Founded in 1985, Berachah Baptist Church had humble beginnings, starting from hosting services in various homes, to various rented spaces until eventually landing its current location at 6327 Limekiln Pike. The mission for Berachah Baptist is to “be a blessing,” and Pastor Robert P. Shine, aims to make his church do just that.
“We started having church service in my sister’s home with 27 members and we continued to grow,” Pastor Shine said. “We really aim to be a blessing, that’s our church’s motto. By meeting the needs of people, whatever that human need or spiritual need is, it would be our attempt to meet that need.”
Pastor Shine explained further that Berachah Baptist aims to help those who feel “low in their spiritual life” or unwanted or displaced.
Prior to serving as pastor at Berachah, Pastor Shine led a church in Manayunk for 15 years. After resigning he brought a group of people together who expressed an interest in starting a new ministry.
“We called it Berachah—which means blessing.”
A Germantown native, Pastor Shine got heavily involved in public ministry and evangelism many years ago. He was involved with various organizations aimed to spread the Christian gospel and help those in need. His dedication led him to travel to various cities and countries including places like Jamaica, delivering ministry.
One ministry particularly dear to Pastor Shine, was their “African American Association for Corporate Responsibility.”
“This was a social justice outreach ministry put together years after our church was organized,” he said. “It was a social justice ministry with religious content.”
With the various ministry initiatives to date, Berachah Baptist aims to touch those who need it the most. Sheila Roberts, the executive director of Berachah’s Children of Promise Academy, proudly testifies to that notion.
“I’ve seen it [Berachah] to be a blessing. I was one of those recipients of the blessing, “she said. “I was having an issue with a job I was working at, at that time. As a result Rev. Shine was an advocate on my behalf. I was impressed with the way he handled it and brought it to a resolution.”
Roberts joined Berachah in 1994—and she is now approaching her 20th anniversary.
“This is a result of his ministry—being a blessing for something I was going through at the time.”
Roberts’ family is also involved in the church. She believes the church creates an environment that welcomes families. She noted that everyone looks out for one another. Additionally, she is proud of the church’s stance on giving “second chances.” As a place that encourages others to not pass judgment, Roberts believes everyone who attends, feels like an equal.
“We have a big heart and everyone is equal—some places you go to, you don’t feel welcome,” she said. “Maybe your poor, you’re down on your luck, you’ve already come in feeling less—we make everyone feel welcome. Part of our motto is we are a church of second chances, we just want to be blessing.”
Roberts recalled on times when strangers would visit the church in the middle of service looking for a meal and church members would make every effort to accommodate them, despite timing.
With the mission to help the community thrive, Berachah Baptist also hosts an afterschool program.
“Renee Jackson, (Deputy Chief of the Office of Early Childhood at the School District of Philadelphia) is one of our members and held an afterschool program that helped lead many students to success,” Pastor Shine said.
Additionally, Berachah hosts a Children of Promise Academy (CPA) led by Roberts. It is sponsored by the church and the Philadelphia School District with the goal to improve reading and math skills for students in Kindergarten through 5th grade.
As an active advocate community advocated, Pastor Shine is the former president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. He has also always made education a top priority. One of the ways he tackled this was by founding a charter school in South Philadelphia.
“Dr. Mark Ryder and I founded the World Communications Charter School in the mid 1990’s,” he said. “We were really focused on the academic careers of students.”
The education initiative within Berachah Baptist extends to their agricultural initiative. In the lawn surrounding the church walls, Berachah Baptist orchestrates agricultural training, assisting young men in farming. The initiative is also aimed at teaching the value of earning one’s own income since the young men are encouraged to sell their produce.
Other ministries that are dear to Pastor Shine and the members of Berachah include; the youth ministry, foreign missions, nursing home visitation, youth summer food program, singing ministry and many others.
Education and acceptance are principles important to the members of Berachah. Roberts believes it’s these initiatives that make Berachah special.
“Berachah is special not because I have been with them for 28 years but down through the years we have attempted to deliver God’s message that would inspire the people that in spite of circumstances God is bringing to them a purpose according to his plan,” she said. “Our message is designed specially to inspire and excite the people so we’re careful at teaching and delivering sermons that are relevant to the needs of the membership and community.
Since 2004, Pastor Wayne Weathers has been honored to lead Miller Memorial Baptist Church that has a legacy of 118 years of service and community engagement. Miller Memorial, located at 1518 N. 22nd St., is a church filled with pride and dedication to the North Philadelphia Community and beyond.
Weathers, originally from Chester, received his doctorate of ministry degree and entered ministry in 1995 at a Baptist church in North Carolina. Years later in 2004, Pastor Weathers assumed leadership of Miller Memorial. Located in North Philadelphia, he was enthused to continue initiatives already set in place by Miller Memorial in the community.
“Before becoming pastor, under the leadership of Rev. Jones, [Rev. Wilkin’s O Jones] one of our deaconesses was led to start a ministry called, ‘Shared a Blessing,’ we feed homeless families every Thursday,” he said. “Not only do we feed homeless families we are able to provide food as well. It’s a good way to build relationships with people who may not have a home.”
