The Cedar Park Presbyterian Church is planning to revive Northwest Philadelphia this weekend. The community church’s annual four-day revival began Thursday, with Bishop Anthony C. Hanna and will culminate at their Sunday morning mass. The church is located at 7740 Limekiln Pike on the border of Mount Airy and West Oak Lane.
The focus of this year’s revival is on the youth. So, the Rev. Sean Wise of Shalom Bible Fellowship will be the guest speaker at the youth service on Friday, at 7 p.m. This will be followed a revival service aimed at a more intergenerational audience by Pastor Derrick Johnson, founder of the Joshua Harvest Church in Wilmington, on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.
Cedar Park’s recently installed pastor will deliver the revival message at the 11 a.m. Sunday worship service. The Rev. Dr. Janel Dixon, a Philadelphia native, began her tenure at the predominantly African American Presbyterian church last spring. She was most recently pastor of a Baptist church in North Carolina.
“We really want to build up the faith of we, who are the church,” Dixon said. “When we think of the vision for the church it’s not just about building up the membership. You can have 2,000 people in your church and no one is really growing spiritually or doing anything for others. So, you can point to your books and say we have 2,000, but [one] asks what are they there for?
“This revival is about helping us to remember that we are called into the world to make disciples. We want to be known as disciples in our community. We want to be a blessing to others because it’s not just about us. That’s why I am so excited about this revival that starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday,” Dixon said.
The revival comes on the heels of a breakfast fundraising event for the church ministries held on Saturday, Oct. 5. While the menu featured eat-in or takeout foods ranging from turkey, pork, fried fish, scrambled eggs, grits or pastries the emphasis was on supporting the church’s Stewardship Committee.
The fundraiser drew a full house of church members and those active in the community who do not call Cedar Park their church home. Among those present were Finley Advisory Council president Walter Marlin and the group’s secretary Gerry Sizemore, both of Mount Airy. The group’s vice chair, Margaret Turner, attends the church.
Also on hand was community activist and entrepreneur Cynthia Crenshaw. “I am a Lutheran but I think it’s important to support all the community churches that are doing good things in the neighborhood. This event is great and I hope to be at the revival,” Crenshaw said.
Steve Green concurred. He is an active member of the church, known for being a founding member of the popular group Breakwater.
“We are just excited to have a new pastor. Our revival will have music and worship. It’s really a time for dynamic speakers and we are really looking forward to the youth night,” Green said.
Being single and saved can be difficult. Sometimes, finding a mate with similar Christian values can be disheartening.
But help is on the way.
The Annual Singles Conference will be held at the Deliverance Evangelical Church, 2001 W. Lehigh Ave. on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 8:30 am. to 3 p.m. This year’s theme will be “A Shelter of Promises” with all workshops throughout the morning and afternoon focusing on God’s assurances for singles, according to the Divine Change founder Joan Preston, coordinator of the event.
“The Lord wants what is best for each Christian whether one is married or single,” Preston said. “Sometimes our desires don’t line up with God’s desires for us. This affects some singles because they feel depreciated and oppressed when they have believed for something and that commitment does not come.
“That’s why these conferences are so vitally important. This year singles will be able to [explore] just what God’s will is for their life. We will focus on ways to focus on God’s will for us and our desires can line up with that will. While doing this God does promise to fulfill our desires,” Preston said.
Consequently, the topics for the day revolved around the theme of “promise,” according to Preston. There is the promise of grace, of provision and strength during the morning workshop. The afternoon workshops will focus on the promises of Moses, Jesus and home. Scheduled speakers include Ed Williams, Renee Wilson, Judith Johnson, Joan Watkins, Theresa Hammond, Preston Cumbo, Dr. Daniel Lee, Rhonda Spaulding, and the Rev. Roslyn Davis.
“If you are a single Christian you don’t want to miss this exciting event,” Preston said. “You will leave knowing how to hold on as you pray for the promises you believe God has for your life. The bottom line is that God does not want us to be angry, aggravated or frustrated. So, this conference is about praying to hold on as we wait on the Lord.”
