The St. Paul Chapel Baptist Church rang in the New Year with a festive celebration that set the tone to all the blessings that 2012 will bring for the congregation.
The Rev. Jermaine T. Heath Sr. has been the charismatic senior pastor of St. Paul for the past seven years and his enthusiasm for leading his church is still in full bloom. He brimmed with excitement over where God will lead the church in the coming months.
“Our theme for the year is basically great expectations, the journey begins,” he said. “We’re not only expecting something great from God but God is expecting great things from our lives. “
That declaration is also extended to their community as St. Paul is a church that ministers through the word, worship and the liberating and healing power of the gospel.
“We try to help the members understand that number one, the church is you. You are the individual. We are a group of people that make up St. Paul Baptist Church and not the building,” Heath said.
“So when people understand that, that the church is an organism, that it’s a live group of people that go out to spread the message of the gospel, it helps to change the mindset of the people not just looking at a building so much but understanding that’s who they are. We are the church.”
Heath cited his preaching style as a way that he has been able to convey that understanding.
“I believe in my preaching style that not only should your soul be stirred up but your mind should be transformed,” he said.
“I’m trying to educate and give people an understanding of why they should get excited abut what they hear, why they should be excited about Christ,” Heath added. “So, it is illustrative but very centered in the word.”
Others lauded his leadership.
“The sermons that he gives are sermons that speak on not only the word of God and how we should live but also he speaks and tries to reach the heart of people with the Bible and with the message of bringing it into reality.” said the Rev. John A. Crost Sr. “And also, standing on the word. So, others not only accept Christ but they become disciples.”
Crost is the associate pastor at St. Paul and Heath’s uncle. He marveled at his nephew’s growth as a pastor.
“He started it with me at the Church of Redeemer as a deacon and the Lord called him to the industry and he began to grow in the ministry as an associate minister,” he said. “I’ve seen him grow spiritually and biblically in the word. His messages are very uplifting and edifying.”
Crost invited the community to partake in the worship experience.
“The church is a church that welcomes people with open arms,” he said. “You will be enriched and the Bible will be made alive in your heart when you hear the sermons there.”
Estelle Smith, a deaconess, has been a member of St. Paul since 1981. She explained what kept her coming back year after year. She said it was a warm church and everyone knew the other.
“I live in Delaware now, but I come 45 minutes to church for the fact that the church itself meets all my needs, spiritually, socially,” she said. “We don’t have too many in my age group that are still around but I enjoy the youth and they enjoy me and I just like to be a part of stuff, the ongoing things that I take part of.”
Smith also had words of praise for Heath. She was incredibly touched when he visited her in the hospital following her heart attack.
“He’s young, but he also meets the needs of the youth as well as the elderly and I find him to be a dynamic speaker,” Smith said. “He can speak on many subjects and you won’t fall asleep. He’s a preacher that will not let you fall asleep. Some ministers are just there to speak to you.”
Heath said his personal growth has enabled him to gain the trust, admiration and confidence of his fellowship.
“During the seven years, we have gone through a transformation with our church,” he said. “The church, when I first got there, was a much older congregation with about maybe 25 people. Now, we are a well diverse group of people with young adults, children, youth and seniors and we approximately around 170 members. So, it’s been a great change at St. Paul.
“For me as a pastor, I have not only grown not only in the word but also just understanding people and reaching out to people and understanding people,” Heath said.
St. Paul Chapel Baptist Church
1217 S. 21st Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19146
Service: 11 a.m.
Church: (215) 467-4158
Rev. Jermaine T. Heath Sr.