Grace Christian Fellowship began as a Bible study in the home of its founder, the Rev. Cean James and now the covenant is home to those who seek a relationship with Christ free of judgment. It also a place of worship that ministers holistically to the needs of its congregation and community.
“I have a real heart for urban ministry, especially in difficult places and so when we started the church, we honestly took a map of the city and were looking for a neighborhood where we thought we could have the most impact,” James said.
“What we wanted to do was find individuals and families especially and to hopefully use the gospel develop something that will be meaningful to their lives.”
James talked of the different ways GFC has been effective in helping to transform lives.
“One of our goals was to create an atmosphere in church where people could be open and honest of the challenges that they were facing,” James said.
“You just find in a lot of congregations that people will purposefully not share their challenges because of the way they would be treated if people knew of the stuff they were dealing with; but by creating a real open, loving atmosphere and building it on the concept of grace — that in Christ there is no condemnation — we’ve been able to develop a really, strong and positive recovery ministry.”
GCF held its first worship service on Sept. 4, 2005, at the Williams and Palmer Funeral Chapel. Six years later, the congregation has more than 400 members at its present location in South Philadelphia and has plans to start another location early next year.
James, who has been supported by his wife Kesha, spoke of the triumphs and tribulations of steering his evangelism based church.
“When we have needed things and resources are necessary, the Lord has provided. From that standpoint, it’s just been wonderful. We’ve been able to meet some wonderful people. The impact we’ve had has been incredible. We have run up against the challenges I think the challenges of the neglect of the city; the chickens of the city’s neglect coming home to roost and unfortunately for far too many of our people in the city of Philadelphia,” he said.
“They are extremely uneducated, their opportunities have been limited. Our children, especially our young men, are suffering from mass incarceration that has a lifelong impact and we’ve had to come up against those basic challenges but that’s exactly what we’re looking for and to find ways to use the gospel to help people overcome those challenges.”
The Rev. Houston Fisher is the assistant pastor of GCF was filled with pride over the church’s growth over the years. He stressed that despite the expanding denomination, GCF’s essence was not lost in the shuffle.
“We are there for one purpose and that purpose is to worship God,” Fisher said.
“So many churches have incorporated so many different auxiliaries that would take away from that worship that we’re supposed to be involved with and we have not done that and I just pray that we continue the way that we’re going and I hope that people will see that we are different.”
He encouraged others to join and take in the ambience for themselves.
“If you really want to be involved in a church and not a country club, then Grace would be a place to consider,” he said.
“We are here for no other reason than to praise God.”
Orson Brown, who is a deacon at the church, was one of the founding members. He was happy to have been there since the beginning.
“If you’re familiar with your Bible, I really felt like we were living out in our lives the books of acts of the apostle when the Christian church was just being formed.”
“I think if we’re honest, we’ve all had some bad church experiences but we don’t give up and some of the part of the mission that we help fulfill is to help get that mission out is evangelism and through family fellowship.”
Brown said that the inviting nature of GCF allowed the church to reach out.
“One of the things that we take pride in or at least I do and something that’s always been a part of our fellowship since we formed is we want you to feel loved when you come to Grace,” Brown said.
“We want you to come into the sanctuary and no matter what’s going on in your life, that first of all you’ll feel the presence of God.”
Sharon Stuckey has been a member for more than four years and shared what her time at GCF has meant to her.
“When you walk in, you don’t get a feeling of standoffishness,” Stuckey said.
“Grace really embodies the ‘come-as-you’ mentality.”
She credited James for fostering such a loving atmosphere.
“Number one, he is very compassionate. Number two, he reminds us that he is human and he has the same flaws as everyone else. He doesn’t make you feel like he’s looking down on you or talking down to you or being judgmental,” Stuckey said.
“One of the reasons why my husband and I love Grace so much, when you walk into Grace, you don’t feel like you’re walking into a corporation, number one. The pastor is very personable and hands on. He knows every single member of his congregation.”
In 1906, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt became the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. In that same year, Calvary Baptist Church was organized, and the Rev. George Lee Robinson was called to be its first Pastor. He served until his death in 1918.
Fast forward to 2012, Calvary is experiencing dynamic growth and is making great impact in the West Philadelphia community under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Garth Gabriel Gittens, Senior Pastor.
Calvary has a socially conscious congregation. The church subscribes to a code of beliefs and ethics that underscores its stellar commitment to serving the community
- We believe every Christian is under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ relevant in his own life and in human society.
- To provide for the orphaned, the aged, the helpless, and the sick.