Previous conferences have received high marks.
“This has helped me so much I wish we could have it every week,” said Crystal Beard about attending a previous conference.
Deidre Cummings has been attending the conference since 2010.
“I really enjoyed the seminars, and I’m glad I made the time to come here,” Cummings said.
Mount Tabor African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the heartbeats of North Philadelphia. Besides providing a spiritual base to its own church family, Mount Tabor has even evolved into being a neighborhood center. In fact, the Mount Tabor Senior Cyber Village now serves as a national model of what can happen when church and community come together.
It is clear that the Rev. Martha A. Lang’s inspired vision for Mount Tabor is materializing. She was reappointed to the church for the 31st time by Presiding Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram of the First Episcopal District in Philadelphia last May. She was charged with reinvigorating the church when she was appointed for the first time in May of 1983 and has been doing so every year she has been reappointed to the church.
Thirty years ago Mount Tabor’s membership had dwindled down to just a handful. As Lang looked around the then deteriorating and declining neighborhood she saw that there were seeds of hope. So, decades before major revitalization came to this Northern Liberties section of the city, Lang had already seen the possibilities.
“I have to say that I didn’t really know if I could help the church when I came,” Lang said. “It was scary when I walked into a service with nine adults and six children. It was really hard to be positive.
“But, my late husband became superintendent of the Sunday school and brought some of the young people in. We had a street ministry passing out tracts, held retreats and tried many different things but it grew ever so slowly. I was upset because I didn’t know what to do,” Lang said.
It was while on her knees in a deep meditative prayer that Lang heard the voice of the Lord speaking in her spirit. God had reminded her that this was not her church. He told her that since the church belongs to him that she had to rely on supernatural intervention to be the guiding force in building the church. That’s when the church made a major transition, according to the pastor.
“After that prayer I was so nervous my knees were knocking,” Lang admitted. “That was the first time I have ever heard God that clearly. The rest of the story is history. I joined with the deacons and other stewards and we prayed for the church. It was humbling and scary, but soon we went from 15 to 50 and then 100 to 500 and then [more than] 600.”
Among the initiatives that raised the membership were events like “Old Members Nights” where former members were invited to worship with the new. There were open forums where members and community persons were invited to share their concerns and vision for the church. “The Holy Ghost was there because you could feel the inner healing and then God changed the destiny for Mount Tabor,” Lang said.
So, the church was able to even form the Mount Tabor Community Education & Economic Development Corporation. The services of this nonprofit include an after school program, an educational African Festival, motivational and tutorial programs, prison inmate restoration initiative, senior citizen’s program and aftercare program that includes a Children’s Activity Day.
The group’s signature project is the Mount Tabor Cyber Village. This is a $14 million wireless housing project with a green roof. The four story building has 56 one and two bedroom low income rental units. It houses older, displaced adults who are ages 55 and older from the surrounding community.
The project was a collaborative effort between the private and public sector with the church. On the recommendation of State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, the initial planning team for the project consisted of the Rev. Dr. Mary L. Moore, Elaine Williamson, the late E. Larry Lang, Samuel Moore Jr. and Willis Howard. The project was dedicated on Jan. 10, 2009.
“How we even got the church and built the cyber village is really the miracle on 7th Street,” Lang said. “We raised the down payment for the church from a candy sale.”
Then the story took many twists and turns. This included not only the money that was raised, but unexpected donations came in. Even the Russian Orthodox Church’s generosity and cooperation in the process allowed Mount Tabor to purchase the facility despite having no initial funds at the outset of the purchasing process.
This resonates with the North Philadelphia roots of Mount Tabor. Ironically, it did not start out as a church. The church’s foundation was laid when the Rev. A. Stanley Jarrett applied for membership in the Domestic Workers Association to assist working women being exploited. What became called the Christ Delight Mission rented a building at 2118 W. Jefferson St. and met after the members attended their own churches.
