis' oldest and largest convention Holy Convocation is coming back to Memphis in a few years.
Founded in Memphis more than 100 years ago, members gathered from around the world to pray in Memphis each year with its annual convocation until a few years ago.
COGIC just wrapped up its 111th Holy Convocation in St. Louis, where the largely African American Pentecostal-holiness Christian denomination has held the annual event since 2010.
But, by the week after the first Sunday in November of 2021, those saints will be marching back into the city where Bishop Charles Harrison Mason founded the denomination back in 1897.
The decision was announced Monday night during the general assembly, which followed the group’s 111th convocation in St. Louis, Missouri.
Memphis tourism officials are happy about it as well.
"Well they economic impact of the Church of God in Christ is north of $30 million annually,” said Kevin Kane, president of Memphis Tourism. “You’re talking about bringing somewhere between 35,000 to 45,000 people to the city. They are in town for over a week with the convocation, it is a big piece of business for the city.”
Kane said the deal came about after months of talks between himself, the mayor of Memphis, and COGIC leaders.
Mayor Jim Strickland said infrastructure and accommodations were a concern for the saints, among others.
"Let’s just say we took a couple years selling Memphis and then negotiations and that took many months,” Strickland said.
One of COGIC’s chief concerns had more to do with appreciation from the city than convention space.
"We wanted to of course raise the bar of service from Memphis to the saints and anywhere that you are for 100 years you can ... begin to be taken advantage of,” said Bishop Brandon Porter of Greater Community Temple Church of God and Christ in Memphis. "But Memphis has gone above and beyond my expectations.”
Plans call for COGIC's Holy Convocation to be held in Memphis 2021, '22 and '23.
What happens after that, according to Bishop Porter, likely depends upon how the group is treated by hotels, restaurants and other businesses in town.
“The Church of God in Christ since 2010 has held our largest convention, the Holy Convocation in St. Louis, MO and today we voted to move the convention in 2021-2023 to the city of Memphis, Tennessee," Bishop Blake said. "The City of Memphis has special significance in the spiritual and cultural life of COGIC and we are pleased to return to the place of our origin.”
The Holy Convocation will be held in St. Louis through 2020.