Ida Robinson was the founder of the Mount Sinai Holy Church of America, Inc. This is a Pentecostal denomination started in 1924 that continues to this day. She felt led of the Lord to start an organization where women preachers and leaders felt welcome and accepted. She accomplished this during a time when there were not many women preachers, and they only other denomination in the US that had been founded by a woman at that time was the Foursquare Church (by Aimee Semple McPherson the year before). Unlike Aimee, Ida was African-American; this meant an entirely different set of challenges had to be faced.
Ida Bell was born on August 31, 1891, in Hazlehurst, Georgia. She was the seventh of twelve children born to Robert and Annie Bell. Being the seventh child, they expected great things to come of her (and were not disappointed). She grew up in Pensacola, Florida.
Her family described her as bright and industrious, and Ida’s mother was convinced that the Lord had given her natural leadership qualities. Ida always seemed to be the one in charge when with her playmates, and they seemed to follow her lead without question. She was also known for a charming personality combined with a pleasant smile. She was so charming and charismatic, it seems, that even when Ida was in trouble, she could often talk her mother out of punishing her.
As far as her education, it seems that it ended around the fourth or fifth grade. Despite that, her friends and colleagues never doubted her native intelligence, and it doesn’t seem to have hampered her at all in her ministry.
When she was twelve years old, Ida gave her heart to the Lord. By the time she was in her early teens, Ida was already working to help support her family. She served as the cook on the tugboat Silver Queen in Miami Florida. While working there, Ida met a handsome man named Oliver Robinson. He proved to be her soulmate, and they married when she was nineteen. They both continued to work on the tugboat until it was docked at the outbreak of World War I.
Call to the Ministry
Ida was seventeen when she recommitted her life to the Lord. She encountered a street meeting being held by a group from the Church of God. She noticed how all the ladies wore black dresses with starched collars and cuffs. Ida was impressed with their uniforms and went on to be touched by their message of victory over sin that could be found in the Lord. The theme of holiness would go on to play an essential role throughout the rest of her life.
While still a teenager, Ida began holding prayer meetings in homes as well as preaching on the street corners. Her message, like the one that had led her to reconsecrate her life to the Lord, emphasized the need for salvation and a life of holiness. Ida seemed driven to share this message with others. And her husband Oliver never seemed to have an issue with his wife’s ministry.
The Move to Pennsylvania
In 1917, Oliver decided that he and Ida should move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with the hope of finding better work. This was hard on Ida -- she had to leave behind the prayer meetings she had established. But she and Oliver headed out. And the Lord was leading the way.
Once in Philadelphia, Ida began attending a small holiness congregation at 17th and South Street. It was there that she began to preach from behind a pulpit. Most likely Ida was invited to sing -- she had a beautiful singing voice -- and exhorted a bit before she sang. The church pastor, Elder Benjamin Smith, was impressed and began to have Ida lead the meetings when he was unable to minister.
Ambition and Popularity
The people liked Ida’s preaching very much, and the church began to grow. However, the growth seemed to be due to Ida and not Elder Smith. Soon, the people wanted to her Ida rather than their own pastor.
Ida was not ambitious. She was not there to try to obtain a leadership position. In the natural, it seems very possible that she could have tried to overthrow his leadership or cause a major rift in the church. However, Ida was there to serve the Lord. She decided it was best that she find another church rather than cause problems for Elder Smith. Ambition and popularity are a deadly trap for many ministers, young and old alike. Through the grace of God Ida did not fall into them. Her commitment to a holy life and experience of sanctification are demonstrated through this experience.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
Ida B. Robinson on Wikipedia
Bishop Ida Robinson in Charisma Magazine
Bishop Ida Bell Robinson: The Authoritarian Servant Leader by Dr. Rosalie S. Owens
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Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.