With the start of the new school year, there is a lot of conversation about bullying. This type of aggression is not new, but it is different. And it calls for a different response.
While some adults find nothing wrong with bullying, 70 percent of students view it as a problem. And research suggests that young bullies may be charting a troubling course. A recent study revealed that 60 percent of boys who bullied others in middle school had a criminal conviction by the age of 24. There also is a significant connection between bullying and suicide. Last year’s suicide of a Rutgers University freshman led New Jersey lawmakers to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law.
Certainly parents play a key role in addressing and preventing bullying; however, research suggests that bullying may be indicative of a larger, societal problem. Studies confirm that among the risk factors for bullying are neighborhoods that are unsafe, violent and disorganized. Conversely, when young people live in safe, connected communities, they are less likely to engage in bullying.
This scholarship underscores the importance of the great work of organizations like 100 Black Men and Mothers in Charge, as well as the mentors, coaches, Scout leaders, teachers, school administrators, the church deacon, the lady on the porch who watches out, and others who are actively engaged in the lives of our children. A number of businesses, schools and faith-based organizations in Northwest Philadelphia have formed a partnership to help keep our children safe. The first initiative is the Safe Haven Program. Participants display a Safe Haven poster in the window of their establishments. The poster tells children traveling to and from school that the building is a refuge from danger.
In addition to these efforts, we need to learn different ways of responding to aggression. Jesus, for example, grabbed a whip and fought the money-changers in the temple. However, he retreated in Bethany in the face of those trying to stone him. And most important, he laid down His life for us at Calvary. Likewise, simply walking or running away may be the appropriate response in a particular situation. And that should not be viewed as weak. As an instructor in one of the martial arts disciplines, I help my students understand that fundamentally we fight because we’re scared or angry. When we are confident and balanced, however, there is no need to prove what we know to be true. Rather, we learn to operate from a position of strength and make the choice not to cause the aggressor harm although we have the ability and means to. Instead, we demonstrate our strength by walking away.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church hosted an anti-bullying workshop. We shared important information and strategies to address bullying. This was just one step in what I hope will be an ongoing effort to combat this problem. I look forward to your participation in upcoming events.
The Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller is the senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle 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.
Hundreds of people converged on one of Philadelphia’s megachurches to see one of the world’s most recognizable evangelists — Pastor Benny Hinn.
This weekend people trekked from as far as California just to be a part of the Fire Impartation Conference held at Deliverance Evangelistic Church (Rev. Glen Spaulding, Senior Pastor). The conference scheduled to run through Saturday.
Judging by the throngs of people in attendance, Hinn has rock star-celebrity status among his faithful supporters, and his supporters are many in number.
Entering the cavernous sanctuary of Deliverance Evangelistic Church, spying the massive audience, you could not avoid noticing God’s rainbow of ethnicities well represented. Such a unique and refreshing sight, particularly when the vast majority of church congregations are so homogeneous.
“My expectations are very high. I come to see what the Lord has for us to receive,” said Rev. Wilbur Cofer, of Greater Bethel Church, in Philadelphia, one of the many attendees of the Fire Impartation Conference. This conference was developed to equip attendees with in-depth teaching from the Word of God, healing service, and praise and worship to invoke the presence and move of the Holy Spirit.
Evangelist Juanita Scott heard about the Fire Impartation Conference from a television advertisement, and it motivated her to attend the conference. “(Hinn) is a blessed man and I’m glad to be here … I love his spirit.”
Becky Hauschildt, a member of Life Christian Center in St. Louis, Missouri, traveled to Philly to attend the conference. When asked about her expectations, Hauschildt replied, “I’m volunteering, I’ve probably been a partner for (Hinn) for over twenty years. I was a member of his church in Orlando. I’m thrilled because people are going to be saved.”
The night opened with a warm greeting from one of Hinn’s representatives, afterwards, a video was shown of Hinn globetrotting to various international locations preaching and ministering around the world.
At the conclusion of the video, an appeal was given to become a financial partner/supporter of Benny Hinn Ministies. Information packets were distributed throughout the sanctuary.
The praise and worship team mounted the pulpit stage and led a very spirited musical worship service, followed by an amazing mass choir performance. By the time Hinn took to the pulpit, the sanctuary erupted in a thunderous frenzy of applause for the preacher of the evening.
Angela Finny was simply amazed with Hinn. “I was really excited to hear (Hinn), he is a blessing, and I hope to be a blessing (to others),” she said.
