Holistic health and spirituality are coming together at the “Rise & Shine Expo I” this weekend. Besides learning about herbal remedies and nutritious foods, one can also explore Sufism, the role of a dula in childbirth and other spiritual questions. The event will take place at the Photo Posse Studio Café, 5939 N. Marvine St. in Logan on Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Organizer Hanifah El of West Philadelphia shared fliers about the event at this past weekend’s three-day KamitFest in Germantown hosted by the Ausar Auset Society. She said that the Sunday event will be a way to bring the community together for positive information and include styles of worship some may not be familiar with.
“Many people do not understand that Sufi Ananda is a spiritual meditation for living and spiritual way of life,” El said. “It is one of the branches of wisdom. I practice it as a Muslim and I don’t separate it from Islam. Some people practice it because of the healthy effects it has on their life by presenting a healthy way of looking at life.”
The backdrop to all of the holistic edification at Sunday’s event will be what is sometimes called African American classical music — jazz. El is quick to point out that this art form has its own healing energy. “Live jazz has a meditative [quality],” she said.
Other highlights of Sunday’s expo are acupuncture workshops, poetry book signings and a session on basic survival skills. There will be an array of venders sharing their wares, including artists and artisans. Additionally, a fashion show is scheduled.
El said that the work of the Ausar Auset Society’s Philadelphia chapter located in Germantown served as an inspiration. This included the recent KamitFest that took place from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8. She was among the handful of venders who lined the sidewalk of the 6000 block of Germantown Avenue outside the spiritual center.
“I believe it is great to have these types of beautiful events in the community,” El said. “I see spaces like this as welcoming centers and places where people can get back in touch with their culture. I know that I have been here before and it has definitely inspired me [even] though I am not an official member.
“This is what I hope this first expo we are having will do. This is really the first time we are having our event. We are calling it a way to expand your wealth by developing positive economic resources,” El said.
The Golden Gems at the LaMott African Methodist Episcopal Church typifies the community-centered house of worship. Made up of seasoned and suave African-American Christian women, they exude spirituality and a charitable spirit. This was the case when the mature females came together to make a heritage quilt for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The Rev. Dr. Louis Attles is quick to point out that this is just one of the many community outreach projects that come out of LaMott AME Church. Located on Cheltenham Avenue just west of North Broad Street, the church sits on the Cheltenham Township side of the Montgomery and Philadelphia county line. Yet within this small more than 100-year-old edifice is a vibrant congregation.
“I think that the types of projects that a ministry like the Golden Gem does represents what the body of Christ should be,” said Attles, a Plainfield, N.J. native who grew up in Massachusetts. “I just love the quilted robe. They put their heart into it. Now it is reaching out and making a difference.”
This month the tentacles of LaMott AME continue to be visible. For instance, they will be among the participants in LaMott Day to be held in the enclave nestled between Wyncote and Elkins Park. The community was named for abolitionist Lucretia Mott and was the nation’s first integrated neighborhood.
LaMott Day is being sponsored by the LaMott Historical Society. This year’s festivities will mark the 150th anniversary of LaMott and will include a tour of the community including the LaMott AME Church, 1505 W. Cheltenham Ave. It will take place on Saturday, Sept. 28.
“We also do a service at the senior citizen’s home near us on Old York Road,” Attles said. This takes place the third Sunday of the month at 3 p.m. Additionally, the church operates a community food pantry open to any who show up on the third Saturday of each month at 11 a.m. They also hold clothing drives.
On the fourth Friday of the month, the Young People’s Department gathers for their evening of camaraderie. The men’s and women’s ministries alternate Saturday sessions. When there are five Saturdays in a month, both sexes come together for a collective time of fellowship.
Yet the thing that sets LaMott apart from many of the churches within and outside the denomination is the way it engages in praise and worship, according to the pastor. Even though the AME is a usually a conservative body, the LaMott community has an added contemporary flair. “We are much more expressive and we allow the Lord to lead us in that expression,” Attles said.
