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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Fellowship Remembers Its Pentecostal Statesman

Joseph R. Flower (1913-2010)

By Wayne Warner
June 27, 2010

Joseph R. Flower had his heart set on being a science teacher, explaining to his mother, Alice Reynolds Flower, that just because both she and his father, J. Roswell Flower, were preachers didn’t mean that he would become one. “If I become a preacher, God would have to call me, and I would have to have a message.”

As Flower affirmed many times later, God did call him and give him a message. And the Flower family tradition within the Assemblies of God that began at the organizational meeting in 1914 continues nearly a century later.

Now the one-time reluctant preacher is gone.

The family buried their patriarch on April 1 at age 97. He didn’t quite make the century mark in age as his mother did, but Joseph Flower lived a full life as a pastor, evangelist, district superintendent and general secretary of the Assemblies of God — the latter executive position for 18 years (1975-93).

General Superintendent George O. Wood reminisced about Brother Flower’s dedication, wit, wisdom and sense of humor as he led the memorial service at Central Assembly, Springfield, Mo. — just a block away from the Assemblies of God national headquarters.

One of the stories was about Flower’s church planting during the Great Depression in South Buffalo, N.Y. Meeting in a tent during the winter of 1936, he tried to warm the tent with a wood stove, but one night the cold Lake Erie winds blew the smoke back into the tent. Flower summed it up by saying: “The meeting was good. The attendance was good, but I couldn’t see the audience because the smoke filled the tent. And it was not a cloud from heaven.”

Those early sacrificial efforts proved successful, and today as one travels along Southwestern Boulevard in Orchard Park, just south of Buffalo, it’s hard to miss Tommy Reid’s Full Gospel Tabernacle, which traces its history to Flower’s 1936 smoke-filled tent.

But before planting that New York church, Joseph Flower had another experience in the state that helped shape the rest of his life. Attending the 1932 Ebenezer Camp in Western New York, the 19-year-old college student heard a message by camp evangelist Dr. Charles S. Price. Following the service while pouring out his heart to God beneath a grand piano, Flower heard a call from heaven. “It seems that God dealt with me in a special way at that camp meeting to go into the ministry.”

Being called into the ministry for young Joseph meant leaving Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and transferring to Central Bible Institute (now College) in Springfield, Mo. Following graduation in 1934, he launched into a ministry that in many ways took him into his father’s footsteps — pastor, Bible teacher, evangelist, writer, district superintendent and general secretary.

His leadership style, remembers David Flower, Joseph’s youngest sibling, was “as a strong hand clothed in a velvet glove. He was a strong leader, but he was very sensitive to people’s needs.”

His son Paul remembers that as the New York District superintendent, his father was a devoted and compassionate man of God. Traveling around the district, he favored his old Volkswagen for transportation. When the camp tabernacle needed a new roof, his dad nailed on shingles — setting the example of humility and servant-leadership.

Recently Marie Alberti-Thomson of Springfield thought back to a day in 1969 at the New York camp meeting near Norwich  to a traumatic experience that cemented their family to Joseph Flower.

“My brother Raymond and his wife, Lois, brought their 5-year-old son, Stephen, to the camp,” Alberti-Thomson says. “While playing near the camp pond, Stephen fell backwards into the water and disappeared.”

Joseph Flower was close by and quickly removed his shoes, coat and wallet, and dove into the murky pond several times trying to rescue the small boy. But tragically the boy’s body was lodged under a rock ledge, preventing his rescue. Always with a tender heart, Joseph was broken as he shared the grief of the parents and those in attendance.

 “Now Brother Flower,” Alberti-Thomson added with a tear in her voice, “is with the little boy he tried so hard to rescue.”

In looking back over his life  through some difficult times,  Joseph once said, “I always felt that God was there behind the scenes controlling my destiny and being in charge of all the circumstances.” And he often quoted Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV).

When asked on a 1980 video interview how he wanted history to remember him, Flower replied: “I am not too much interested in what history will say about me. My main concern is that I am in a right relationship with God.”

A footnote to his long life of service for the Master comes from his maternal grandmother Alice Reynolds. When Joseph reached his first birthday, March 1, 1914, she wrote in her diary: “May Jesus’ life be shown forth in this life of our dear grandchild. Dear Lord, we trust Thee to make him a power for Thee.”

Her underlined “power” seemed to cast a prophetic statement on Joseph Flower’s life. Thousands can attest to the fact that he indeed was a power for the Kingdom.

And above all, he exemplified a right relationship with God.

The Flower family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in Springfield, Mo.

WAYNE WARNER is retired director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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