Finny’s been a Hinn supporter for 3-4 years.
According to his handlers, Hinn is in his 37th year of ministry preaching and teaching. His brand of ministry is cut from the charismatic tradition. Known for his trademark tailored white suits and impeccably styled hair, Hinn is a very bold and flamboyant preacher. He subscribes to laying-of-the-hands faith healing, speaking in tongues, prosperity preaching and prophesying the Word of God.
Hinn will celebrate his 59th birthday in December, and he still maintains a youthful and high level of energy when teaching and preaching the Gospel. Hinn has built a highly successful ministry enterprise that truly spans the globe. His ministry’s television studio is located in Aliso Viejo, California, and his corporate headquarters for Benny Hinn Ministries and World Healing Center Church is located in Grapevine, Texas.
Hinn, a highly successful author and savvy media broadcaster, has built a ministry/business enterprise that has literally reached millions of people worldwide and generates millions of dollars annually. According to a 2006 Guidestar-published 990 tax report, Hinn’s World Healing Center Church revenue exceeded $7 million.
Hinn did not grant any personal media interviews during his first night of the conference, and official members of his staff refused to be interviewed, too.
But shunning the local media didn’t matter; Hinn’s renown precedes him. His ministry is a juggernaut, and he has an extremely faithful following. Hinn has accomplished something that many pastors have not — he attracts a diverse demographic of supporters.
One faithful follower is Jessica Barrett, a college student from central New York.
An ardent supporter, Barrett said she first encountered Hinn at his home church in Buffalo.
“I really want to have a whole new experience with God,” she said. “I’ve seen the anointing that comes off of (Hinn)…I’m actually going on a mission trip to Africa, and I was kind of hoping for a fresh covering.”
Pastor Azhar Alam, from Trinity International Church in Northeast Philadelphia, is another staunch supporter of Hinn.
“Pastor Benny Hinn will be blessing churches and ministries in Philadelphia,” he said. “We are in desperate need in this city. People have come from far and near, we all will be corporately praying for this neighborhood, this community, this city, for God to truly have His spirit move here.”
The excitement was evident on the many faces of the people who came and left the conference event.
Theresa Sculo, a South Jersey resident, was especially excited. She was attending the conference with two of her New Jersey friends.
“We came expecting to hear a Word from God,” she said.
Intimate, warm and welcoming describes the atmosphere at First Colored Wesley Methodist Church — a church with a long history in the city. After a six-year search for a new pastor, First Colored Wesley recently celebrated the installation of the Rev. Ralinda Golback. The congregation was cheerful and uplifted as Golback shared her excitement over her new role at the morning service preceding the installation.
First Colored Wesley Methodist Church stands in a diverse South Philly neighborhood blocks from the Avenue of the Arts. The church’s history goes back to the origins of the Black church in Philadelphia, beginning on June 16, 1820, when a group of members from Bethel Church organized a new congregation. They held services in various locations in Old City and utilizing a carpenter shop on a lot on the north side of Lombard Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. The church’s first pastor was the Rev. Joshua Blue and the congregation transformed the shop into a house of worship.
After establishing an affiliation with a newly formed Zion organization in New York, First Colored Wesley held the second Annual Conference for the new denomination on May 16, 1822. The congregation was incorporated as the First Colored Wesley Methodist Church on May 31, 1826.
In 1885, the church was under the new leadership of the Rev. J.P. Thompson and relocated to the southwest corner of 15th and Lombard streets. Unfortunately, part of the church was destroyed by a fire, forcing the congregation to worship at the Horticultural Hall on Broad Street. The congregation did not allow the fire to diminish their spirits.
Through decades of perseverance, a fire, leadership and building changes, First Colored Wesley bought its current location at 17th and Fitzwater streets on Nov. 21, 1943. The Rev. John H. Larkins became the pastor in 1945 and served until 1971. Its rich and extensive history has instilled a sense of pride in the congregation that is still present today.
First Colored Wesley began the search for a pastor in 2006. Who better than Golback, a member of the church for 29 years?
Golback became a member in 1983 and served as church clerk for 23 years. She explained she had received her “calling” years before, but it wasn’t until 2006 that she decided to stop denying it and “relinquished,” as she describes it.
“This is my home church, I just love it and love each and every member here,” Golback said. “God has just blessed me to be able to be elected to this position — I’m awestruck.”