The grassroots organization evolved into a church when Annie Dolison and her son suggested the group rent an empty garage at 2222 W. Master St. After moving to this site around 1929 the group’s name changed to Mount Tabor Methodist Church. The church joined the AME conference during the tenure of Bishop George Wilbur Baber a few years later.
Mount Tabor trustees paid off the mortgage on the West Master Street property on Sept. 23, 1947. It then had a series of male pastor. The church’s first woman pastor was the Rev. Julia Stevenson who became ill during her tenure. The Rev. Alice Hughes became the church’s second pastor in 1981. Hughes reinvigorated some of the church’s ministries before Lang was assigned to the church in 1983.
The church was blessed to be able to purchase the historical Ukrainian Baptist Church, located at 7th Street and Girard Avenue in 1988. Bishop Frank Curtis Cumming assisted Lang and the congregation in this acquisition. “Now we have just been seeing tremendous growth with 630 on our current membership rolls,” Lang said.
Lang received her calling at the age of 11 in her native Mobile, Ala. after having a traumatic bicycle accident. She attended Alabama State Teachers College, graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia and completed the African Methodist Episcopal Church Ministerial Institute. She is also an alumnus of the Center for Urban Theological Studies.
Among the posts that Lang has held is secretary of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. She and her late husband, E. Larry Lang were co-founders of the City Wide Interdenominational Christian Training Institute. Currently, she is director of stewardship for the First Episcopal District of the AME Church, president of the Mother District of African Methodism, and a member of the Women’s Revitalization Committee in Northern Liberties.
Lang was the first woman ministerial delegate from Philadelphia to the General Conference of the AME churches in 1992, an alternate delegate in 1996, and a delegate to the 2000 and 2004 conferences. Additionally, she was the first female to host the Philadelphia Annual Conference, and Mount Tabor co-hosted the hosted the 187th session of this conference in 2003. Furthermore, she was the first woman host pastor to the 90th Annual Interdenominational Church Ushers Association of American held at the Philadelphia Marriott in July of 2009.
“God has always told me to feed my sheep,” Lang said. “The Lord has blessed Mount Tabor. We are revamping the youth department. We have a discipleship program. There are so many good things going on here that helps Northern Liberties and the people who live here. It is God who is truly making things grow.”
Lang still marvels at the fact that church membership has mushroomed from the 15 initial church goers when she came in 1983 to more than 600. Among those who are Mount Tabor members are members of her extended family. This includes her children Lehron and Yetta, and grandchildren Timothy, Rakiah, Keyana and Raina. Her sister, Alice Bradley, and niece, Queen Mays, are also active Mount Tabor members.
The Rev. H. Clemon Smith II is now charged with the calling of taking the 90th Street Mount Hermon Baptist Church into the 21st century. He comes to the historic West Philadelphia church after being installed by Bishop Larry Darnell Trotter along with Bishop George Elliot Gibson II and the Rev. Brian D. King, Sr. at the Ezekiel Baptist Church, 5701 Grays Ave. on Sept. 7.
Smith, who grew up in the church located at 6132-34 W. Jefferson St., is returning home well aware of the needs of both the congregation and the surrounding community. That is why among the first projects he spearheaded when he took his place in the Mount Hermon pulpit this summer was an “Inaugural Back 2 School Blessing 2013.”
The event was a combination of prayer and school supply giveaways, including free haircuts for neighborhood boys. Since Smith was a barber and worked at the True Image barber shop in Eastwick, he was one who gave youngsters a professional hair cut to return to school.
“I have always been anointed with the servant’s mantle,” said Smith, whose father was the chairman of the deacon’s board when he was growing up at Mount Hermon. “My father was the one who faithfully served our pastor, [the Rev.Charles Robinson. He’d make sure he had a parking spot and I helped by being the cone before there were [parking] cones.
“My father also made sure his vestments were prepared. My father and mother would always take me with them as they visited the sick. So, when I was growing up I inherited that spirit and served in every capacity. I was an usher, on the choir, a lead singer, and helped with many ministries — always serving as number two to whoever was number one,” Smith said.