Another hallmark of LaMott AME is their initiatives to help congregation member’s progress from spiritual babes to Christian maturity. To this end the church now has a one year program that is centered on author Rick Warren’s “Why on Earth Am I Here?” The focus is on assisting members ascertain the life areas that will bring them to a higher spiritual plane.
“We also have fun at LaMott AME,” Attles said. This will be the case when the church hosts, “Jazz Care” on Sept. 20. This café style gathering will integrate gospel music and the African classical musical art form of jazz.
“Music is always a fund way to bring people together. This time we are also having some creative poetry. In fact, there are times when I write my sermon in a poetic form and this makes for a wonderful experience,” Attles said.
Even 9-year-old Simone Attles expressed excitement that the church where her father is pastor has uplifting and innovative worship services and special events. She lists contemporary songs like “Break Every Chain” as the type of music that brings the younger and older generations together for worship and recreation.
Additionally, what causes the congregation to have 154 members who consistently show up on Sunday and contribute to the life of the church is the practical theology, according to the pastor. He said that while he often shares the traditional scriptural passages and Christian stories, it is the application that reaches the hearts of the congregants.
“The purpose of the church is to help people connect to God’s love and to live better lives,” said Attles, who became LaMott AME pastor on Jan. 22, 2012 after serving at the Temple AME Church in Mount Vernon, N.Y. “That’s why you always have to return to practical application. The church must provide the confidence and encouragement that Christians need to deal with the crazy environments, the [overbearing] bosses, children who are messing up, trying to keep marriages sanctified and the pressures.
“We must have an authentic relationship with Christ in order to do this. The church has to give the Christian the foundation to be faithful. Those who apply this, come to church and give money are the members. Sometimes we have a higher number on paper but personal application is an indication of membership,” Attles said.
To address the practical needs of the church, LaMott AME will be hosting a “Financial Peace” series. This will feature financial expert Dave Ramsey speaking about managing one’s resources and budgeting. It will take place every Thursday starting on Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.
“This is going to help many of us who did not grow up in households where we learned about budgets,” Attles said. “Many come to church and they love God and the church, but they can’t manage their money. This is why many of our churches are in trouble and why we find even Christians robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Attles himself grew up in a family of ministers. Many presumed he would join his father and other relatives into the pulpit. Attles readily admitted that since all he saw were “poor preachers” he initially felt he could better serve the church if he entered a lucrative corporate or government career. So, he opted to become a mechanical engineer and this he did.
It was God who called Attles while he was lying in bed one night. After earning a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Prairie View A&M in Texas, he was resistant to leave his job working at NASA and his profitable profession. Many, including those who barely knew him, would confirm the call on his life. Finally Attles surrendered.
Attles went on to earn his Master of Divinity from Truman Seminary and then his Doctor of Ministry from the Andover North Seminary in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, despite the initial salary decrease and the loss of that professional status, Attles has found many rewards in shepherding the Cheltenham Township church.
“One of the rewards is that I have a wonderful family,” Attles said. “My wife is truly my partner. I have a great 9-year-old daughter. This is a wonderful church. With the job climate as it is today many would wonder how I was able to leave a mechanical engineering job. I would just say to bring more people to the Lord and with that come many blessings.”
The sacred vibrations will be strong in Germantown this weekend. This is because there are three very different events to draw in those from the Delaware Valley who wish to explore religion and spirituality. Since they are in close proximity it is possible to make attend all of them.
First, the Ausar Auset Society will be hosting their annual KamitFest. It will take place from at the international spiritual organization’s local headquarters at 6008 Germantown Ave. from Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. to Sept. 8 at midnight. The event will feature Ra Un Nefer Amen signing copies of his new book, “Not Out of Egypt: African Origin of Western Civilization.”
“Ausar Auset has been dedicated to returning to and preserving ancient Kemetic or Egyptian culture,” said Seshemsia Aakhut, the Ausar Auset marketing coordinator for the gala. “I know, for me, it has helped me to even understand the bible better. I came from a strict Christian family out of Grace Baptist Church under the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sr. where I had spiritual questions. It was here I got those questions answered.