First Colored Wesley may be small in size, but is grand in enthusiasm, engagement and smiling faces. Their warm approach keeps members dedicated to its mission.
Michele Neal, South Philadelphia resident, a musician, has played the piano and the organ at First Colored Wesley for more than 10 years. Neal got involved with the music ministry at First Colored Wesley when a friend recommended she play at the church.
“Their musician left, so I came and started to minister to them in song, and they liked the way I played and told me to come and play for three choirs — the gospel chorus the youth department and the fifth Sunday choir,” she said. “They are beautiful warm-hearted people.”
Neal feels the spirit in the church is very uplifting and one of the main goals of First Colored Wesley is to uplift everyone who comes. She was excited for the installation of Golback and feels it is a “joyous” celebration.
The service preceding the installation was celebratory as the congregation cheerfully welcomed Golback’s new position. She addressed her soon-to-be congregation and relayed, “I can only praise God for what he’s done in my life.”
As part of their unique and intimate practice, the congregation members joined in a circle at the pulpit within the service, held hands and bowed their heads as their pastor-elect led them in a prayer.
The Rev. Arthur P. Wells delivered the sermon of the day, welcoming Golback’s installation. He discussed utilizing the resources God has given. Referencing a Michael Jackson hit, “Man in the Mirror,” Wells explained that everyone at some point needs to look within and “get done whatever we need in God’s house — there is a treasure that God laid out for us, but you first have to locate it.” He said it has always been in God’s plan for Golback to assume this position.
“God knew Rev. Ralinda would be ready to lead this congregation,” he said.
“I wanted to prepare the congregation for a new pastor — looking toward the future, we thank God for 192 years of the past,” Wells said. “We have to look at ourselves and examine ourselves on whether we are ready to work for another 192 years — that’s our plan so we will be able to support her in her endeavors”
First Colored Wesley consistently works to do outreach in the community and to encourage and increase membership. The congregation embraces their location and the changes in their surroundings, by opening their door to their diverse neighbors.
“I look forward to building up the membership and continuing to build up spiritually. I want to reach out to some who have lapsed in their attendance, we want to reach back to them for them to come back and support us and be apart of us,” Golback said. “There’s also a new field that’s here — there’s a new spirit, I want to watch that spirit.”
She believes it is important to reach out to young people, since she believes youths are often disillusioned by what they hear in the media. She’s hoping as a congregation they can instill change, make a difference in their community and inspire others to encourage a difference in the world.
The congregation at First Colored Wesley Methodist Church embraces the past, but looks forward to a new and ever-changing future.
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.
ATLANTA — A North Carolina businessman involved in an investment program at an Atlanta-area megachurch where former members claim they lost their retirement savings says he's taking action to "make things right."
A group of church members is suing New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and its pastor, Bishop Eddie Long, saying they conspired with businessman Ephren Taylor Jr. to defraud the members through "wealth-building" seminars and sermons in 2009.
"In my case and that of my former company, some of the negative effects of a situation with very complex economics impacted businesses, individuals and families despite our best intentions," Taylor said in a statement.
Attorneys for the church members say in a DeKalb County lawsuit that Taylor urged them to liquidate their retirement accounts, and as a result some lost their life savings.
The U.S. Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service are also investigating issues surrounding the seminars, which were hosted at the Lithonia-based church which claims 25,000 members, federal officials said.
"Don't assume that I am just another greedy businessman," Taylor said in the statement. "I am taking action to make things right."
Taylor is also named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court in North Carolina.
In that case, lawyers say Taylor made a series of investment presentations for the "Prosperity Fund" at churches in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
In the summer of 2008, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention to a youth leaders' summit on his "socially conscious" corporate investment strategy, according to the federal lawsuit.
"Taylor was fortunate to be riding the wave of popularity of young, black, successful men created by then U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama," the lawsuit states.
New Birth spokesman Art Franklin previously declined to comment on the church's role in the investments. -- (AP)
As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday, there is a tremendous opportunity for each of us to touch the lives of the many people who are suffering as the result of this economy. This year we have seen so much devastation throughout our country, with hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. These, along with the unbelievable economy, have left countless people in need of help. What better time than this Thanksgiving season to offer our support to those in need?
