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.
GREENVILLE, Pa. —This coming Sunday, Upper Perkiomen Community Church (UPCC), in East Greenville, Pa., will be one of countless churches making a grand effort to draw millions of Americans back to worship as part of “Back to Church Sunday.”
A national evangelical initiative, National Back to Church Sunday is a unique day set aside each year on the third Sunday of September for faithful church members to invite and welcome people who do not regularly attend church to rediscover or establish their affiliation.
According to LifeWay Research, a national Christian research/resource organization, “Only two percent of church members invite an un-churched person to church. Ninety-eight percent of churchgoers never extend an invitation in a given year.”
George “Buck” Barnhart said, “[Back to Church Sunday] is an opportunity for people who have left the church [or other houses of worship] to go back to renew the worship they had in the past. A lot of people have lost touch with the church.”
Barnhart, 73, is a member of UPCC, a 2-year-old church making great evangelical impact in the local community. Barnhart sees Back to Church Sunday as a great way to steer people in the community toward a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ashley Bosico, an 11th grade honor student at Souderton High School, said she believes that some of the negative challenges that may prevent teens from attending church are parties, drugs and alcohol.
Bosico, 16, believes UPCC, however, has the right spiritual recipe to attract new members — especially young people — back to church.
“(UPCC is) very friendly,” she explained. “We have a lot of outreach activities, and we really go outside and get into the community and do a lot of just great activities to get to know you, and we’re really focused on God and loving others.”
Bosico and her family were a part of the original small Bible study group that eventually gave birth to UPCC. Bosico leads weekly Bible studies for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her school. Bosico aspires later to attend Lancaster Bible College, to study to become a middle school teacher.
The Web site Backtochurch.com states that, “(Most people) who drop out of church haven’t lost their faith in God, they simply fell out of the habit of churchgoing. Some moved or had a change in life circumstances, or they had a falling out with their former church and simply drifted away. Most often, life became too busy.”
Mark and Karen Weigner know a little bit about being busy: They’ve been preparing all summer for their Sept. 15th visit to Korea to finalize the official adoption of a little girl. They have opted to adopt because one of their two biological children is a carrier of cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.
They have two other adopted girls from Korea.
“There are so many people in our community that are hurting that have nowhere to turn, and we as a church wanted to be that center of town where people can come,” said Mark, 38. “We can help them and encourage them, and show the love of Christ to people who are struggling…because that’s why Jesus came. He came to love those who are lost.”
“[Our] goal is to be ‘Jesus with skin on to people that come into your life’, and that is what’s embraced here at [UPCC]. We can be Jesus with skin on,” said Karen, 37, recalling words of wisdom a ministry leader shared with her during a 2010 trip in Bangkok, Thailand.
John Buckley, senior pastor of UPCC, said he was in awe that families from Georgia, and other areas of Pennsylvania like Scranton, Oil City and the Poconos, were drawn to join the membership at his growing church.
“It is a humbling thing to be a part of this [ministry],” said Buckley. “Everyday, every Sunday when I get in front of [the congregation], and I see who’s there, it’s like ‘Wow, God. Thank you for the opportunity.’”
While serving as a minister at a church in the neighboring town of Sellersville, a half-hour away from East Greenville, Buckley immediately recognized the large commuter membership trekking in from East Greenville.
“We felt the need to kind of get local churches planted in local communities that can reach the local population,” said Buckley. “We are a very relationally driven church…We have over 90 percent of our [church members] that serve in some capacity.”
This year, Backtochurch.com has a goal to have at least 10,000 churches conducting creative evangelical outreach, like UPCC, to invite people back to church.
“Our goal is to reignite the power of the personal invitation,” Buckley added.
Buckley and his wife Sandy extend an open invitation to visitors to attend UPCC Sunday worship service at 9:30 a.m. The church is located at 258 Main Street, East Greenville, PA 18041. For more information about UPCC, call 267-424-2066.
Atheism is the profession of skepticism, disbelief, or blatant anti-religious conviction that God does not exist. According to the Bible, atheism is an anathema against God. Psalm 53:1 states that “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.”
