New Thought Teaching Grounded in FaithOn Saturday, June 11, 2011, StoryCorps Atlanta facilitators set up for a day of recording at Hillside International Chapel and Truth Center in southwest Atlanta. As with our first experience with Hillside in December 2010, Reverend Sedrick Gardner, worked with StoryCorps staff to organize a phenomenal recording day. This time, among the participants was Hillside Founder and Chief Executive Officer Bishop Barbara Lewis King. Reverend Sedrick happily served as her conversation partner so that she could record her story.
Born and raised in Houston, TX, Bishop Barbara Lewis King (above), or “Dr. Barbara” as she is lovingly called by her parishioners, will tell anyone that the road she traveled along life’s journey has been paved with faith. Her parents divorced when she was a baby. At eight days old, her paternal grandmother took her and raised her as if she were her own child. Her grandmother was a dressmaker and worked for some of the wealthiest families in Houston. However, when times got rough, as they sometimes did, young Barbara watched as her grandmother leaned on her unshakable faith. She would see her grandmother move around their small home and talk to God. On one occasion, when food was particularly low and the rent was due, she heard her grandmother say, “God, now I know you didn’t give me this little girl for us to starve.” Within the week, her grandmother had enough sewing to pay the rent and to buy food.
Dr. Barbara can recall many such instances. Those memories, together with having been nurtured in her grandmother’s faith-based home environment, not only sustained Bishop King, but formed the faith-based foundation upon which she built her life and her church. Young Barbara knew from an early age that she wanted to be a pastor. She recalled the time, at age thirteen, that she told her then-pastor she wanted to be a minister. He quickly dismissed the notion and encouraged her instead to be a missionary. “Women cannot be pastors,” she remembered he told her. Upon graduating from high school, she approached him again. His response was the same. It wasn’t until her second year in college, when she contracted tuberculosis and was confined to a sanitarium for four years, that her ministry began. Not only did she counsel other patients, but she credits her belief in her own healing and prayer for curing her illness. Unknowingly, she was tapping into the principles of New Thought and on the road to establishing her own ministry.
Bishop King founded Hillside International Chapel and Truth Center in September 1971. The church’s mission is to be a “healing ministry of the whole person: Spirit, Mind and Body.” Currently, the church has just over five thousand members. And Dr. Barbara’s influence is perhaps more than even she envisioned at the tender age of thirteen. Her church has thirty-one ministries, offers its members continuing education courses (Transformative Living Courses), and has sites in South Africa, Ghana and Brazil. Closer to home, Bishop King’s seminary, the Barbara King School of Ministry, has trained scores of ministers who teach New Thought principles both nationally and internationally. At six feet, five inches tall, Bishop Barbara Lewis King has always stood physically head and shoulders above her peers. Her life’s work, however, seems to keep her above the crowd in ways that nurture and sustain her soul.