n the heart of the Phillips neighborhood lies Shiloh Temple, a church rich with history. The growth of the church can be attributed to one family.
The storefront church was founded in 1932 by Howard and Mattie H. Smith on Franklin Avenue. In case the church didn’t have enough income, Howard Smith kept his job as a jeweler and barber, along with his new duties as a minister.
The church moved in 1948 to 1900 S. Third St. Howard Smith died in 1953, leaving his wife to take over the congregation.
Because most of the congregation did not want and were not willing to accept a woman pastor, the congregation diminished from more than 100 to about 20 people. Nevertheless, Mattie Smith persisted, saying that God spoke to her and told her to take over.
The church remained on Third Street for a few years after Smith took control of the congregation. Eventually, the University bought the church’s building when the school expanded across the river and onto the West Bank. The congregation then moved to the basement of Smith’s house on 2216 17th Ave. S.
The congregation moved to their current church in 1959, where Smith lived as well as preached. They still met in the basement of this church because it was too expensive to heat the entire building when only 10 or 15 people came to the services.
By all accounts, Smith was a strong and determined woman. She worked at the Minneapolis General Hospital because the church didn’t bring in enough income while she preached. She had always served as the associate pastor under her husband, but most of the people would not serve under her as the sole authority figure.
“Women were supposed to keep their mouths shut and stay in church,” said her son-in-law, Deacon Richard Howell, who said he has watched the congregation change and evolve over the years.
His son, Richard Howell Jr., grew up working side-by-side with his grandmother in the ministry. When she died in 1984, he took over the congregation.
Howell said he’s in the pastorate because he wants to see lives transform. “It’s such a challenge for us to see gang bangers (transform) to Jesus bangers. From sinner to saved, that is the greatest reward,” he said.
Howell said he deals with different challenges than his grandmother. “We’re drawing people now who lack basic skills: working, academic, educational, parental. The church has to take a more active part in training people to be independent through the gospel.”
The church’s mission is to “evangelize the world through Jesus Christ and to exercise his teachings in our lives and speech to our fellow man. Furthermore, the mission is to glorify Christ and to uphold him as our Lord and Savior,” said Howell.
Shiloh Temple Church is a Pentecostal church of Apostolic faith. The faith is “centered on the belief that the presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested through glossolalia,’ or speaking in tongues,'” according to Bishop Morris E. Golder in “The History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.”
“The Apostolic faith is a direct following of the Apostles in the New Testament. They try to disregard what any other religion has taught and try to get their belief system directly out of the New Testament teachings. It’s a back-to-the-basics type of belief,” said Steven Erickson, director of the ABC Youth Choir of St. Paul.
Deacon Howell watched the congregation grow under his son from 100-150 people in 1984 to 400-500 people today. Since Mattie Smith headed the assembly, Shiloh Temple Church has been the number-one growth congregation in the Twin Cities.
Deacon Howell attributes the growth to many things.
“It was the Lord’s time!” Deacon Howell said. He also said that the growth is in part because of having a young man as the authority figure. In addition, the church has a program on radio station KMOJ and a television program on channel 41. Church administration advertises and uses word of mouth as methods of bringing people into the congregation.
The congregation is so large now that in order to have enough room they have to rent out Christ Church on 13th Avenue South for their Sunday afternoon service.
The church has plans to build a larger church somewhere. They would like to expand in a building where they won’t be strapped for space and time. Some areas they would like to incorporate into the ministry are day care, job training, and academic training.
Only about 25 percent of the people in the congregation come from the immediate neighborhood. People come from all over the metro area.
“That’s just the way Shiloh is!” said Howell. “Phillips is a very hard area (to reach),” Howell said. “Eighty percent (of the people) are unchurched. The people are predominately Native Americans, and they have their own culture and religion.”
The transient nature also plays a large role. There is not much stability with residents always coming and going. People are actually moving into the neighborhood because property is not expensive and they can be close to church, Howell said.
There is currently no building in the Phillips neighborhood able to accommodate them, so it is likely that they will not remain in the area. According to Howell, “We have to move somewhere, but our heart will still be in Phillips. We’ll go where the building is available.”
“The love of Christ holds the church together,” said Deacon Howell.