Pentecostal Pioneers: Orville T. Frame

Pentecostal Pioneers: Orville T. Frame
By Ilene K Dewar

On January 1, 1901, at Topeka, Kansas, the Holy Spirit was poured out at a Bible school directed by Charles F. Parham. This new spiritual movement was still in its infancy when on August 21, 1902, a son was born to Van Meter and Mary Frame in Wayne County, Indiana. The Frames named their baby Orville T. Frame, a name that in later years became synonymous with Pentecost around Bloomington, Indiana.

Soon after Orville’s birth, the Frames moved to the northeastern Indiana farming community of Lynn in Randolph County. There Mr. Frame and his seven sons worked long, hard hours in the fields. The Frames’ daughter died in early childhood.

Because the farm needed so much attention, few boys had the opportunity to complete formal education. Orville’s schooling ended with the eight grade. Although he regreted his lack of education, Orville Frame did not allow it to hinder him from working for the Lord. Instead, he spent his life learning how to apply God’s Word in his own life as well as in the lives of many people he contacted over more than a half century of ministry in Bloomington.

Life was more than farm chores and hard work, however, and the godly influence of his dear Quaker mother always inspired Orville. He often spoke of the love and wisdom of a godly mother who helped shape his character.

Because he could not find work in Lynn in 1920, Orville moved to Bloomington, where he and his brother Ellis both worked at the Showers Brothers Furniture Factory. Two houses up from where the Frame boys stayed, lived Bennett and Laura Lane and their teenage daughter, Alice Jane. Soon Orville began to court her.

On their dates, they attended a Holiness mission on the corner of Twelfth and Indiana where Grover Hawkins preached. One night as Hawkins was preaching, God revealed the true plan of Bible salvation to him. He was baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Ghost. Alice’s parents attended this church.

On a cold, rainy Sunday, March 19, 1922, after a two year courtship, Homer Smith, founder and pastor of the Pentecostal Faith Assembly, united the nineteen-year-old Orville T. Frame and fifteen-year-old
Alice Jane Lane in marriage in her parents’ home. After the wedding, despite the heavy rainstorm, Orville’s father drove the young couple to their new home east of Bloomington. “There wasn’t any money for a honeymoon, but we were excited because we were being driven to our new home in a buggy pulled by an old gray horse.” Three children were born to this union: Hubert, Mary Francis, and William. There are eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

In the early days of their marriage, Orville had to walk to work at the factory for six dollars a week. Rent was fifteen dollars a month and pork chops eight cents a pound.

The services they attended planted seed that grew. The Frames knew they needed God. At the factory Orville and a co-worker began to talk about the Jesus Name doctrine sweeping the country. They decided to study the Scriptures to prove this doctrine false. But when O. T. Frame, with a Quaker background, and his friend, with a Church of Christ background, began to study the Bible earnestly, the Word convinced them that Jesus is God and that they needed Him. Later in his ministry, Brother Frame often counseled those who were confused about the Oneness doctrine to search the Scriptures themselves.

Charles Bohall pastored the Twelfth and Indiana mission where Orville and Alice attended. The small congregation had to vacate the mission site, moved from place to place, and finally began home prayer meetings. At one of these cottage prayer meetings in the home of the Ralph Johnsons, the Frames repented and were baptized on March 6, 1926. Two weeks later they both received the Holy Ghost. Later Brother Johnson became a board member in Brother Frame’s church and also preached the gospel. According to some who were at the prayer meeting, Brother Frame received the Holy Ghost while lying on the floor. Quite a contrast from his Quaker upbringing!

From that day, Orville Frame was Pentecostal, yet some of the Quaker ways instilled in him always remained ingrained in his life. Seldom did Brother Frame shed tears in public, yet heaven has the record of the copious amount of private tears he shed in almost fifty-eight years in the ministry. His faith in God reached a depth that most of us long for, but it was a very personal, private matter with him. He never spoke of the struggles or the battles he had; he just found better ways to minister through trials. He listened a lot but spoke little.

Because of his ill health, Brother Bohall persuaded Orville to speak occasionally. One elderly man remembers his first sermon. Brother Frame paced back and forth across the platform several times and about five minutes later said, “That’s all there is,” and sat down. This first sermon was hardly a foretaste of the fine messages Brother Frame preached a little later. My mother recalls going to the “old church
across the street” and not getting near the building for the crowds. Finally her father lifted her to his shoulders, but she still could not see the tall, blond, handsome preacher who so captivated his audience. His voice rang out loud and clear. “In the summer with windows open, he could be heard all over the hill.”