But Luke 15:10 proclaims that God and His angels rejoice in heaven when non-believers repent and faithfully follow God.
Such is the case with Faith Therese Leopold, she was once an atheist, but heaven is now rejoicing over her devotion to Jesus Christ!
Leopold, 20, is a perky, intelligent young lady from Delaware County. She’s a graduate of Interboro High School in Prospect Park.
Leopold is a talented young lady, she writes and performs original Christian songs, she’s written about 30 songs. Her testimony is stirring, in that, she was raised within a religious family setting, yet she rebelled against religious orthodoxy and was an atheist.
“I grew up in a really amazing family,” she said. “My whole family, they’re practicing Catholics. My father was actually in a seminary for seven years, and then after he left, he met my mother. While I was growing up, in my teens, I really couldn’t believe in God.”
Leopold said she felt that people were using God as a crutch in life, and this was unsettling to her.
The youngest of seven, Leopold and her siblings are living miracles.
“My mom wasn’t actually suppose to have children, Leopold said, adding that her mother suffered from some serious health issues and was advised that childbirth would place her life at risk. “[Doctors] told her not to have kids. And [they] said that anytime she got pregnant, she should probably abort the child. But she decided to have seven kids, and I was the last one.”
Leopold said that her mother was pro-life, as is her whole family.
Leopold said that by the time she was 17, her mother, “was really sick. She needed a kidney transplant.” Her mother was able to get the organ transplant she needed, “but it ended up causing sepsis, and she passed away when I was 17.”
When she graduated high school, Leopold decided to attend Christendom College, in Front Royal, Va., “because my sister and brother had gone there.” Christendom is a conservative Catholic college, it has a student enrollment of approximately 407 undergraduate students, and despite Leopold’s unbelief in God, she matriculated to the college anyway.
“I was an atheist, and it was really frustrating when people would talk about religion, but I thought, I should at least give it a shot,” she said.
Atheists attending Christian colleges may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s more common than most might consider. For instance, there are blogs devoted to supporting atheists attending Christian colleges; the following were two blogs posted on christiancollegeatheist.wordpress.com:
“I need to be saved. Not by Jesus. By someone with a getaway car and a decent understanding of the scientific method.”
“After surviving another semester of terrifying nonsense I find myself, by luck, able to spend winter break in Northern Europe. I’m telling you, it’s atheist paradise. Sure, there are religious people. But you wouldn’t really know it. In spite of the fact that almost everyone is celebrating Christmas, there’s very little mention of God or Jesus (and when it does occur, it’s kind of in the spirit of ‘yeah-whatever-that’s-the-cultural-background-let’s-all-just-enjoy-the-time-off-from-work.’)”
And this blog excerpt appeared on www.patheos.com (Ask Richard, the Friendly Atheist):
“I’m an atheist in a mostly Christian, Republican state trying to get through college with my sanity intact. I graduate next semester, and thought I’d manage to get through this without any serious repercussions due to my unpopular views. Unfortunately my business law teacher this semester might break that record. The first class set off alarms when he said he couldn’t call gay marriage real marriage because Christians defined marriage for centuries already, but I didn’t want to start conflict on the first day. … Any topic that touches on religion or equal rights (for any minority) sets him off in a very bigoted direction...”
Over time, Leopold began noticing a difference in the lives of her Christian peers at Christendom.
“People who had religion in their lives, just seemed substantially more happy and more peaceful,” she said. “And I was always kind of searching for peace when I was in my teenage years.”
During her return home from school breaks, she resided with her sister (Ky) and brother-in-law (Richard).
“They just would talk to me (about Christ), whenever I’d come home from school on visits,” she said.
Leopold said that she would cry and become very upset when relatives or friends would witness to her.
“I just felt like I was being tricked by all these people, because they were all so religious, and it just seemed like a ruse,” she recalled.
But Leopold eventually had a change of heart.
Leopold said that family members urged her to pray and suggested that she spend time in Eucharistic Adoration. Leopold relented and sought private time in Eucharistic Adoration, in doing so, Leopold said she accepted Jesus Christ into her life.