- To seek to bring industry, government and society as a whole under sway of the principles of righteousness, truth and brotherly love.
- To promote these ends, Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.
Zavia Forney has been a member of Calvary for at least 2 ½ years, she serves as a deaconess and she is currently a minister-in-training. Remarking about Rev. Gittens, she said, “Pastor Gittens is a man of God, he is a truthful man - he’s a person touching the lives of people.”
She also serves on the Strategic Planning Committee, primarily responsible for the oversight of church growth.
Her husband, Andre Forney, Sr., is also a minister-in-training. He was attracted to Calvary because of the informative, practical and charismatic preaching and teaching of Rev. Gittens.
“Pastor Gittens preaches the unadulterated Gospel,” he said. “and the atmosphere here with the people, they are loving and they make no apologies for their worship of the Lord.”
A. Forney admits that his greatest spiritual transformation has occurred through his grow with the Men’s Fellowship ministry,
“It’s an opportunity for Christian men to come together to address issues in Christian men’s lives, and how to address those issues through the Word of God,” he said. “ The Bible says iron sharpens iron, and (the Real Men’s ministry) is an opportunity for men to grow and to take our rightful place in the Kingdom, to affect God’s people.”
Calvary has at least 19 official ministries designed to serve its members and the community at large. Among them are: Children’s Church, Women’s Fellowship, Agape, Youth ministry, Seniors ministry, and the Deacons ministry.
Emmett Russum, chairman of the deacons, has been a member for 19 years.
“I’ve been serving as deacon for nine years.” Russum said his greatest challenge leading the deacons has been, “being able to pass on information that the church (leaders) and the pastor have given me and the deacons, so that we can go out and serve our congregation.” Calvary has a swelling congregation, its membership is so robust, the church had to move to three services just to accommodate the weekly throng of members and visiting worshippers.
Russum recalls when the resignation of a previous pastor that left a void for five years, but once Rev. Gittens came on board, the church has expanded its ministries, became more focused on serving community, and became more strategic in business and ministry planning.
There’s a vibrancy that runs common among Calvary church leaders and one of its most vibrant leaders is the Rev. Thomas Glover. Glover is an eight year member of Calvary, during his tenure, his ministry affiliations have included deacons, culinary, and now pastor of operations. He said his biggest challenge as pastor of operations is, “managing people, and getting everything to gel. To make sure things run well, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week, in everything that we do.”
As Pastor of Operations, Glover has been working in this capacity, full time, during the last three years. Prior to becoming a full-time servant-leader at Calvary, Glover was a chef, professionally trained at The Restaurant School in West Philadelphia.
“I enjoy cooking – but God called me to other things, to tend to the flock, to help pastor,” he said. “Because a man with that kind of vision, need people to hold his hands up, to help to do what needs to be done.”
Glover’s said it’s a challenge eeping pace with Rev. Gittens’ high energy, vision and service to the community at large, which includes a motor coach business, an emerging water ice venture to hire local residents, an emerging day care, a summer camp, “And Agape, which feeds over a thousand people a year,” he said. “We have a music school, we’re trying to do plays, theatre – our pastor is a visionary. As he continues to put out the vision, it’s our job to run with the vision to make it happen.”
In addition, Calvary has a relationship with Harcum College.
“Every Tuesday and Thursday night, people are coming here to get their college degree, our pastor is big on education,” Glover said.
In addition to all his responsibilities, Glover teaches a weekly Wednesday morning Bible Study and evening Youth Bible Study.
The senior members of Calvary are also vibrant and active in ministry outreach. Mattie Hull, 70, shared this reflection about her membership: “I’ve been a member since (July) 1961 – and Christian unity, striving together (as a congregation) to continue to get closer to God and to meet the vision of the pastors,” has been Calvary’s most significant accomplishment.
Her advice for the younger generation of leaders is to become good listeners, “and be careful who you pattern after, it’s all about God and not about any person.” she said.
Gabriel Gittens, 18, is the son of Rev. Gittens and First Lady Gillian Gittens, and the sibling of older brother the Rev. Andre Gittens. Gabe believes that peer pressure is one of the greatest challenges for youth and young adults today.
“There are a lot of people that do things that are not exactly Godly,” he said. “There’s a lot of drinking, there’s a lot of smoking, a lot of gang banging, a lot of stuff that people try to involve you in, but you just got to go your own path.”
Gabe is college-bound this fall for Coastal Carolina University in South.