Brother Bohall’s health continued to fail and he resigned, leaving the church with Brother Frame. The congregation met in a room over the Beman-Davis store on Bloomington Square. Later, this group and the saints from the church at Eleventh and Adams streets combined. Ordained in 1928, Brother Frame agreed to preach until they found a pastor.

In 1929 the stock market crashed, plunging the nation into the Great Depression, one of the darkest periods of its history. These humble Pentecostal believers could not afford to pay a pastor, so Brother Frame stayed no– for the next fifty-seven years. For the first ten years Brother Frame received no salary from the church. In 1938 the church became large enough for him to give up his job at Showers Factory to be full-time pastor. At this time his salary from the furniture factory totaled about $165 for one year. His first salary from the church was whatever was left after bills were paid. Later he received fifteen dollars a week. Occasionally a couple would give him a dollar or so for a wedding ceremony.

Homer Smith, whose wife later worked faithfully at the Apostolic Bible Institute in St. Paul, built the original Pentecostal Faith Assembly, a thirty-by-sixty-foot wood frame building located across the street from the present structure. Surrounded by vacant lots and a network of dirt lanes leading to small one- or two-room houses, the church sat in an area called Pigeon Hill populated by very Poor people. Many of these poor people came to the Pentecostal Faith Assembly and found salvation for their souls. A few are still living and serving God today. At least three men who lived there as teenagers got saved and are pastoring churches in Indiana.

By the early 1930s the congregation grew to 125 and needed a bigger building. But men were out of work and families could not even provide food and shelter, let alone finance a new church. Nevertheless in 1934 Brother Frame designed a new church seating eight hundred and purchased lots across the street for four hundred dollars. Construction began in 1936 and the first service was held in May of 1937.

Finding the money in 1936 for this size of a building was almost impossible. Most of the congregation were widows or women whose husbands did not attend. These women raised most of the money by having bake sales, making and Selling quilts, and serving church suppers. Often the sisters would meet together one day and make candy. The next day they would sell the candy, taking in perhaps five or six dollars. Others gave nickels and dimes, which seemed like a fortune.

During construction, Brother Frame worked days at the factory then went to the church site to work. The few men who attended did all of the work, most of it by hand. Brother Frame dug the basement out with a pick and shovel, using a wheelbarrow to cart out the rocks. Occasionally a neighbor man who did not attend helped with the building. Forty years later he accepted Christ. Despite all this hardship, there never has been a mortgage on Pentecostal Faith Assembly.

After working twelve to fourteen hours a day, Brother Frame often came home to a dinner of water gravy and potatoes. Once he found his supper of fried potatoes spilled on the floor when the prop fell out from under the kitchen stove.
It is impossible for church members to know how busy their pastor is in the course of a day. But one Thursday night Bible study, the people got a glimpse of what a day in the life of their pastor was like. As Brother Frame stepped to the pulpit he looked exhausted. He said, “Saints, if I don’t make much sense tonight, it’s because I had a wedding this morning at nine, a funeral at ten, a wedding at two, a funeral at three, and a wedding at five, and now here we are at Bible study. So if I begin our study with ‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered together,’ don’t think anything of it.”

A busy pastor may also occasionally be plagued with lapses of memory. On August 22, 1942, Brother Frame forgot his schedule. That day Brother Frame was scheduled to perform my parents’ wedding ceremony; instead he had gone fishing. When he returned, he found a most anxious young couple. He asked, “Shall I change my clothes or do you want to go ahead with the ceremony?” “Let’s just go ahead with the ceremony,” they decided. This same scenario was repeated at my aunt and uncle’s wedding. Again Brother Frame forgot and when he got home he found Alice Dewar and Reverend John Bault waiting.

Brother Frame’s ready smile, hearty laugh, and firm handshake influenced Bloomington and beyond, touching countless lives. He performed 800 wedding ceremonies, conducted approximately 1,300 funerals, and recorded 1,400 baptisms. (Records were not kept in his early ministry.)

His community honored Brother Frame with several plaques for his service. Several Bloomington mayors honored the Frames including Mayor Tom Lemom in 1958, Mayor Mary Alice Dunlap in 1963, and Mayor Frank McClosky in 1978 at the fiftieth anniversary and homecoming services. Also on June 26, 1978 the Frames received a plaque from the Commission on Aging.

During almost fifty-eight years of Brother Frame’s ministry, the church enjoyed many wonderful revivals with different evangelists. The late Ben Bonney preached one of the early revivals in the old church and
returned for meetings in the new church. Evangelist Tommy Stephen preached one of the first revivals in the new church, during which ninety people were baptized. J. C. Bishop, Kenneth Dyson, Gerald Mangun, the Nelson brothers, W. E. Gamblin, Winston Thomas, Lyndal Krause Whitt, Louise Potter, the Young family, the Kinzie evangelistic party, T. L. Craft, George Glass, the Pasleys, and many others preached there.

The loyalty and hard work of a faithful pastor’s wife contributed greatly to Brother Frame’s ministry. In the old church, Sister Frame taught the ladies’ Bible class. Later she taught the young people’s class several different times. She helped in choir work and provided music for funerals. She began the Ladies Auxiliary and through this organization raised funds for the new church.

In December 1946, Brother Frame began a radio ministry that is still on the air over forty years later. Until five years ago the broadcasts were live each Sunday morning. Now the choir tapes the broadcast for replay on Sunday.

Many men and women under Brother Frame’s ministry answered the call to the work of God. They include Lawrence Brown, Robert Cavaness, Michael Douglas, Jim Engledow, the late John Fleener Sr., James Frye, Don Gardner, Leonard Hamm, Will Henderson, Herbert Hogatt, Frank Jackson, Ralph Johnson, Michael Noel, Tracy Noel, Wallace Owings, Neal Pedro,
Jamie Shepherd, Robert Sparks, James Wampler, Benton Wright Jr., and Ilene K. Dewar. In 1976 Brother Michael Douglas, one of the home boys, returned from teaching at Western Apostolic Bible College to serve as assistant pastor, a position he held until 1985.

Blessed, happy times filled Brother Frame’s life, but times of great sadness and grief came also. One such time involved five young men of the church who had gone duck hunting. Their boat capsized and three of them drowned. Brother Frame preached a triple funeral that sad day.

According to a newspaper clipping, Brother Frame also preached the “loneliest funeral ever held in Monroe County.” The headless, desecrated body of Henry Evans Scott was found on an area farm. The only ones attending the graveside funeral were two grave diggers, two funeral directors, a newspaper reporter, and Brother Frame. Robert Harrell, the funeral director, disturbed by the lack of concern of the family, went into the garden of the funeral home and picked an armful of flowers, which he placed on the plain gray casket provided by the township.

Brother Frame loved children. They seemed to love him even though he had very large hands and towered over them. Yet it was those hands, his twinkling eyes, and great booming laugh that made not only the little ones, but all the congregation, feel safe and secure. Never too busy, he often stopped to listen to a child who shyly ventured up to this giant of a man.

One Sunday morning when he made a rare visit to the Junior Sunday school department, one of the awestruck boys asked, “Does the O. T. in your name stand for Old Testament?” With a twinkle in his eye and a broad grin, Brother Frame said, “No, son, I think it stands for old-timer.”

When my sister was a child, she said, “Mom, do you know what I think God looks like?” Since my sister had shown little interest in church, Mom wondered about her theory. Kathy’s response was, “I think God looks just like Brother Frame.” Brother Robert Cavaness declares he had the same thought as a young man.

Hours of grief, sleepless nights, and buckets of tears filled the private life of this very public man who cared for his flock so long. In public, however, he never preached his feelings, something he cautioned young ministers against. He faithfully preached the Word.

In the twilight years when the golden locks of unruly hair turned to gray, his once proud, sure steps became an unsteady shuffle, the twinkle in his eye dimmed, and the once big, booming voice faded to a whisper, the heart of this shepherd still tenderly cared for his sheep. Just one day before he was admitted to the hospital for the final time, he preached his last sermon. His strength was almost gone and he began to sway. Someone jumped to catch him but he regained his balance, stayed on his feet, and finished that last message to his people.

On November 5, 1985, O. T. Frame went home to be with the Lord. Of great men many things can be written, yet it is hard to tell the whole story without the clutter of too many flowery, unnecessary words and phrases.

What then can be said of O. T. Frame? He was faithful, and he led God’s people by God’s Word through good times and bad, through days of the Depression, through years of war into times of prosperity. A kind man, a just man, a temperate man, a wise and gentle man. Eternity alone records the good that this man accomplished in his eighty-three years of life.