It’s little wonder then that Smith’s vision for Mount Hermon is for it to become more of a community beacon. He readily admitted that the church has been the traditional Baptist one where members came to worship. Smith added that the church’s 21st century mission has to be to not only bring the world into the church but for the church “to be inclusive in the way that the community feels the church’s heartbeat.”
To this end, Smith has already made his rounds to the West Philadelphia block captains and some community leaders. He let them know that Mount Hermon “cares and shares” and wants to be partner with them as they attempt to solve the neighborhood’s quality of life and other larger issues.
“Charity does begin at home,” Smith said. “Then you have to bring it to the community, to the region and then, the world. It’s all about not bringing attention to ourselves, but to Jesus. When the church is of service and the members share their gifting even when it involves sacrifice, you are really glorifying the name of Jesus. It is then you become a living sacrifice.”
Smith had to learn this lesson himself. Though he was not an introvert, Smith was never the type of person who craved the spotlight. In fact, often he was really content making others shine. It was after grooming his musical gifts and being asked to perform at other churches that Smith had to make the sacrifice of sharing, he said.
“I realized that I was put on this Earth to be a blessing to others,” Smith said. “We all are. God puts gifts in use to benefit others. Some people are multitalented and they have many different gifts that benefit others. Others have one gift to share. No matter how many gifts one has, or the type of gifts, it is placed in us to share with others.
“We must all be mindful of the fact that we should not hoard our gifts and blessings. There’s a saying that it is lonely at the top. It can be if you don’t sacrifice and share your gifts with others even when it’s [uncomfortable]. I know I operate in the servant’s sphere but all I do bring glory to God. It’s not about any titles because God said he would make your name great and this would give the ultimate glory to Jesus,” Smith said.
Smith is already pleased that the church is drawing in the unsaved and even some Muslims into their sanctuary. This was the case during the services at the back to school event. “It gave even some of the Islamic faith, who I understand usually don’t come into churches, a chance to experience the holy atmosphere of our church,” the pastor said.
One thing that Smith won’t be doing at Mount Hermon is hosting any pastor anniversary or personal birthday celebrations. Though he said that he does support many of his counterparts at other churches who host these events, he will not. He prefers to host an all-encompassing church anniversary celebration instead. This is a tradition that Smith started at the previous churches he pastored.
“This way I can celebrate with the ushers and those who serve the church,” Smith said. “You know I see it as the difference between blue and white collar workers. Everyone wants to honor the white collar worker, but they forget that it’s the blue collar workers who do the work to help things run so the white collar workers can do their jobs.
“When I moved to Cleveland about 15 to 20 years ago I met one of our native sons, Archbishop J. W. Ellis II, who instilled in me great ethics and how to serve others on another level. I learned that even as I was called to serve, that God wanted to me serve [differently]. That’s why our motto is a sharing church, a caring church and a loving church,” Smith said.
90th Street Mount Hermon Baptist Church’s roots began around World War II when a few gathered at the home of Rachel Archer Ham at 9008 Harley Ave. in the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia. The group grew into a small congregation that met under tents and in private homes, and the Rev. Vernon W. Davis became its founding pastor.
Then the late Rev. Shepard Collins became the church’s longest serving pastor beginning in 1946. The church adopted the name 90th Street Baptist Church since it was located alongside trolley tracks. Being located on a public transit route helped the church quickly grow to more than 200 members.
As a result of the Eastwick Development Plan, the congregation was forced to relocate to 6132-34 W. Jefferson St. on Dec. 1, 1963. The church then adopted the name Mount Hermon at the recommendation of the late Deacon Beverly Clarke who correlated the new location with the beauty of the biblical Palestine to the Nation of Israel. Since then, the church has been known as the 90th Street Mt. Hermon Baptist Church.
Over the years the church developed many ministries. Among them are the women’s and men’s groups, