Temples

The Temples

Ernestine Dilworth has a story to trumpet. Diagnosed with cancer, she decided to use no medication or surgery—to the dismay of her physicians, she chose prayer as her prescription. Months later, shocking her doctors, there was no sign of disease. A miracle of faith and healing had shifted her. 

Ernestine returned to her job as a high school teacher and created a unique service from her home in Thunderbolt, Georgia. In a small room of her own, she conducted the work of the Soul Free Prayer Line.

“She had scriptures up on pieces of paper all over the walls,” Ernestine’s daughter remembers. “People would call, and she would pray with them.” Her mission was to pray for anyone in distress, anytime—day or night. “Sometimes she would sleep in that prayer room so she could answer the phone easily.” To her daughters’ chagrin, she went as far as to put a sign on their lawn (“Home of the Soul Free Prayer Line”) with their home phone number listed underneath.

People reached out to Ernestine so often for counseling and encouragement, she started a bible study group in her home. Bible study turned into a congregation. And the congregation grew to the point that Ernestine built an extra den onto the house, then the point of relocation.

Although her church was growing, she desired higher biblical learning for herself and her people. Her daughter recalls, “My mom would always say ‘God is going to send us a man’—she was specific—‘a young Black man to teach us the Word, line by line, verse by verse…’”

Ricky Temple graduated from LIFE Bible College in Los Angeles. Academically, he regards the experience with high esteem. “It’s where I learned to love learning,” he says. Traveling to preach to congregations in North Carolina, he realized that he wanted his own church. “I didn’t go to church as a kid. I didn’t like it, and my mom [Laura Temple] didn’t make me go. I liked God, kind of. So when I talk about anything—family, God, church—it comes from my heart.”

Ricky laid eyes on Diane Bryan, Ernestine's daughter, for the first time in her mother’s home at a Bible study. “I noticed her…but she came up to me after the study and introduced herself to me,” he says with an L.A. lilt. He told her he was a preacher man. “I told her about my work, my travels,” he continues, “and mentioned that I’d graduated from LIFE Bible College, how much I loved it...”

[PHOTOS] The Temples

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Bible college? Mom!

It seems Diane’s mother’s prophesy had turned into her congregation’s slightly amended prayer: A Black man to teach them the Bible who graduated from Bible college. Ricky nods. “Amazing, isn’t it?” Yes, as is the literal meaning of his surname.

“Diane was bad from the beginning,” her husband recalls of his love at age 20. “She was already a high school science teacher, and she had a red Firebird with tan interior! That’s not why I married her, but she had a bad ride!” Ricky exclaims, “And her mother loved me! I’m serious. Her mother said ‘Marry that guy!’ ”

Diane, a graduate of Armstrong Atlantic State University with a degree in biology, speaks of her mother sweetly and respectfully. “Oh, my mom! She went to Savannah State College. Met my dad on campus. Got married. Had three kids. Divorced.” Junior, Diane’s father, was a church boy, a musician and an unfaithfully fine playboy. That noted, “Ernestine didn’t deal well with surprises,” Diane adds.

After the divorce, Ernestine got her degree and remarried a Dilworth, a prominent family name in the jazz music history of Savannah. Observing the divorce in her family, Diane was in no rush to the altar. “I’ve seen people ignore all the signs,” she says. “Even if marriages stayed together, there was strife and confusion. Marrying Rick was a leap of faith too. I didn’t trust men. I looked at the mistakes of the women in my family, even my mom. I was determined not to do that.”

Like her mother’s scriptures, Diane Temple’s office walls are spirited by a collage of all the children in her church. A modern pastor’s wife, she doesn’t allow her title as First Lady to work her. Diane is too busy doing the work of Diane.

“I’m glad I’m not married to a guy who tries to put that label on me,” she says. “When other people try to do that to me, Rick will step in and say no. I love this ministry. Everything I do is a personal passion of mine. I can wear a T-shirt, jeans. I don’t have to wear a hat. I don’t know how to bake cakes or cookies. I don’t try to fit a mold. I’m just being Diane.” 

“Diane is a gift,” says her husband. “Next to knowing Jesus Christ as my savior, knowing her has been