As a people, we must move beyond the traditional Thanksgiving meal and football games and extend ourselves to families who need our support. We have discovered that the government can’t do it all — in fact in some cases, the government has turned its back on those who need help the most. It is the church and the people of God, who are called upon to be concerned about the least, the lost and the lonely — to have compassion for those who live in our streets, and the unemployed who need shelter and clothing, or just need a friend. I have said on many occasions that the church has abandoned its commitment to meet the needs of God’s people. This is not an option, but a mandate. We are compelled to take care of our brothers and sisters. Jesus the Master teacher spoke often about His concern for the least. The Gospel of Matthew, 25:35–36 reads, “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” This is just one illustration of how the Master spoke to us about our need to extend ourselves to others. This is not simply something we should do on Thanksgiving, but I use Thanksgiving for an opportunity for us to begin, if we have not already started, to meet the needs of God’s people, with the sheer act of “giving.”
As a Rotarian, I am moved by their theme, “Humanity in Motion.” That is to say, we show our humanity and our love for people by giving. In my humble opinion that is profound. When we realize that we are all part of God’s creation, our humanity is shown in how we care for one another. This takes us beyond color lines, educational lines, class lines and gender lines. We of all people know what it is to be hungry, jobless, or to be left out of society. Therefore we have a greater responsibility to reach back and give to the less fortunate. The Word says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
Those of us who have been blessed are challenged to give back, not just to sit at our tables at Thanksgiving with our families and have a wonderful meal, and to enjoy the comfort of family and friends. We are called to be equally concerned about those in the cold who have no place to eat or friends to talk with.
We can make a difference; we must make a difference. I challenge you today to reach within to embrace humanity. Someone has said, “If I can help somebody along the way, then my living will not be in vain.” Someone needs your help; help them and your life will be so much richer. There are a few practical things you can do this Thanksgiving — purchase food for a food pantry, cook a meal for a needy family, invite someone to your home for dinner that might need the warmth and friendship of a loved family; visit a nursing home; spend some time with a child who is without parental support; donate good clean clothing to someone in need; practice patience and kindness; forgive someone; the list can go on and on.
Make Thanksgiving Day 2011 your greatest Thanksgiving yet by giving back to others. Keep it real — just put your Humanity in Motion.
Rev. Charles Quann is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Penlyn.
CHESTER — Nestled in the midst of the Ruth L. Bennett Public Housing Projects, is Bethany Baptist Church, a church with a 95-year history serving the spiritual and personal needs of the Chester community.
In 1917, when Bethany held its first fellowship service in a community hall on Fulton Street (between Third and Fourth streets), church member Jim Alexander was 6 years old.
In 1933, Alexander moved from Elberton, Ga., to Chester. Alexander immediately aligned himself with Bethany, and has been an active member ever since. Approaching his 101st birthday in June, Alexander is a vibrant, humorous, God-fearing man with a very sharp memory. His recall of church history, successive pastors and other life events, is impressive.
The year Alexander joined Bethany, he recalled that Rev. H.W. Watson was the senior pastor, (since 1930).
“I believe it was in 19 and 39 or 19 and 40 that Rev. (Daniel) Scott served as pastor. After Rev. Scott, we had Rev. Gant, Rev. Blow and now Rev. Curtis Morris,” said Alexander.
When asked about the secret to his longevity, he laughs and said, “If somebody did me bad, I would do them good. Right always overcomes wrong. I let Jesus lead me, as long as I follow Jesus, I know I’m doing good!”
Alexander, a retired laborer, served on various choirs at Bethany and currently sings with the Male Chorus. He has been leading Bethany’s weekly prayer meetings since 1965.
Kyle Garrett, 19, has been a member since second grade. He chuckles, when he admits, “I’ve been a member of Bethany all my life!” Garrett attends the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, and aspires to become a chef.
When asked about his career goals, he remarked, “I want to travel to learn from the best (chefs), then I’ll return back to the area to give-back to the community I came from.” Garrett and his father Kenneth oversee the Sound Ministry; the younger Garrett has been serving with the Sound Ministry for 13 years.
Commenting about his pastor, Garrett shared that, “Pastor Morris explains the word, and makes it plain. Pastor Morris is very real and straight-up, he relates well to the young people.” Garrett enjoys being a part of the youth ministry, because “We do a lot of functions, we go out on a lot of trips, and we’re about to start (conducting) outreach to the local community surrounding Bethany. Rev. William Rocky Brown, is our youth pastor.”
Bethany’s Youth Ministry has approximately, 30–40 active youth members. Garrett also serves in the music ministry playing the organ and drums for the Youth Choir, Sanctified Praise team, and United Voices of Bethany (young adult choir).