In Catholicism, Eucharistic Adoration is solitude time spent in prayer and meditation honoring the Eucharistic Presence of Christ. According to the Vicariate Apostolic of Kuwait, “By worshiping the Eucharistic Jesus (John 6:41), we become what God wants us to be ... Eucharistic Adoration is ‘God and Man reaching out for each other, at the same time.
“[The Eucharistic Adoration] is a beautiful way to just directly glorify God, and Catholics believe it’s the true presence [of God],” Leopold said.
Leopold concluded, “I really just made an effort [to worship]. Every day, for like two or three weeks, I would just sit in the chapel at Adoration, and I would just sit before the Eucharist, and I would really truly pray. And at first it just felt like I was talking to myself, but I just made an effort, and I humbled myself enough to just believe maybe there could be something more than just the physical and that there is a spiritual aspect to the world that me and a lot of other people just deny. So, I just made myself vulnerable and I just opened up my heart.”
She then accepted Jesus into her life.
In Romans 10:9-11, the Holy Bible reveals that the spiritual conversion/salvation experience from unbelief to authentic believer in Jesus Christ occurs when a person sincerely confesses “...with (their) mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, ‘Whosoever believeth on Jesus shall not be ashamed.’”
Now, Leopold says she “has the most beautiful, passionate love for God. It’s a very personal relationship; I can just feel Him in my life.”
And she strongly believes that God is leading her, “to be the woman He wants me to be.”
Leopold is reveling in the new spiritual life and loving family that God has given her, “We’re just a really great family,” she said. “I’m just so glad [my mother] gave us the chance to have life” [and to have it more abundantly.]
Leopold attends Saint Gabriel Roman Catholic Church, 233 Mohawk Ave. in Norwood. Sunday Mass is held at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Father Sam Verruni is the pastor. For more information about Saint Gabriel, call the church office at (610) 586-1225.
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.
Last Sunday, little Kaela Pointer, a 5-month-old girl, was baptized and celebrated by her church family, Saint Cyprian Roman Catholic Church, the largest African-American Catholic parish in Philadelphia.
The Gospel of Matthew 28:19 documents the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Saint Cyprian is a great example of a church that fully embraces teaching the Word of God, baptizing and making disciples, and taking the Gospel of Christ abroad; Saint Cyprian is probably one of the most culturally versed/well traveled congregations throughout the world, having visited Egypt, Jerusalem, Italy, Greece, Spain, China and so many other international locations.
Rev. Msgr. Federico A. Britto is the endearing and beloved founding pastor of Saint Cyprian. Eleven years ago, he arrived to lead the transition of consolidating two Philadelphia parishes: Transfiguration of Our Lord and Saint Carthage — today, known as the Saint Cyprian Roman Catholic Church, located on Cobbs Creek Parkway.
Britto has had several pastoral assignments during his 29 years as a priest, but Britto’s first pastoral assignment was shepherding the parish of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, in Philadelphia.
Commenting on the consolidation of the two churches, Britto shared that, “The people, at the time, came together and decided that a new vision was needed for this area, as far as their parishes were concerned.”
Saint Cyprian boasts a long list of ministries and organizations for members of the congregation to serve, including: Hospitality Committee, Helping Hands for the Hungry, Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver, Marriage Preparation, Share the Faith (Door to Door Ministry), Men of Saint Cyprian and F.R.O.G.S. (Fully Relying On God). “If someone is looking for (a ministry to serve in), they can find it here,” said Britto.
Britto is a well-educated man, but is not lofty, he’s quite humble and extremely approachable. Britto earned his B.A. in Philosophy, an M.A. in Theology, and an M.S. in Strategic Leadership, from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, in Wynnewood, Pa. and he serves on the Boards of Neumann University, Mercy Catholic Medical Center and St. Ignatius Nursing Home.
