Our past

Bishop Otha Miema Kelly

Founder, Kelly Temple Church of God in Christ

Bishop Otha Miema Kelly was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on September 12, 1897, and was the fifth son of Louis and Sarah-Jane Kelly.  On March 15, 1913, at  15 years of age he was saved under the preaching of Elder I. E. McFadden, a graduate of Alcorn College who lifted his sights beyond the confining boundaries of Mississippi’s piney woods.  Through Elder McFadden, Bishop Kelly came under the influence of the captivating preaching of Bishop Charles Harrison Mason.


On March 15, 1917, Otha Miema Kelly left Mississippi for Chicago, Illinois.  There he became a member of The Church Of God In Christ.  He received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a revival conducted by Elder S. H. Jones of Nashville, Tennessee.  With all his heart, young O. M. Kelly thrusted himself into the work of the Church Of God In Christ.


In November 1918, as World War I was ending, O. M. Kelly attended the Convocation in St. Louis, Missouri with his pastor, Overseer William Roberts.  On the last day of that Convocation. at a water baptismal service, two things determined the course of his life: the dynamic message by Bishop Charles H. Mason and the meeting of young Miss Maudell Bottoms.  Bishop C. H. Mason became the model O. M. Kelly would follow the rest of his life. Miss Maudell Bottoms was the young woman that he would marry on February 12, 1920 and live with for 50 years, until her death in 1970.


In 1930, Elder Kelly had logged over 20,000 miles as an evangelist, landing in New York City on Christmas Day 1930.  In early 1931, Elder Kelly was given a struggling little mission in Rockaway Beach, New York. He pastored in Rockaway Beach, New York until 1935.


In 1934, after prayerful consultation with Elder Frank Clemmons and others, Bishop C. H. Mason appointed Elder O. M. Kelly as Overseer of Eastern New York.  Beginning with 16 missions, Overseer Kelly prayed and worked until God brought Eastern New York Jurisdiction to hundreds of churches, preachers, missionaries, and thousands of saints.  Bishop O. M. Kelly served The Church Of God In Christ in every organization and department of the denomination.  Bishop Kelly has built churches from Lexington, Mississippi to New York City, including Long lsland, New York. It is not strange that he was thought of as “Mr. Church Of God In Christ”.


From the early 1930s, Bishop C. H. Mason closely observed O. M. Kelly’s ministerial career.  In June 1951, when Bishop Mason was 85 years of age and in need of a strong helper for the rapidly growing denomination, he chose Bishop O. M. Kelly of Eastern New York.  During the years of Bishop Mason’s decline and years following his demise, Bishop O. M. Kelly was a tower of strength whose dedication, commitment and loyalty helped to assure the continued growth of the Church Of God In Christ.


From his 1968 election as Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Bishop J. O. Patterson recommended to the General Assembly that Bishop O. M. Kelly be named First Assistant Presiding Bishop of The Church Of God In Christ in 1976.  The General Assembly unanimously consented.

From 1935 until his death, Bishop O. M. Kelly pastored the Mother Church Of God In Christ, later

renamed Kelly Temple Church Of God In Christ; bringing it from a tiny storefront at Fifth Avenue and 137th Street to a beautiful and spacious edifice built from the ground up on 130th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenue in Harlem, NY.  He burned the mortgage in 1972.  Today, Kelly Temple Church Of God In Christ is a powerful testimony to his leadership ability.


In October 9, 1971, he was united in Holy Matrimony to Bessie White and shared his life with her until his death.


Bishop O. M. Kelly departed this life on Thursday, September 16, 1982.  To know him was to love him.  His life was full and colorful.  His life was one of service.  Now he rests. His wars are over. He is at home with his Lord.


By the grace of God, Bishop O.M. Kelly became the voice of reason and strength for the Church Of God In Christ.  His strength was our strength, our strength was his strength, and his courage was the courage he drew from the faith he proclaimed.  He was “Mr. Church Of God In Christ.”


Our present

Bishop James Henry Gaylord

Pastor, Kelly Temple Church Of God In Christ

Bishop James Henry Gaylord was born February 7th in Plymouth, North Carolina, to his single mother, Hattie B. Gaylord.  In his formative years, his mother moved to New York, leaving the young James Gaylord in the care of his grandparents.  As a teenager, James was briefly reunited with his mother in the Bronx borough of New York City.  His mother decided that young James would move back to North Carolina to finish high school.


He moved into the home of his Aunt Susie, and her husband Bishop Herbert Purkett, and their children.  He was quickly introduced to Jesus Christ and a life of prayer.  At the age of 14, during a revival service, adolescent James received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and his life was changed.  His relationship with God grew by developing an avid prayer life and being an active member of his local church.


In 1950, James Gaylord moved back to New York where he joined the Mother Church Of God In Christ (later renamed Kelly Temple Church Of God In Christ), under the tutelage of Bishop Otha Miema Kelly.  James developed his ministry by serving in different capacities such as an usher, deacon,  District Young People Willing Workers President, and later Central East District Superintendent.  In 1959, James Gaylord married Helen Josephine Judd of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Their union was blessed with two sons, James Gaylord Jr. and Ronald Gaylord.  In 1963, James Gaylord was ordained as an Elder in the Church Of God In Christ. In 1972, Elder James Gaylord was appointed Assistant Pastor of  Kelly Temple Church Of God In Christ. In 1982, after the passing of Bishop O. M. Kelly, Bishop F. D. Washington appointed Elder Gaylord as the Pastor of Kelly Temple Church Of God In Christ.  In 1999, Pastor James Gaylord was elevated to the position of Bishop and Jurisdictional Prelate of the First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Eastern New York.


Bishop James H. Gaylord has proven to be a true visionary and has lead the church into a period of growth and influence within the community.  Notably, he started an annual Outreach Service conducted in the local park during the summer months, and the Turning Point Ministries, which provides assistance to those in spiritual and physical transition from life-controlling substances.   In the most recent years Bishop Gaylord has been instrumental in the buying of local residential properties to provide affordable housing in the changing community.  Due to his heartfelt efforts and love for the community he has garnered many accolades and people from all walks of life have come through the church doors including former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Bishop Gaylord truly exemplifies what it means to "have the heart of Harlem" and be Christian in modern times.