Along with Christmas giveaways for the holidays, the church has also had an array of partnerships including; with State Rep. Michelle Brownlee to conduct a workshop aimed at providing information on the PA voter ID laws to the community, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, hosting community meetings on Philadelphia public school closures and the Philadelphia Housing Authority, informing the public on changes and advances in public housing.
Weathers finds it important to continue these partnerships and outreach initiatives. For an example, they open their church walls to community members who need a location for Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meetings. Welcoming people in need, extends to their efforts to partner with AARP to welcome seniors every Thursday in the month of February with help on filing their income taxes. Once a month on Saturdays, Miller Memorial also hosts “Doctrines of the Bible,” where the community can study various doctrines and discuss its application to everyday life.
“Our ongoing theme, our vision, is we are ‘on fire for God,’” he said. “Once we continue to manifest God’s presence — I strongly believe when we allow God’s presence to manifest on us, not only the congregation but the community, we allow the light to shine through. We’re on fire.”
Founded in 1895, Miller Memorial had humble beginnings as a Sunday school in a North Philadelphia home. As membership grew, the church moved to a building on 23rd and Jefferson streets and the Rev. S.J. Comfort became the pastor. Once named Mt. Calvary Gospel Mission, Miller Memorial eventually got its current name under his leadership.
After generations of various leadership and changes, Weathers’ predecessor, the Rev. Henry Baldwin, a Tuskegee Airman, continued to advocate and complete various projects in the church and throughout the city. Since 2004 Weathers jumped right into his position and shortly after his call to leadership, he created an intercessory prayer ministry, a public relations committee and a policy and procedures committee. He also started “Fellowship Sunday,” a monthly tradition of fellowshipping with other churches.
Weathers believes the service accomplished within the church is made possible by the dedication and kind hearts of the members.
“All of our members are children of God and one thing I love about being pastor of this church is how the church embraces members as their own family,” he said. “When there’s a death in the family or any type of crisis that has emerged, the members are very supportive by just sharing that no one will have to go through any situation by themselves.”
The sort of care and dedication that Weathers described is seen through the many ministries at Miller Memorial. Ministries include a scholarship committee, a goal-oriented ministry supporting high educational endeavors of members, ladies aide, an organization of women supporting the church monetarily, women’s joy ministry, focused on enhancing feminine spirituality, sound ministry, dedicated to providing “top-notch” sound quality for the duration of worship and an evangelism ministry and many others.
Within the women’s ministry, Miller Memorial hosts a women’s retreat Dec. 6 through Dec. 8.
For nearly 100 years, Miller Memorial has upheld the tradition to have a joint Thanksgiving service.
“This is about the 98th or 99th year that we’ve had a joint service,” he said. “Our shared blessing ministry hosts the Thanksgiving dinner.”
With a long history and deep roots in this city, Weathers and the congregation at Miller Memorial will strive to continue to make a difference in the community.
“I think what the church has provided has been a spiritual and caring atmosphere in the name of Jesus Christ — not just for those who are members of the church but also for those who are in the community but not a part of the church,” he said.” I see many [church members] that will just go out and interact with folks, those in the community that need help. I would say we have a nurturing and loving atmosphere.”
With a mission to focus on the labor market for teens, minorities and low-income youth, Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG), founded in 1980 by former Delaware Gov. Pete DuPont, is a nonprofit organization aimed at helping the youth, particularly at-risk youth, to stay in school, pursue post-secondary education and land jobs that lead to various career opportunities.
As of September, the national program has moved to Pennsylvania and the JAG Pa President, Anthony Powell, is enthused for its work throughout the state.
As Powell explained, a major goal for JAG Pa is to continue to grow and expand the JAG Model Programs in the Philadelphia region. Their plan for the 2013-14 school year is to place approximately five to seven new JAG Model In-School programs specifically targeting Philadelphia, Delaware and Bucks Counties. Their objective is to focus early on, on students at risk of not graduating and providing them with various services helping them to stay in school. Additionally the program is aimed to help young people who have left school to reenter and graduate.
“The labor market for the nation’s teens, 16 to 21 years old, has been a very troublesome one over the past decade,” Powell said. “While all major demographic groups of teens experienced sharp declines in their employment rates, the losses were relatively steeper for males, Blacks, and low income youth.”
JAG PA launched their first test of its JAG Model In-School and Out-of School-Time (OST) programs at Universal Audenried Charter High School, Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School and Lincoln University’s University City Campus in partnership with Lincoln’s Upward Bound Program.
“Some of the expectations of the first test were to increase the existing graduation rate amongst seniors at both targeted high schools,” Powell said.
The partnership with the Upward Bound Program served as exposure for high school students, to post-secondary educational opportunities.
Powell believes while they aim to see short-term results, the program is set to have positive long-term results as well.
“The long-term impact of the program will alter the negative elements that are destroying the fabric of the city of Philadelphia — crime, poverty, illiteracy and joblessness continue to plague these communities and are ever increasing,” he said. “The JAG Model Programs will seek to eradicate these chronic problems before youth develop poor habits.”