Tanisha Jones, 28, a member for four years, is very engaged in ministry at Calvary. She was drawn to the church by its praise and worship ministry.
,“I came in broken, the praise and worship team was ministering, and I actually joined the church the second time visiting.” she said.
Jones is now very active with the praise and worship ministry and she’s an active teacher with the children’s ministry. She said she would urge people to consider joining Calvary, “because it’s a place where you can grow – you can actually start new ministries, Pastor Gittens doesn’t mind if you have a vision, he is willing to work with you.”
“It’s been nine years and a few months,” said Rev. Gittens about his tenure at Calvary. His proudest accomplishment is, “the motivation that comes with seeing people’s lives transformed, and that’s ongoing accomplishment. We’ve seen families come back together, we’ve seen homes restored, people getting off of drugs – their situation’s changed, and now becoming employed, that kind of process gives me the best feeling of accomplishment.”
Rev. Gittens believes that pastors should have a very strong teaching ministry, “Preaching proclaims, teaching explains. And that’s the big difference. Instructing people is a very different thing. And the transformation of people’s lives comes through the instruction. We believe that economics and education are the pillars of liberation.”
On the horizon, Calvary has a few major events planned, a dramatic play “Heaven or Hell” (three- night revival); the annual Carroll Park Picnic and an All Culture Day. For more information, call the church at (215) 747-9979.
Is it really possible to put your life in the hands of the Lord? To some modest extent I have experienced the effect of trying to do just that. I ask the question of you because I feel obligated to share the exhilaration. Exhilaration may be a poor choice of words, but it comes close to describing the emotion associated with an honest effort. And, honest effort is again why I ask the question, is it possible for you to really get inside of what putting your life in the hands of God really means? I can only share with you what I think.
The obstacles in the way of making an honest effort to embrace and step to God are at times huge and obvious. At other times they are so subtle they’re practically indiscernible. For example, pride can get in the way, because pride has no place in the relationship between you and God. Then the truth be told, pride has no place in your relationships with your fellow man either. To pride, you can always add envy, vanity, greed, lust, selfishness and bitterness, just to name a few more impediments to an honest attempt to let God order your steps in his Word. In sports they say it’s not whether you fall or fail, it’s what you do after you fall and fail, because you’re definitely going to. Time and again we fall. Time and again we fail. It’s part of the game of life, also necessary part of the Christian experience. The question always has been, what do you do next? Is it possible in the context of your reality to get up, dust yourself off and try again to put your life in God’s hands? Many of us, including me, want to hold on to our own abilities to solve our own problems, cure our own ills (sinful natures) and figure our way out of impossible circumstances by ourselves. We routinely pass judgment, think and act as if we’re better than others and give God no credit for the many blessings we do have. The positives (of life) are due to our own ingenuity and the negatives are blamed on everybody but us. Now let’s see you make the effort. Let go and let God. Submit first and then see what God has to say about your situation. Without this submission, I don’t think any of us is in a position first hear and then listen to the Word of God. Y’all know I believe Satan shouts and God whispers. If you’ve ever been whispered to when you think the person speaking is saying something important, then you know your capacity to shut the world up and out. You can be anywhere and hear a whisper, just like a parent who can hear their child’s voice in a sea of young faces on a crowded playground. I believe if we put forth the effort, we can hear God tell us how to give our lives to him. There is a singularity to hearing God’s Word. He is specific in what he says to you as opposed to what he says to me. That singularity becomes a plurality as we begin to understand his message, if not his words, are intended to have the same effect on each of us. It’s like an optical illusion. Once you finally see it, you can’t from that point on, not see it. Once you get someone else to see it, he or she can’t not recognize it from that point on either. It’s, well, exhilarating. Failure is only then a byproduct of lack of effort. But the saved make the sincere effort. It’s not always successful. But it’s always there. The key is to build upon the successes one success at a time and not dwell on the failures one failure at a time. Therein lies the answer to my original question. You can do it, and God expects it to be done one step, one day and one situation at a time. “So then dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation….”2 Peter 3:14-15.
May God bless and keep you always.
On Nov. 20, the Rev. Dr. Damone B. Jones Sr., one of Philadelphia’s leading young pastors, was unanimously elected as moderator to lead over 50 churches affiliated with the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association. Jones will succeed the Rev. Dr. Steven Avinger Sr., senior pastor of Greater Saint Matthew Baptist Church, who was moderator for four years.
Avinger shared this about his four-year role as moderator, “It’s been a very, very enjoyable and rewarding four years, and we’re on a precipice of moving to another level, with a new administration coming in.” Avinger expressed his excitement and support of the new line-up of pastors and leaders that will, “…move PEKBA into the future.”
