WHITMAN — When the Rev. Joseph C. Ouellette moved to the area from Michigan in 1977, he had no idea he would become a Pentecostal minister.
He came for a job with Honeywell in electronics development — and had grown up in the Catholic Church and parochial schools on the outskirts of Detroit. The job, however, changed more than his address.
It was there he met his wife Tina and found a new relationship with God.
She was working in the company’s personnel office when they met, and he eventually found that her Pentecostal faith spoke to him after he attended her church to seek her parent’s approval to date her.
“It started to grip my soul and I knew that I needed to get right with God and I started to search for the Lord,” said Joseph Ouellette, who goes by his middle name Craig. “I got baptized in Jesus’ name and about a month later I had an experience of what the Bible calls the baptism of the Holy Ghost. When this happens you start talking in tongues — whatever language the Spirit gives you.”
He said it changed everything for him.
He no longer planned to return to Michigan, where he had been in a band before attending electronics school, and ultimately changed the direction of his life.
“God wanted me to stay here,” he said of visions he had of himself “standing on tables and preaching to people,” but that wasn’t what he was comfortable doing.
This year, the man who used to dread public speaking celebrates his 30th anniversary in the pulpit. The couple started pastoring in Whitman on July 26, 1986.
“We pastor together,” Craig said as he sat in a front pew of the South Shore Pentecostal Church, 58 West St., Whitman. “I couldn’t do it without her.”
Tina is the church’s representative at ecumenical meetings because Craig still works full-time in the electronics field for Schneider Electric during the day.
A weekend of special services, both at his church and the First Congregational Church, 519 Washington St., both in Whitman, are being held from Wednesday, June 22 through Sunday, June 26 [see Calendar, page 4] featuring guest speakers Dr. Gerald Jeffers and his wife Ella, who is a Pentecostal prophetess. The Jeffers, originally from Massachusetts now work out of Atlanta, Ga., and will speak on the theme “The year of the Conqueror.”
The Ouellettes anticipate following that theme for the coming year, as well, for the church of about 40 members from around the region.
The message of being a conqueror within oneself through God’s strength and the light of his love is a theme that reflects Craig’s journey, too.
“I didn’t really have a calling or feel that I could be a pastor, although there was elements of my life where I would think about God and the responsibility of living through God,” he said of his youth.
When he prayed on it, he decided to accept the Holy Spirit’s messages to him to preach that he began receiving after his Pentecostal baptism.
“I realized if I’m going to have what God wants me to have, I’ve got to do what he asked me to do,” Craig said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’”
Tina’s father Larry Maynard was a pastor who founded the South Shore Pentecostal Church and knew God had been calling Craig, taking him on as an assistant pastor. When Rev. Maynard took over at a church in New Brunswick, Canada, Craig assumed the ministry in the Whitman church.
South Shore Pentecostal Church bought the West Street church building from the Adventist Christian Church in 1980 when that church began consolidating some congregations. The Ouellettes rented the Adventist Church’s parsonage on Raynor Avenue until that church sold the house. The couple, who have two grown daughters and two grandchildren, now live in Pembroke.
As Apostolic Pentecostals, the South Shore Pentecostal Church members are baptized in Jesus’ name as the human manifestation of God himself rather than as a trinity with the Holy Ghost, which they believe is the Spirit of God, Craig said. The “classical” Pentecostals believe mainly in receiving of the baptism in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues. They said the Pentecostal church is the fastest-growing Christian denomination “because people are hungry for a reality of God,” he noted.
They don’t do snakes, though, as Tina has explained to one woman who asked that question outside the church one day.
“I told her no,” Tina said. “There have been Pentecostal churches that have done it, I guess. But as long as I’m in this building there won’t be any snakes passed out.”
It’s not exactly spelled out in the Bible, either, Craig said, pointing out that the serpent is used as a symbol for the devil.
“We follow the Bible very closely,” Craig said, referring to principals of the Old Testament, but focusing on the New, particularly the Book of Acts, which focuses on repentance and baptism in the Holy Ghost.
“I know what I had before and what I’ve got now,” Craig said of his journey of faith. “It’s not that there wasn’t anything good before, but there was no power in it. There was no real relationship with God, it was a formality, a ritual.”