“Dr. Amen, Shekhem Ur Shekhem, is the only Black author to have written technical instruction manuals on ancient African spirituality, meditation and cosmology. These provide readers and students with the necessary instructions to integrate this ancient knowledge into a spiritually empowering and practical way for modern living,” said Aakhut.
The festival will also feature a children’s pavilion, healing services, and what the groups refer to as “innertainment.” This will include drumming and other performing arts. Additionally, there will be workshops on meditation, Qigong, and other holistic health programs. There will also be lectures on Kamitic spirituality and wisdom.
Secondly, those who want to explore the indigenous roots of global faith may want to attend, “The Quest for the First African Religion:” The speaker will be Tehuti Rah (also known as Douglas E. Thomas), who served as an assistant professor of religion at Boricua College in New York and is now teaching in Brazil. This will take place at the MKA Institute, 5535 Germantown Ave. on Sept. 7 from 5 p.m.to 7 p.m.
“Dr. Rah will discuss the nature of traditional African religion and its continued relevance to African people on the continent and in the Diaspora,” said the MKA Institute.
Lastly, the MKA Institute will also host Amen, Ausar Auset founder as he will discuss his new book, “Not Out of Greece.” Amen made the debut of this book to the Delaware Valley region at the local Ausar Auset 40th anniversary celebration. He is the author of 35 books, including the neo-Egyptian sacred writings in the Metu Neter series the basis for many cosmological systems, including the popularized Kabala.
The KamitFest cost is $25 in advance, $30 at the door or $10 per workshop. For more information Ausar Auset programs call (215) 843-0900 or visit ausarausetpa.com.
The MKA Institute events are open to the public without charge, but donations are welcome. Seating is limited. Online pre-registration is strongly encouraged. For more information or to register call (215) 882-9200 or visit www.mkainstitute.com.
Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore is offering the Delaware Valley several special highlights this fall.
The church will celebrate its 119th anniversary on Oct. 6 and the 43rd anniversary of senior pastor, the Rev. James Pollard, on Oct. 13. In the midst will be the celebration of Dean Mallory, the minister of music’s 28th anniversary.
Additionally, Zion will be offering Hebrew classes at the church this fall. Its senior pastor, Pollard has been teaching Hebrew since 1976 and currently teaches the subject each spring at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in Mount Airy. For the first time, Pollard will offer this course at the church home, 219 Greenfield Ave. in Ardmore, to anyone who is interested in reading the scripture in its original language.
“This is all part of Zion Baptist being a preaching and teaching church with an evangelical thrust,” Pollard said. “My wife and I are both educators. We understand that the original language of God’s revelation is Hebrew. It is really in the African family of languages just like Zulu and Ebo.
“In fact, you cannot really understand Ebo until you understand Hebrew. Nor can one truly understand the message of the Bible without going back to its original text. This is because much of the original message is lost in the translation, and translators also have their own agendas,” Pollard said.
Pollard has been sharing this historical and theological information with seminarians and other graduate students who take his Introduction to Hebrew class often offered during the fall at LTSP. He also teaches “Black Presence in the Scripture” in the spring at the Northwest Philadelphia based seminary. Ironically, Pollard used to share this information on a weekly basis with Tribune readers in a weekly column that ran from 1973 to 2003.
“My first article in the series was about a Black man named Indich, who some translate as Endich, who brought Christianity to Africa,” Pollard said. “You read about him in the bible book of Acts in chapter 8. He is called the Ethiopian eunuch. Many don’t understand the African presence in the bible and the role Africa played. Some will say Christianity is a white man’s religion, but I will tell them that the bible is an African book.”
Preaching about the African roots of Christianity is not the only thing that sets Zion Baptist apart. Pollard said that the church is both child and family centered. He pointed to the many initiatives that prove that one of their primary goals is to educate and nurture the younger generation.