Under Avinger’s leadership, here are a few of his notable ministry innovations and accomplishments:
• Implementation of the Baptist Training Institute — where pastors, ministers, trustees, deacons, ushers, nurses, etc., can receive structured training in the Baptist way of ministering in their respective roles in the church.
• Health Ministry — implementation of men’s and women’s health fairs, free flu vaccines, etc.
• Music Ministry — individuals are taught and trained in the traditional hymns of the church to preserve historical/traditional songs.
• Reconciliation — resolution of disputes between pastors and deacons, and church boards, etc., to help congregations keep such issues confidential and in-house.
The aforementioned were deliberate initiatives that Avinger led to underscore his visionary leadership theme, “Rekindling The Fire.”
Avinger chose this particular theme to, “… re-awaken in the hearts and minds of Baptists, Black Baptists in particular, associational life … Jesus certainly practiced the principal of association … it’s important that we, as pastors and members of congregations, associate with each other … for the principal of not only espousing the teachings and doctrines of Jesus Christ, but (to emphasize the importance of) fellowship.”
Avinger also serves as vice president of the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention, a feeder to the National Baptist Convention.
PEKBA is a statewide association of over 100 member churches; the organization is over 60 years old, and serves as a feeder to the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention. Many of Philadelphia’s most prominent pastoral leaders are members of PEKBA.
One such leader is the Rev. Dr. William Shaw, former president of the National Baptist Convention, one of the largest religious associations in America. Shaw is also senior pastor of White Rock Baptist Church, located in West Philadelphia. Shaw gave remarks during the evening’s PEKBA moderator’s address and officers elections.
Along with his new role as moderator with PEKBA, Jones will continue to serve as the senior pastor of Bible Way Baptist Church, located in West Philadelphia. Before being elevated to the role of moderator, Jones faithfully served four years as vice moderator-at-large and chairman of the Annual Session for PEKBA. Bible Way Baptist Church played host to the election of new PEKBA officers and the landmark for Avinger’s last public sermon as the association’s moderator. Before the evening moderator’s address, international Gospel recording artist Jeff Majors performed with fellow gospel artists Al Johnson and Theresa Gray at Bible Way Baptist Church.
“As we begin our Annual Session this year for the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association, we look forward to a wonderful time of preaching and fellowship with all of our Associated churches and with all of our visiting friends,” shared Jones. The evening was a bittersweet celebration for Jones, as he is replacing Avinger, one of his friends and clergy mentors.
Commenting on Avinger’s final sermon as moderator, Jones said, “We are filled with gratitude for the vision, tireless service and energy (Avinger) has put into our Association and the distinction with which he has led our Association over the past four years. Above all it's an opportunity as we approach this (Thanksgiving and Christmas) season to worship the Lord for His faithfulness and loving kindness toward us all.”
Evangelist Jillian Gittens, outgoing president of the Women’s Ministry/PEKBA, was joyful about her leadership service as one of the officers of PEKBA, Gittens was especially proud of the unity and special outreach gatherings she organized that rallied many women to serve: “We all came together in agreement and unity, and we have a love for each other that meant a lot to me.”
Gittens said, “We reached out to other churches,” to conduct hallmark social and ministry events like ‘Hat-Attitudes,’ gospel concerts, health fairs and scholarship fundraising, as a result, “It was a good and wonderful (experience).” Gittens also offered encouraging words of wisdom for her successor, Rev. Valerie Andrews, “Whatever God has placed in her heart, that’s what she should do,” to carry the ministry forward.
Ollie Lear, Chief Communications Officer/PEKBA, was bursting with enthusiasm because, “We are celebrating four years with our (outgoing) moderator, Dr. Steven Avinger Sr., and we’re also celebrating our new moderator that’s coming in, Dr. Damone Jones … It’s been an exciting fours, we’ve done so many new things, and I’m looking forward to the new ideas that our new moderator has in store (for PEBKA).”
“We are excited and elated for our pastor, Dr. Damone B. Jones,” exclaimed Rev. James Clifford Jackson, pastoral assistant to the senior pastor of Bible Way Baptist Church. Jackson offered this simple perspective on Jones’ new leadership role, “He’ll be guiding and leading (member churches),” throughout Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Clarence Washington, senior pastor of Millennium Baptist Church, in Philadelphia, is encouraged about the new change of leadership, “An exciting time! As the present moderator (Avinger) prepares to leave office, with all the work he’s done, and then looking forward to the new moderator … which will be Pastor Damone B. Jones, my pastor. I’m looking forward to the work that will come in the future.” Washington continued, “Oftentimes councils and conferences can get a boost of energy from new leadership. Pastor Avinger has done a great job, and we hope that Pastor Jones can continue to carry the torch.”