“We are bringing in (and attracting) new members,” shared Rev. Phillip Murray, 58, Pastor of Administration. Murray serves as Rev. Morris’ chief of staff, and he stated that one of his main duties, “is to make sure that the operation of the church runs smoothly.” Murray is proud about Bethany’s outreach into the community. The church has often opened its doors to local bereaved families to host the funerals of slain victims of violence in Chester.
Murray was ordained as a pastor 2007, and he previously served in the music ministry, discipleship ministry, ushers ministry, and he served as a trustee of the church; he’s been serving as a member since 1995.
What’s his fondest memory being a leader at Bethany?
“Our annual Community Day event recognizes (and celebrates) local teachers, police and other leaders in the city of Chester,” shared Murray. He speaks fondly of his senior pastor, and admires how Rev. Morris has grown the congregation from solid Biblical teaching and sermons.
“I want us to become more outreached focused,” explains Rev. Morris. Going into his eighth year as senior pastor, Morris shepherds a congregation of approximately 500 members. Morris is a very community conscious activist, among his civic and benevolent outreach, “We’ve adopted the Chester Panthers football team (providing uniforms), we have a ministry that feeds the hungry, and (this school year) we gave away 350 school backpacks that were stuffed with school supplies to local students,” said Morris.
Under his leadership, the men and women’s discipleship class has grown, the scope of children’s church has expanded, and has a thriving teen-girls ministry called J.U.M.P. (Jesus Understands My Problems). What are his goals for the future? Morris shared, “We endeavor to build a senior citizens home at 12th Street and Central Avenue. Quality housing has always been an issue. Low income housing would provide a safe, clean residence (for our seniors), and (the location) close to the church.”
A rock-solid Bible teacher, Morris is currently attending Palmer Theological Seminary to earn his Master’s degree in Contemporary Theology, he’s a graduate of Cheyney University, and a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
Rev. Morris’ wife, Kim, was recently called to the ministry and was licensed as a minister by her husband, in March 2012. Both Kim and her husband were long time members of Sharon Baptist Church, a mega church in Philadelphia with several thousand members.
When asked about making the adjustment from a mega church paradigm to a congregation of 500 members, Kim remarked, “I’ve learned to bloom where I’m planted.”
Paraphrasing a quote by the Apostle Paul in the Holy Bible, she continued, “I’ve learned to be abased and I’ve learned to about. God showed us where we needed to go. Every ministry is different, and I’ve learned so much in a smaller scale ministry.”
Kim’s ministry activism is laser focused on assisting the women of the church, her ministry service includes J.U.M.P., overseeing women’s retreats, and the church’s women’s conference. “I want to help the women to see Jesus from a new perspective.” She doesn’t want the women just coming to church to hear a nice sermon, and then go home. She considers that mundane. Kim hopes that through her ministry service to the women, that they will learn to “Apply the Word of God in their daily life.”
Kim graduated with her master’s degree in education leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, and she serves as a tenth-grade math teacher at Springton Lake Middle School and Director of Summer School, in the Rose Tree-Media School District. Kim and her husband have been married for 21 years, and they have two children: daughter Gabrielle, 19, a sophomore attending Howard University, and son Matthew, 17.
Bethany holds Sunday School classes at 9:30 a.m.; Sunday Worship Services at 10:45 a.m.; Wednesday Afternoon Bible Study 12 p.m., and a 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Prayer Meeting and Bible Study.
Bethany Baptist Church is located at 1121 Tilghman Street, Chester, Pa.; Phone: (610) 874-8143.
If you just look around at what’s going on in the world today, you would conclude that we live in a world where Satan does indeed have some sway. Plenty of Christians will tell you in the physical realm, he can appear to be in charge.
For a moment let me use my sanctified imagination and purport how one might function in a world where the devil has power. For those of you who might think this a bit farfetched, just substitute the term evil for the devil. It may be easier to acknowledge that we live in a world filled with evil and loaded with temptation than to focus on a biblical supernatural being. Just read the newspaper or watch any news program and evil might better explain to you the craziness in which we live.
Now what is your responsibility as a believer in God, when it comes to living according to the model shown us by one Jesus Christ? My first point of reference would be Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the desert. He offers Christ all the world, his world, has to offer: power, riches, world domination. Jesus renounces all of it in the devil’s name and is attended to by angels who then supply his every need.