So, the church will continue its educational partnerships with Bryn Mawr College and Drexel University. This will be in conjunction with Zion’s child-centered activities, the first lady’s active involvement on the local board and youth outreach activities to African-American youths in Ardmore as well as adjacent Montgomery County and West Philadelphia neighborhoods.
“Our priority is to fulfill our Lord Jesus’ words to feed my sheep,” Pollard said. “That is why everything and any thing that we do has an educational component to it.
The church’s concern for children and families extends to being involved in advocating for issues that affect church members and the longtime African American population on the Philadelphia mainline. These days Pollard is among the outspoken voices against the Iron Hill Brewery securing an oversized liquor license in the predominantly African American community of Ardmore or development that will disproportionally cause an increase of air pollution to the minority enclave.
Consequently, Pollard insisted that the church has a deliberate attempt to keep the population it caters to 500 members. “We realize that as a family oriented church we cannot give the attention that is needed to more than that. We view the children as our diamonds and God’s blessings who deserve our undivided attention,” Pollard said.
In keeping with this, Bryn Mawr College has set up a customized tutorial program at Zion. This initiative addresses the needs of each child, whether from the congregation or the community. On the other hand, through Drexel and Hahnemann Hospital the Ujima Program shapes healthy habits for the youths.
The church’s first lady, Virginia Pollard, is currently vice president of the Lower Merion School Board. In this position she advocates for the educational needs of the youth of Ardmore and those in the congregation who attend Philadelphia Main Line public schools.
“To those who think the church should not get involved in the community, I ask if the church doesn’t do it [who] will?” Pollard said. “In the Black community the church is the strongest institution. The church of Jesus Christ should be the setting to address our issues. By doing so it shows that we care about the people.
“So, my wife’s role on the school board is making sure that there is someone there who brings up our issues. She knows that at Zion we address the spiritual, civil and political issues that affect us,” Pollard said.
Being a bit unorthodox mirrors the journey of the Pollard from a spirit-filled youngster at the Goodwill Tabernacle Baptist Church West Philadelphia to the Zion pulpit has its own story. Pollard became pastor as a result of a deathbed promise to the late Dr. Leonard M. Jones, Sr.
“I cannot remember a time when I did not know that I would be a pastor,” Pollard said. “It was my mother who prayed me into being pastor here. I joined the staff of Zion in April 1970 and I was the pastor in the pulpit on Thanksgiving Day. Pastor Jones died on the night before Thanksgiving and he requested that I became pastor. So, Thanksgiving evening in 1970 I was in the pulpit and have been there ever since.”
Pollard is proud of the fact that he serves as a positive role model for many of the younger ones in the congregation. This includes his own son, Joseph Pollard, who recently was promoted to the rank of colonel in the United States Air Force. The elder Pollard said that he could point to many who grew up at Zion who are now taking leadership roles in different sectors of society.
The senior pastor attributes this to the loving and intimate environment of the Zion church family. “Of course, we are not perfect, but we are nurturing,” Pastor Pollard said. Throughout our 119 year history it’s always been about the family. This is a family first church because we care about the children. We also care about the mothers and the fathers and the senior citizens, but our emphasis on the children.
“That’s the way we express our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. When you have strong families than you produce [havens] for the children to grow and flourish. Family oriented churches in our communities make all the difference,” Pollard said.
The Rev. Dr. Shawn D. Bartley said there are three unique aspects to True United Church of Jesus Christ. First, it has an energized and expressive 11 a.m. worship service. Secondly, the church boasts of an advanced dream team that focuses on the congregation. Lastly, the church has a heavy teaching and preaching style that draws in the saved and unsaved.
It is little wonder that the 29 years True United has been serving the Northwest Philadelphia area, that it continues to grow. Today the family-oriented church boasts of ministries for married couples and singles, youth and seniors, and men and women. Yet the church, located at 5201 Old York Rd., is increasingly becoming the center of the East and West Oak Lane surrounding communities.
“We now have a 36,000 square foot banquet hall,” said Bartley, who is the founder of the United Fellowship of Churches. “We rent it out for weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs and all types of special events. We are now completing a 10,000 square foot day care center that will provide for the needs of the neighborhood. It’s all part of our focus on all the generations in this church and in the community.”