“He has such a great sense of humor, (he’s) so friendly and he treats everybody the same,” said Carolyn Rice, 61, a member for eleven years, commenting about Britto and his personality. Rice is an entrenched member because the Saint Cyprian congregation is so “loving” and is very “family oriented.”
For John Odom, a member of 10 years, it’s real simple, he’s an entrenched member because, “I like how (members) come together to help others in need.” Odom, 61, serves as a driver, Pastoral Council member and in other ministry capacities.
James Spruill Jr., 45, has been a member of St. Carthage and Saint Cyprian for a combined 40 years.
What Sprull likes best is, “Saint Cyprian is a close knit community; we are all united in commonality of our faith.” A devoted husband to his wife, Kimberly, and a father of two young children, Spruill loves Saint Cyprian because of its family atmosphere.
“We know each other’s family, (and) we support and help each other,” he said.
Spruill serves on the finance committee, parish council and Men of Saint Cyprian ministries.
Every Sunday, Kia Gray, 36, and her family trek all the way from Collegeville, Pa., to fellowship and worship at Saint Cyprian.
“(We are) the largest Black Catholic congregation in Philadelphia and Monsignor Britto is very good for our church … he is constantly trying to work with our youth and seniors,” said Gray, who is the leader of the Young Adult ministry and she’s also a Lector at Saint Cyprian.
Gray is the mother of two girls, Kaela (the infant who was baptized on Sept. 25), and Kai, 14; her husband is Jerome Pointer. As the leader of the Young Adult Ministry, Kia involves the young adults in conducting community service initiatives and she exposes the young adults to guest speakers.
Geraldine “Geri” Fuller, 78, has been of member of Saint Carthage and Saint Cyprian for a combined 50 years.
“I am what is called a cradle Catholic,” she explained. “I was taught by Holy Family nuns,” during her childhood years in New Orleans, La.
Fuller is in charge of organizing the international trips that Saint Cyprian schedules for its congregation and the general public. Her ministry activism includes Legion of Mary, president of Women of Saint Cyprian and Extraordinary Ministry for Mercy Hospital.
Jean Smith, 72, a member for 10 years, made this comment about Britto, “He’s a very caring person, he has the best interest of people in mind.”
Smith enjoys helping organize the international trips that Saint Cyprian takes, the Gospel choir, the Women of Saint Cyprian and food pantry ministries.
Saint Cyprian is, “a very warm and welcoming church and we have a lot of activities (and ministries for people to participate in),” she said.
Smith is equally enthralled about her pastor, saying, “He’s very good with youth and seniors. I hope he never has to leave.”
Saint Cyprian Roman Catholic Church
525 S. Cobbs Creek Parkway
Philadelphia, Pa. 19143
Telephone: (215) 747-3250
Sunday Worship Services: 8 a.m. & 11 a.m.
Priest: Rev. Msgr. Federico A. Britto
Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church is calling on Christians to “Occupy Church” and become empowered to fight for social justice from a spiritual perspective. To that end, they’ve invited three high profile voices in the struggle to share their thoughts.
Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. Dr. Obery Hendricks and Rev. Reginald T. Jackson are scheduled to speak at the church during the 11 a.m. service Sunday.
“The social witness Sunday is something that’s been on my mind for quite some time and I guess you could say that it’s our reaction to what we perceive to be an overemphasis on things such as prosperity and the church being a place just for God to bless you,” said the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel.
“There seems to be a decrease in the emphasis on things that used to be important in the life of the church which is to really be a voice in the community.”
Tyler said that it was a matter of Biblical principle for the church to be a voice that speaks on issues that are important to those that have the least.
“The New Testament reminds us that the church really ought to be about doing for the least of these, and in the city that we live in, very often the least of these have no one to speak for them. So, when school children throughout public schools in Philadelphia find themselves in overcrowded classrooms because of budget cuts in Harrisburg, they have no lobbyists to speak on their behalf,” Tyler said.
“The church can be that voice to advocate for things that are important and for those that are considered to be the least of these.”
Tyler described the scheduled speakers as having a heart for the people. The participants were more than ready to have their say.
