This year, Cedar Park Presbyterian Church was to celebrate its 95th church anniversary with a gala event Saturday at the Flourtown Country Club. It is known as “A Community Church Where Christ Is Exalted.”
According to its history, in the summer of 1898, Cedar Park started out as Pleasantville Sunday School. As the number of participants grew, the Sunday School morphed into a missions entity adopted by Calvary Presbyterian Church of Wyncote. When the number of participants grew even larger, the missions organization officially became the Cedar Park Presbyterian Church in May 1917. The Rev William Barnes Lower was the first pastor. Of the 12 pastors who have served at Cedar Park, the Rev. Robert Kesel had the longest reign, serving as senior pastor from 1961 to 1971.
“(The anniversary celebration) will be an auspicious occasion, a lot of planning and work went into it,” said Eugene Brown, a retired electronics technician and father of two adult children. Eugene has multiple reasons to celebrate; his son just completed his doctoral degree in pharmacy. Eugene has been a member of Cedar Park for at least 30 years.
Henrietta M. Motley, a 42-year member, has been reaching out to former members to encourage their participation in the anniversary, “Many (past Cedar Park members) are coming … others, who could not come, have made contributions, that’s been so rewarding for me” Motley said. She’s also encouraged that a few of the past ministers were to be in attendance.
“We have been preparing for the last three years, in preparation for this big celebration … (Cedar Park) started under an apple tree in 1917, and today … we are just rejoicing that God has blessed us and allowed us to still be in service,” said a jubilant Sandra Burney. Burney, a 37-year member, added, “Our theme is, ‘Just Can’t Stop Praising the Lord.’”
For Burney, helping college-bound youths is an important outreach in the array of ministry services at Cedar Park, “We have a scholarship committee, a memoriam to one of our members … the Ray Pratt Memorial Scholarship Fund (he was a former schoolteacher) …. During the time that I’ve been here, almost every young person has received some kind of stipend from that scholarship fund.”
“Three and a half years,” was the response the Rev. Dr. Carroll D. Jenkins gave commenting on his time as the current senior pastor of Cedar Park. Jenkins, a graduate of Johnson C. Smith College and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., is an affable and well known leader within the Presbyterian community. Before serving at Cedar Park, he served ministry in Baltimore and Wilmington, Del. “I’m a retired Presbytery executive. I was the associate executive of this Presbytery (in Philadelphia), the first Black associate executive of this Presbytery, and I was also the first Black synod executive (a regional overseer of churches) that ran from Pennsylvania to South Carolina.”
What’s been most impactful for Jenkins in leading Cedar Park? He reflected and said, “The (congregation’s) renewal of the desire to reach out into the community and to do more community involvement … we’re really pushing to get more people involved and spiritually mentor (others).”
For Jenkins, taking evangelism and other ministry services beyond the traditional church walls into the community is a priority ardent mission. Jenkins mentioned that the scheduled keynote speaker for the 95th gala celebration was the Rev. Dr. Curtis Jones, former executive of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus. Jones is from Philadelphia and is a former pastor within the Presbyterian clergy community. The guest preacher for Sunday morning’s worship service was to be the Rev. Arlington Medley, a young pastor who’s been forming a church (formerly of Church of the Redeemer Baptist Church). Jenkins has allowed Medley’s congregation to use Cedar Park’s building for their earlier morning Sunday worship services. “We’ve housed that group here, we’ve got a big building, so we’ve been sharing the building … we have two churches here, one’s Baptist that starts at 9 a.m. (Sunday) morning, and we start at 11 a.m. It’s been an exciting time,” said Jenkins.
Young people are a priority concern for Jenkins. Cedar Park will provide a remedial summer academic support/day school program to help buttress the academic success of children in third through fifth grades.” The church will host a community block party on July 14 from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. to rally the community, families, friends and kids for food, fun, music games and fellowship.
Cedar Park is a diverse church of African-American youth and senior members, including members from Caribbean cultures.
Youth leader Paden Kevin Haines, 22, has been a member for most of his life. Reflecting on his ministry activism, he said, “I’m on the pastoral nominating committee, the Christian Education Committee, and the Youth Leadership Committee that I started with my sister.” He credits Cedar Park with developing aspects of his leadership, “Cedar Park has let me become comfortable in speaking out to people, and reaching out to the young people. There’s always somebody hear to encourage me to go further (in life).”
As part of the Mother’s Day celebration, Jason Rice’s mother-in-law Janice Robins was honored for being an outstanding mother, “She’s probably the most loving person that I know on this earth,” Rice said. He and his wife Greta have been married for 12 years.
Shanaya Jones, 19, a perky teen leader, is very excited about the 95th anniversary celebration and her membership at Cedar Park saying, “Dance and YLC bring all the youth together to do different events,” Jones said. “Youth Leadership Committee, basically, do different activities to help the community. We just did (community service with) a shelter.” Jones said the youths attend fun events like Six Flags and other trips to keep them engaged, encouraged and motivated.
Corinne Washington, 19, was very enthusiastic in her comments about Cedar Park’s anniversary.
“It’s just exciting, because I’ve been here for a long time, and it’s exciting to see how the church (has grown) over the years,” she said.
One of her favorite ministry activities is, “Praise dancing. I love to praise dance,” said Washington who attends Montgomery County Community College.