My second reference point is when John wrote to believers in Ephesus and he explains we should not love the world or anything in it. As a matter of fact, if you fall prey to lust and pride, you must recognize them as of this world and not of God.
It appears that in order to navigate a world stacked against you, you and I need help. That seems to come from a belief system that reinforces the knowledge that the world we live in is a temporary one. The devil runs the place and we’re passing through. It’s kind of like coming upon an accident on the highway. Everything can be viewed through your car window and the view, by itself, does not hurt you. That does not mean you can’t help folk. On the contrary, it’s an obligation. But the accident should be a reminder that outside forces can wreck you life. Now I understand what some ministers have meant by telling me the Bible is a roadmap to help me navigate treacherous terrain.
Life can be treacherous for the ignorant and the innocent if you do not acknowledge the evil that exists in it. Our obligation as Christians is to put forth an effort not to succumb to the known temptations of this world. We cannot love this world more than we love God. We cannot be led by our passions and our emotions in this regard.
We have to respect the fact that the devil is clever and relentless. He will never let up. Our faith in God must be equally relentless. If you would allow me to go back to my journey analogy, the journey is just that, a means to an end. Pack everything you will need to finish the trip: food, water, snacks and that would include a good supply of faith. I’m told a little love can’t hurt and whatever you do, don’t forget the map because without it, you will surely get lost.
With all this in mind, just understand this ain’t the Wizard of Oz and you ain’t Dorothy. This ain’t Kansas and the devil ain’t playing. The older I get, the more I understand this really is a relatively short trip. But it is intense. Please drive carefully and have a great day.
May God bless and keep you always.
I’ve been told that faith is a tricky thing to deal with. It is constantly under attack, and if you’re not careful, you’ll lose faith, if for nothing more than weariness due to constant grief. Life has a way of making you believe some things are just not worth the trouble. At some point each and every one of us just wants to quit. Quit your job. End a relationship. Just stay away from those situations and people that remind you of negativity and tough times.
But in the case of faith, you’re always supposed to have a way through. I just believe that way through is work. By work I mean work in the name of the Lord. Use your God-given gifts. It helps. How often have you been able to get yourself out of the doldrums because you decided to help someone else with his issues? How often have you been very thankful for what you have because you’ve seen firsthand what others don’t have? God does have a way of showing you, your stuff could be really worse. As I said, faith can be a tricky thing.
When it does kick in that now is the time, now is the test, then, comes the temptation that challenges your faith. There are no signs on life’s highway that flash “faith test ahead.” More often than not, we recognize faith’s stop sign after we’ve already run through it. Maybe we should feel a little better at that point because we did at least practice our faith some weeks or months ago, or maybe just a few minutes ago. But if we’re honest with ourselves, it doesn’t help when you know you should have handled a particular situation or person better than you did. I know I’ve botched many an opportunity to practice what I profess to preach. Talk the talk and then walk the walk. This is tricky stuff. At the end of any given day, a spiritual critique will show dozens of blown chances to witness, lead by example, help and serve. At the end of any given day, I have run faith’s stop sign again and again. I am one man who appreciates that our God is a God of another chance. And you?
Thankfully, you too know you’ll get another crack at it because you’re still alive and your opportunities to serve are multiplied on a daily basis. It’s called life. If you missed it this morning, another opportunity will come around this afternoon. The faith struggle is remedied by what you do as a result of knowing you can always do better. Real faith mandates a change in you. You just can’t do the same thing the same way with the same people once you’ve accepted Christ. Even though you might make the same mistakes, you will realize and accept them as just that, mistakes. Now what? “So watch yourself. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him. Luke 17:3-4. Further in this same passage Jesus proclaims … “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do (by God), say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.’” The fact that this comes on the heels of the apostles asking Christ to increase their faith is eye-opening. You know how incredibly hard it is to forgive those who have repeatedly come against you? But in doing so our faith is increased. Again it’s all about knowing the rules. We just need to know when they’ve been broken, when we break them and what to do when others do likewise. Our duty is to continue to work. We walk by faith and not by sight. Our effort is not to break the rules intentionally. The deed is the thing. Act on faith. Forgive and serve. Pretty soon our experiences teach us to recognize the faith signs. The more you do the more you see. The more you see, the more you stop, pause, look both ways and proceed with caution. You see, it’s not so tricky. You just need to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Stop only to help someone else. It’s the work, stupid. As a result, God will take care of what you need to get through your stuff.
May God bless and keep you always.