“I think those that say the church should stay out of it aren’t Biblically sound and really do not understand what Christ was all about. Christ would be very much involved and engaged in issues such as it relates to the poor,” Jackson said, pastor and pioneer in the fight against racial profiling by police in New Jersey.
“He would very much be involved with issues as it relates to social justice. That’s clear from reading his word.”
Jackson cited reasons why the church has strayed away from its great commission.
“I think one, we have become so caught up with taking care of our priestly responsibilities that we have forgotten that the Lord has also called us to prophetic responsibilities,” he said.
“There was a time when the Black church was a voice to nobody that to speak for them and to fight for those who had nobody to fight for them. We have to reclaim that.”
Hendricks, a Biblical scholar, former seminary president, and author of the new book “The Universe Bends Toward Justice,” previewed what he would he be discussing; much of it will center around his book.
“It’s a book of very wide ranging passionate essays taking on conservative politics and the religious right and the distortions that they’ve conveyed about the church and about the religion of Jesus Christ,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks accused conservatives of not having enough of an interest for the poor.
“They’re not concerned about the have nots. For some reason, their policies are all skewed towards the haves, and that is a direct contradiction and violation of Jesus,” he said.
“Conservatives have always been about conserving wealth and power where it already is, and so what we’re seeing in these recent years is that they’ve just become more bold about it and less concerned about hiding their intentions and one thing that’s helped them do that is that they hide behind religion now.”
Tyler said that gatherings such as these helped to plant a seed within people, which would lead to a harvest of activity.
“In every generation, there is something that is at work that needs good people of faith to stand up and say that this is not what God would want. It’s about identifying within our own time those issues where the voice of the least of these can be heard,” he said.
“I just think that it’s absolutely wrong that we can find money in Pennsylvania to build two or three new prisons and yet we cannot find money to keep funding at a level it needs to be for public school education — and somebody needs to speak about that. Somebody not only needs to speak about it, but do something about it.”
For more information on Social Justice Sunday at Mother Bethel AME Church on Sunday, Nov. 13, starting at 11 a.m. go to http://www.MotherBethel.org or contact the church office at (215) 925-0616.
President Barack Obama has a problem. It is not his vision for change or the soaring unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. It is neither the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan nor the growing apathy within his Democratic party. Unfortunately, he inherited some of these challenges from the previous administration. His problem? How does he marry audacious leadership and hope while facing fierce opposition and disrespect?
During the summer, the president sought the middle ground, trying to appeal to independent voters. At first glance, this strategy appeared to be an excellent one for a 2012 re-election: to stay above the fray and reaffirm to independents that he is not an “angry” or “reactionary” Black man, and that he is above the disrespect and childish political antics of John Boehner, Eric Cantor and rest of the Republican Party.
Indeed, the primary challenge facing Obama is contending with the forces who want to gain control of the Oval Office and who are willing to stop at nothing to apprehend it — even if it means bringing the U.S. financial market unnecessarily to her knees.
In order to save America, and even his presidency, the president must emerge as the master strategist to combat forces that would muddy the waters between allies and foes, and stir deleterious and counterproductive debate amongst his voting base that is designed to distract, discourage, dissuade, and ultimately defeat him.
To be victorious, Obama must redouble his efforts to maintain focus and to become what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “…not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.”
Please understand: I enthusiastically support President Barack Obama. In 2008, I organized Clergy for Change, the first interfaith and interracial breakfast in Philadelphia to support and elect then Senator Obama. My call for leadership should not be aligned with the likes of Tavis Smiley or Cornel West.
However, when 14 million Americans are unemployed, the housing market is in a tailspin, the economy is on the brink of a double-dip recession and your most loyal base is feeling the most financial pain, we need our president to dare to be our most audacious leader.
On Thursday night, delivering his jobs speech in the House chamber — a venue used only three times within the past 20 years except for the State of Union addresses — President Obama took a crucial step in bold and daring leadership.