Ironically, Bartley himself did not grow up in the church. In fact, he had an unorthodox Pentecostal journey into the Christian family. He was reared in an unsaved household in his native Kingston, Jamaica. Other than attending a holiday service or special event in a church, Bartley’s childhood was far removed from any organized religion.
That was until tragedy hit his family of origin. The pastor’s brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Bartley was only 12-years-old when his 5-year-old brother sought healing in a Pentecostal church. “My brother was diagnosed by one doctor and when he went back to that doctor and then another they could find no trace of cancer,” Bartley said.
Witnessing his brother being cured of a life-threatening disease led Bartley to become a believer. When he was 16 he heeded his calling to preach. So, he began to take all the things he was learning at church and preach to his school mates at the Kingston College High School.
When he graduated as the class valedictorian he was on his way to being ordained. After his 1986 ordination, Bartley spent many of his early ministry years working as president of The Thompson Institute. After earning his Doctor of Divnity degree in Ministry from St. Thomas Christian College in Jacksonville, Fla., he took the leap of faith and left his executive position to exclusively pastor his congregation.
“I had started a youth ministry before I immigrated to the U.S.,” said Bartley, who initially served as associate pastor when True United was founded. “By the time I was 22 I took over being [senior] pastor of this church. It was a family church in the basement of a building at Stenton Avenue and Limekiln Pike. As we grew we then moved to Olney and Germantown before coming to our current church in West Oak Lane.”
On a typical Sunday some 400 fill the church sanctuary at True United. There are about 800 on the official church rolls. At times the church will host citywide events that will draw in more than 500 or 600.
This was the case when the church held the recent Jamaica Diaspora Movement’s ecumenical Thanksgiving service. This event celebrated the island nation’s 51st anniversary of independence. Bartley is a committee member of the nonprofit organizing committee for the group.
This Sept. 15 the church will be celebrating its 29th year of existence. For Bartley it will mark his 26th anniversary as pastor. The festivities will feature guest preacher Bishop D.C. Thomas from Trenton, N.J.
“We have been growing because we relate to people where they are,” Barley said. “Some members come into the church by invitation. We draw people in from all walks of life. Our practical approach is to get people excited about serving God right where they are.”
Bartley gave an example of the practical applications he gives in his sermon. On a recent Sunday morning his discourse drew from the Ten Commandments. He challenged the church members and visitors to do an external examination of whether they were worshiping idols. This catharsis, he said, revealed that many realized they had moved away from subtle forms of this sin.
The senior pastor was quick to point out that the contemporary American culture is one of idolatry. Besides the reverence to celebrities in sports and entertainment, many have dreams of stardom for stardom’s sake. Bartley singled out a national television show that often draws those who want to become famous and win competitions with no talent.
“We even have a show that is called ‘American Idol,’” Bartley said. “So many live their lives through these role models. They try to become carbon copies of people who are not in touch with reality. So, then they have to have reality shows to correct the emotional mindset.
“When some of us read those scriptures about not taking idols they think it’s just the man-made idols that come out the ground. They don’t understand that we live in a culture filled with idolatry and many have fallen victim to its materialism and idolizing of [celebrities]. So, this is the type of practical application I preach about,” Bartley said.
Bartley hopes that many in the Delaware Valley area will come and check out True United. He said that they will find a welcoming atmosphere. Because of the practical theology preached in layman’s terms, the pompous airs that may be found in other churches is not at True United, according to the pastor.
“This is a church of love,” Bartley said. “We start with a dynamic worship service where everyone is comfortable enough to express themselves. The information is engaging and expression. So, all will feel the move of God in this place.
“Then all will hear a constructive word. You will hear something that you will immediately be able to use. When you leave you can take with you something that will ultimately change your life for the better,” Bartley said.
For more information about True United call (215) 844-1132 or visit their website at http://www.trueunitedchurch.com/.