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.
If you’re like me, prayer is a subject that keeps popping up because sometimes out of sheer habit, I keep doing it. Intellectually I understand its purpose and its benefit. But sometimes I get lost in the reality of who and under what circumstances I’m moved to sincerely pray. It’s then that I want my prayers answered on my time for my reasons, forgetting or not wanting to remember all things happen for a reason; God’s reason, to be precise.
This past Sunday the minister reminded me that God’s plan happens on God’s time, and our job is to be open and ready for his answer to our prayers. Simply put, he said, delay is not denial. God answers all prayer in his time, in his way, with his power and for his purpose. That’s it, and we have to deal with it. But as Christians, when you think about it, God’s time, his will and power for his purpose is not so bad. As a matter of spiritual fact, we should prefer it that way even when we have the audacity to think we know what’s best for us. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts (higher) than yours.” Isaiah 55:8-9.
First of all, God answers all prayer in one of three ways: 1.) Yes, 2.) No, or 3.) Not now. The question is never Can God answer? The real question is, does your faith acknowledge that you know he can? One of the hardest things to reconcile is that there are times that God puts you in helpless impossible situations in order to let you know it’s all about him. ”Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but he was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” These words… were written not for him alone, but also for us to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Romans 4: 20-24. The more you read about and try to really comprehend prayer the more you come away knowing how pure this communication should be between you and God. There is no disbelief for a child who believes in Santa Claus because his parents told him to. God keeps telling us to believe in him. Can you? Do you really? “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24. Each and every time it comes down to that belief thing. Prayer always calls your faith into question.
I sometimes pray for the faith that accesses the power of God. This is not ego on my part, but humility to ask that I might be a vessel empty enough of me to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I believe God’s grace will flow more freely and through me, His will will be done. Wouldn’t you like to know that kind of power up close and personal in your own life? Think again about why that mustard seed example was given in the first place. “Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Matthew 17: 19. They couldn’t do something they thought they should have been able to. “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20-21.
Unfortunately, faith is tested each and every day. Most times I think we merely look at it as “life happens” and try to move on, get past it, at least until life serves up the tragically impossible. Prayer comes to mind first when unwavering faith is called for. As I catch myself praying out of habit sometimes, I’m reminded it’s more about God and less about my circumstance. Put it in God’s hands and let it go. Believe me. I know personally that’s so much harder than it sounds. But my God said in his time, in his will, by his way and because of his power, it will be done. I’m just trying to take those words to the bank.
May God bless and keep you always.
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.
With celebrating 85 years and just three pastors throughout its church’s history, New Hope Temple Baptist Church has maintained its tight-knit and family-oriented values since its origins.
The late Rev. Dewitt Beauford founded New Hope in October of 1926 at its first location on 3rd and Queen streets. Rev. Beauford had five children with his wife Lelia; Dora, Estelle, Evelyn, Ethel and William — who eventually assumed leadership of the congregation.
Yvonne Addison, granddaughter of Rev. Dewitt Beauford and daughter of the late Rev. William Osborne Beauford — feels her grandfather and father’s presence and mission for the church, is still present today.
“My grandfather pastored for 46 years and my dad pastored for 20,” she said. “I grew up in this church. I have been here all of my life. My husband is here. My children are here. My grandchildren are here. It’s a family church and it’s the heart of my existence.”
New Hope was located at 711 S. 12th St. and had a few other location changes before landing at its current location in 1936. It was purchased from the former Union Baptist Church and was chartered in Delaware the year before. In 1957, the church was charted in Pennsylvania.
Addison reflected on her dad’s “calling” to take over her grandfather’s position and remembers the journey he took in assuming leadership.
“Going back, my dad did not want to be a preacher,” she said. “He said he ran from the call and didn’t want to answer it. Finally in 1957 he answered that call. He told us a story about walking down the street after having been out for two days and he ran into his father who said, ‘you were not raised like this boy!’ He felt so ashamed and it was like a light bulb went on and he fully accepted Christ in his life and realized this is where he is supposed to go.”