Principally, the president exhorted Congress to pass a jobs bill that would:
— Cut the payroll tax and put more money in the pockets of working and middle class Americans, saving families an average of $1,500 a year;
— Provide an additional tax cut to any business that hires or increases wages;
— Extend jobless benefits to the unemployed, with special emphasis on those out of work at least six months and those in low-income neighborhoods.
— Spend $140 billion to save and create jobs to repair deteriorating schools and rebuild roads, railways, and airports.
President Obama is a gifted politician. He is smart, attentively listens and knows how to take our nation’s challenges and develop them into a clear, bipartisan vision. While he is a great visionary, he must do more than cast vision. He must be guided by his convictions rather than allow his enemies to cast him as one who occasionally acquiesces or abdicates his leadership.
The security of America and yes, even the presidency, dangles at the end of a very short rope. We have less than 14 months before next year’s presidential election. America is in desperate need of our president to rise again as the bold, thoughtful, prayerful, no holds barred people’s champion and leader we know him to be.
At the end of the day, leaders are not judged solely on their poll numbers, but rather their principles. And while poll numbers cannot be ignored, they should never be the compass guiding the leader. We are depending upon this great leader to change this nation and set it on the right course again. Will President Obama emerge as the courageous, audacious leader for these extraordinary times? I believe he will because that’s what great, audacious leaders do.
As always, keep the faith.
The Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson is the senior pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church.
The road to spiritual salvation is sometimes so obvious, so apparent, that we just miss it. Like most of Jesus’ messages, it doesn’t seem possible that by simply changing one’s outlook, the kingdom of heaven is yours.
Disciples asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment of the law?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is just like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the laws and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36–40.
It is not always through guile and deceit that the devil works his evil. He can accomplish his goals if he can convince you that what is very important is of little matter and no consequence. This love thing is pretty well documented throughout the Bible, and Christ certainly clarifies its importance in the above passage. Remember, this is the son of God talking. The single most important thing I can do to abide in God’s will is to possess love in my heart for God and my fellow man. That’s it? Yeah, that’s it! If that’s as close to a guarantee as we can get. Why are many of us hell-bent on doing the things that will ensure our place at the kitchen table in hell?
I personally think the concept of loving God is pretty easy to comprehend. Most of us, dare I say, are arguably, trying to accomplish this in one way or another. It’s the loving your neighbor as yourself that’s causing the problem. The devil is having a field day on this one. Count how many people you can’t stand at this very moment. Take your shoes off and add to your list those people, of whom, if they died tomorrow, you would be among those who would think, if not say, “Good riddance.” The devil has us so confused and dumfounded on this issue that we can’t see that the hatred we harbor for others, the contempt we feel for people we don’t even know, masks an underlying reality that won’t allow us to love our neighbor. In actuality, we hate ourselves. You see, the devil has tricked us into hating the mirror image of us. Deep down inside we hate in others that which we might become, because we really don’t like what we have become. HELLO!
The devil knows man is not perfect, so he entices us into hating the imperfection of others; their flaws and faults, their weaknesses and shortcomings. All the while, being imperfect, ourselves, ensures that we cannot live up to the greatest commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Isn’t it interesting that most people who claim being saved tell you they first had to realize that God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, loved them, warts and all? The stories come from former drug addicts, adulterers, petty gossips, murderers and greedy, self absorbed takers in life, who wished they knew how to have a healthy, respectful, loving relationship with another human being. One by one, we line up and confess that once we accepted that God indeed loves us, then, and only then were we able to love ourselves and subsequently love others just as they are: all imperfect, all flawed children of God, all welcomed at his eternal kitchen table. At this point one sees God in every man, every woman and every child, because once you accept that God resides in your own sinful soul, you can see God in others. God knew you before you knew you. And he loved you anyway in spite of what he knew you were going to do. As incredible as that sounds, it’s true. It’s called love. God’s point is so simple. If he’s got it for you, the least you can do is have it for others. Step back, Satan. I love me, and I ain’t got nothing but love for you too. May God love and keep you always.
Camden, N.J. — On June 9, a 25th anniversary celebration was held for the Rev. James C. Jones, evangelist and senior pastor of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Camden, N.J., at the Mansion on Main Street in Voorhees, N.J.
The keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw, senior pastor of White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia. From 2000 to 2009, Rev. Shaw served as the national president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (NBCUSA, Inc.) the largest African-American religious organization in the nation with more than one million members throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe. He offered a tribute to the dedicated service and extensive accomplishments of Rev. Jones.
Rev. James C. Jones has spent his pastoral career in service to God and the communities of Camden and vicinity. In 1987, Rev. Jones chose to move to Camden from his hometown of Glassboro, N.J., at a time when many ministers were fleeing the City.
“Ministry is about more than being a pastor,” said Jones. “The most rewarding aspect of my work is evangelism. This gift, which God gave me, allows me to support the salvation of all with whom I come in contact.”
Rev. Jones, who is renowned for his compassionate prison ministry outreach, was one of the first clergy members in Camden to reach out to the prison population. Rev. Jones ardently petitioned local and state officials and was eventually granted access to the former Riverfront State Prison, and was subsequently invited to the Camden County Jail, where he conducted worship services, witnessed to prisoners, and worked to remove the stigma associated with incarceration. “Everyone in jail is not a bad person,” he said. “Good people make bad decisions. God forgives us all.”
Rev. Jones has helped transform the thoughts and behaviors of numerous convicts and addicts; several of whom became members of Mt. Calvary as their lives improved.
Pastor Jones is a member of the Economic Recovery Board and the former president of the Concerned Black Clergy of Camden. He fervently advocates for the communities of Camden and has been instrumental in coordinating forums to heighten the awareness of the City’s residents regarding economic recovery.
Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church also serves its community through their Board of Christian Education, Community Development Corporation, Black History programs, Spanish Heritage programs, the Bible Bowl, Children’s Church, Youth Church, Seniors Ministry, the Food Bank, Street and Nursing Home Ministries, and many other church activities and ministries.
Have you ever gone to a specific church to hear a particular pastor only to find out that said pastor will not be in the pulpit? It’s happened to me and I’ve come to appreciate it’s not the messenger. It’s the message. And so it was recently when a minister unknown to me spoke of humility. Fortunately for me, it was one of the first principles I remembered from the guy who saved my life, the minister I was going to hear. Humility, as the guest pastor clarified, was particularly evident in Philippians 2. The entire chapter is devoted to Paul’s message to the church at Philippi regarding “Imitating Christ’s Humility.” As I listened, humility went from a concept of docile behavior to a fact of faith and strength of conduct. It was made clear that Christ deliberately chose to consider himself at best equal to, if not less than His fellow man. Remember, this is God choosing to make himself human, in order to serve his divine purpose. This text tells us. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Now, my recollection of Christ says that’s a pretty good description of how he looked upon his duty and pretty much what got Him killed.
Isn’t it ironic to think that the most dangerous, therefore the most powerful and important thing you can do in life is to care more about someone else than you care about yourself? This humility thing has teeth. Paul teaches us that it is our fundamental responsibility as Christians to be united in emulating Christ’s denunciation of status, pride, ego and self. I mean really, if anyone had a right to be arrogant, try being the walking talking Word and deliberately transform yourself into a mere mortal. If you can grasp that thought, please do not let it blow your mind because you know you couldn’t do it. I certainly couldn’t, no matter my intent. I mean, become the Son of God and die on the cross at the hands of men. Fortunately, as the guest minister sermonized, Paul was not asking us to do the impossible. He lets us know the goal is service unto our fellow man. He reminds us that the mission is to put a cap on what we think of ourselves and our independence in favor of the recognition of our collective interdependence upon each other and the Almighty. Christ died to save us all, and here in Philippi, Paul tells us that our conduct must be based on the recognition of the following truth. Out of this thing called humility, Christ saved the world. Are we better than he is? Think it through. If you look down your nose at anyone, if you think you’re better than anyone, then you think you’re better than Jesus, who thought himself no better and even less than you. He died in service to you. Do something today for someone else simply because you can. If you don’t get this, I think you had better think again.
May God bless and keep you always.