“Walking in Faith, Growing in Grace,” is the credo of Evergreen Baptist Church, Palmyra, N.J., an effervescent church with a nice mix of youth and seniors. The Rev. Dr. Guy Campbell Jr. is the senior pastor.
Beulah Banks, a member since the late 1960s, joined Evergreen because, “I liked the people … and when Pastor Campbell came, I enjoyed (how he preached) the Word.” Banks attributed great kudos to Dorothy Campbell, the pastor’s wife. She taught a Bible study class Beulah was enrolled in for quite some time; Beulah especially enjoyed her lectures on the Biblical sections, the books of John 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
According to Beulah, “When you come to any church, you come to hear the Word of God, you come to worship God. And that’s why people should come (to Evergreen) — people should come for no other reasons.”
As a single mother, Maria Holmes, 52, has immersed herself in ministry activism at Evergreen. She’s been a member since her teen years. Commenting about her ministry involvements, Holmes said, “I’m the Mass choir president, I am the first vice president of the Missionary Ministry, I’m a member of the Inspirational Choir, I’m a member of the Prayer Ministry. I am the secretary for the Pastor’s Aid Ministry, and I’m on the Culinary Ministry.”
Why is she so active in ministry? She said, “I’m trying to stay out of trouble.” Holmes has three children, “Anthony, 31, Talia, 30, and Tyesha, 27.
Jerry Johnson, a member for 21 years, considers the family-oriented ministries at Evergreen as an attractive feature for people looking for a church home.
“We have the Marriage Couple Ministry, we have the Wednesday night Bible study, and we also have a Nursery Ministry,” he said.
Johnson said these ministries offer a variety of “homey” and fascinating options for people yearning for spiritual growth in a family-friendly church setting. Johnson serves in the Trustee and Outreach (Audiovisual) Ministries.
Reflecting on her ministry service, Johnson’s wife Rudell said, “I served on the Youth Choir, I’ve also served in the nursery, and on the Board of Christian Education.”
Rudell, an 18-year member of Evergreen, considers the Youth Choir one of the most rewarding ministries she has served on. “You see the children come in at an early age,” she said. “You see them develop, and they come from all different backgrounds. You see the improvement with most of them.”
Aaron, the Johnson’s son, will graduate this year from Camden Catholic High School. Aaron, 18, plans to attend college in the fall to study video art. Commenting on his ministry activism, he said, “I’m currently on the Young Voices of Praise Choir.”
Aaron likes the demographic diversity of the church, the young with the seniors. He also likes the family feel of Evergreen, and would recommend his church to other teens, because, “I feel that there’s a sense of family and community there,” he said.
Retiree Edwin Jordan, 74, has served as a deacon for 21 years, and as chairman of the deacons for three years; he’s a huge supporter of Campbell.
“He’s one of the best in the area,” Jordan said. He has been married to his wife, Charlene, since 1959 . “He preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that anyone can understand the message. Rev. Campbell (and Mrs. Campbell), they treat everyone equal.”
Campbell has been pastoring and serving at Evergreen for 43 years. He says one of the critical challenges that confront churches today is how to handle a wave of “un-churched” congregants who are joining.
“There are other people coming into the church with no church background,” he said. “Years ago, most of us grew up in the church, and though we accept(ed) Christ after a period of time, we were exposed to hymns, and preaching, and prayers, and church organizational structure ... and acceptable and unacceptable conduct. But there’s a group coming into the church now; many of them have no church experience at all.”
Campbell said Evergreen’s new members class helps indoctrinate those who have limited or no prior church experience in a caring and loving fellowship.
Campbell made a reflective comment that, “The fastest-growing ministry at our church is the youth ministry.” This is a significant and important cohort, he said, given the fact that there’s a strong core of seniors attending Evergreen; the infusion of youth represents future church growth and sustainability.
“We are privileged to have a fine group of young people ... we are trying to help them spiritually and educationally,” Campbell said. He added that Evergreen Academy provides weekly tutorial assistance to youth, two of the most important things we can do is to lead (youth) to Christ, and help them prepare to get a good education.”
Campbell said people should not forsake assembling together at church in favor of negative television ministry.
“I believe in attending church faithfully,” he said. “It’s a learning experience. It’s a praying experience, (it’s) a growing experience, and we can do more together than we can do individually.”