Rev. William Beauford was four-years-old when New Hope was formed. He served in the United States Army and was ordained to preach in 1958 after the death of his mother. He served on many community boards in addition to serving as president of Pastoral Organizations and has made an impact on New Hope in his 20-year term, adopting the theme “each one, bring one.”
“Rev. Coger came in and became our junior pastor and worked in that capacity for a year until my dad ultimately retired,” Addison said. “He prepared the church for a year.”
The Rev. Dr. John Coger followed the guidance of Rev. William Beauford until his installation in 1988. Approaching his quarter century mark as pastor, Rev. Coger is proud of New Hope, its history and where the church is headed.
“It’s an unusual thing and unique thing when someone has an opportunity to pastor their own church. It doesn’t happen often and when it does happen it doesn’t happen for too long,” Coger said. “We have a rich history, great heritage and great future — I’m honored. I sit on the pulpit look at the pictures of the pastors; it’s unnerving their eyes never leave me. God has been good to us. It’s been a blessing.”
Along with their extensive history and longevity of their three pastors, one concept that has certainly been passed down throughout the years is their focus on the youth.
New Hope is involved with Amachi, a faith-based mentoring program where mentors meet weekly with a child for one-on-one mentoring. The church has been involved with the program since 2001, when the first Amachi match was made by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“We’ve taken on a focus on our youth, we recognize it’s a critical age,” Coger said. “When I grew up, the cartoons were cartoons, everything was family and wholesome. This generation is influenced by everything that is not family and not wholesome.”
In addition to its youth initiatives, once a month New Hope has its youth lead the congregation in service. The youth does the ushering, the announcements — they run the whole service.
Their dedication to the youth expands to their focus on education. New Hope holds a pre-school and elementary school called New Visions Learning Center.
“We have a preschool here and an elementary school, a top quality education is received here,” Coger said. “When they leave here teachers call wanting to know what curriculum we use.”
Darlene Porter Davis, also a granddaughter to founder Rev. Dewitt Beauford, has been in the church for her 72 years of existence and loves that New Hope has maintained their community element.
“I think the church is so special because we are a community church, we are a loving church and a giving church,” she said. “If someone has a sickness or hardship, that’s our sickness or hardship.”
Living just a few blocks away from New Hope, Coger makes it a point to stay connected to both his church and community.
Addison feels New Hope today is just what her grandfather would have wanted.
“My father and grandfather would be happy,” she said.
There’s this thing that happens when you read in the Bible about miracles being performed to the amazement of hundreds and even thousands. Today, I believe most of us would have a hard time dealing with miracles and merely chalk them up to “back-in-the-day” stuff. That was then. This is now. Sure, Christ and his early followers did the unexplainable, the unbelievable; the stuff modern science still can’t figure out. If the truth be told, do you really believe in miracles? Our explanation, our feelings, are rationalized because after all, the Bible is a book of faith and not a book of science. Well, for Christians at least, the truth of miracles is crystallized in whether or not Jesus actually came back from the dead. It is the foundation of our belief. That’s probably why we’re called believers. That is a discussion for another day, even though “miracle” is a perfect term to use for Christ’s life, death and life. It’s this miracle thing that guides my perspective today.
I believe miracles occur every day and everybody is the beneficiary of said miracle(s). You see, I think life itself is a miracle. I forget which supposed great philosopher said, “I think, therefore I am.” And as I’ve stated many times, “I am because he is;” he being God, of course. As I continue to grow in Christ, I humbly appreciate life more and more as a gift, a blessing and less and less as an afterthought of habit. I would dare say a lot of us take life for granted until someone close to us dies, or is threatened with death. Things become very interesting once you accept Christ for who he really is. I can readily admit to anyone who will listen that my appreciation of life is magnified by what it allows you to do. The fact that when I open my eyes on my own existence, I am able to gain a perspective on God’s other creations, including you. I am able to live and breathe and taste and see and hear and think and yes, love also. I am because he is.
God’s everyday miracle is still how much he loves me (and you). That love is why we’re here. Because of it, every now and then I am not so consumed with a habitual view of life. I can start a morning, end a day with a sincere thank-you. I can pray for the blessing of a new day, one that includes the revelation of who God is and who I am to him. And that knowledge lets me pass this way in truth and not ignorance. The age of miracles is still here. The proof — you woke up this morning to a new day in a world you didn’t create. You can think that’s normal if you want to. I choose to believe in miracles, those of the ancient world and the ones that have me writing this to you now. This life thing is an impossibility for me to take for granted.
May God bless and keep you always and give you one of the biggest most powerful miracles of our time, tomorrow.