According to the JAG 2012 annual report, the employment-to-population ratio for the youth involved in JAG was 62 percent versus the national comparison group, which was 42 percent. JAG used a compilation by the Center for Labor Market Studies of Northeastern University to record these statistics.
Motivated by these numbers, Powell believes the JAG Model is an important initiative for the communities throughout the state.
“A program like JAG is so needed and necessary our communities in Pennsylvania because of the limited resources that are available to our students,” he said. “JAG model programs will support, train, educate and empower youth who have significant barriers to graduation and may fail to achieve a successful transition to employment and/or post-secondary education.”
PECO works to engage the community through PECO Family Jams, an initiative in conjunction with Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG), located at 1020 South St.
Through its partnership with PMG, the collaborative effort is aimed to create a community centered and family-oriented program every second Sunday of the month in the 2013-14 session.
PMG is an art environment; including community art centers and galleries that uncover the artwork by mosaic artist, Isaiah Zagar. PECO Family Jams will feature a different theme every month, encompassing hands-on workshops and tours of the Magic Gardens.
Ellen Owens, the executive director of PMG, is pleased with the community’s response to the programs and with their partnership with PECO.
“Family Jams began in the fall of 2009 as a means to connect with the many family groups in the neighborhood and visiting tourists. Our partnership with PECO kicked off this September,” she said. “We are very pleased to partner with other local nonprofits such as Art Sanctuary and Keep Philadelphia Beautiful to allow new groups and demographics to attend PECO Family Jams. Our attendance for the program this year has increased by 192 percent this year.
With increasing numbers and participation, Owens believes one of the largest benefits of the collaboration, is the impact both entities are able to have on the community. PMG’s surveys have shown them that many people yearn to “make art.”
“The opportunity to bring in many new audiences through paid partnerships with area teaching artists and other nonprofits greatly allows [access] for communities that do not have access to the arts, arts materials, and/or instruction.”
The partnership has also allowed community members an admission free “Family Jams,” session.
Throughout the fall months leading into the winter, PMG will host various iniatives and opportunities. For an example, military personnel will have free admission into PMG for Veterans Day.
The PECO Family Jams session will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and tours of PMG will last 30 minutes.
“PECO Family Jams provides another way for Philadelphia youth to access arts and culture. In an environment where there are limited resources both inside and outside of schools, this partnership will bring high quality art supplies and education to the community,” said Debra Yemenijian, Communications personnel at PECO. “In addition, with the growing number of Spanish-speaking families in PMG’s neighborhood, PECO’s support allows for a Spanish-speaking guide to provide assistance for PMG’s hands-on activities and tours.”
All PECO Family Jams tours are free with admission to PMG. For more information, visit www.philadelphiasmagicgardens.org.
Philadelphia writer, producer and director Tommy Oliver was recently showcased at the Philadelphia Film Festival for his film “1982.”
Starring Hill Harper, “Lala” Anthony, Ruby Dee, Sharon Leal and Wayne Brady, “1982,” reflects Oliver’s real-life story of growing up with a mom struggling with drug addiction. The film allows viewers into Oliver’s experiences through the eyes of Maya, played by Troi Zee, the daughter of Tim Brown (Hill Harper) whose wife, Shenae Brown (Sharon Leal), is a drug addict.
Zee’s character most closely resembles Oliver, while Harper’s character resembles the strength Oliver said he wishes he had. In some sense, Harper believes, Tim Brown was a heroic character.
“It’s an amazing piece — a stereotype-busting piece,” Harper said. “It shows an African-American male as a superhero. It’s not really a superhero movie, I like to call it that. He [Tim Brown] is holding together his family against all odds. He’s unwilling to let his family fracture.”
The film was shot in Philadelphia and in Oliver’s grandmother’s house.
“The fact that Tommy is from Philadelphia and we shot the movie in Philadelphia —Philadelphia is actually a character in the film,” Harper said. “I think most films that film here show touristy locations. Tommy didn’t feel like he had to set a scene under the Rocky statue, for example, this is a real story and real Philadelphia.”
Throughout the shooting of the film, Harper lived in a neighborhood outside downtown or Center City. Along with claiming “Max’s Steaks” as his favorite cheesesteak, he felt his “real neighborhood experience” helped his characterization in the role.
Visiting his hometown of West Oak Lane, Oliver was thrilled to shoot “1982” in Philly, despite the possible economic benefits of shooting elsewhere. He was pleased with the authenticity shooting at home gave his film, along with the business opportunities created by working with local caterers and real estate people.
Replaying certain aspects of his childhood and past experiences through “1982” was as he described, “incredibly satisfying.”
“Being able to go home to West Oak Lane to shoot a movie — I love Philly,” said Oliver. “I spent the first 18 years of my life here. It very much shaped who I’ve become.”
The Philadelphia premiere in the midst of the festival was exciting for Oliver and he was thankful for the amount of support the film received. Harper believes the story is one that anyone can relate to.
“It’s a beautiful story, a powerful movie and it’s probably the work I’ve done in my career that I’m most proud of,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re in a cycle that’s all about big-budget action sequels and Hollywood has gotten away from telling stories. Hopefully its success will spur more films like it.”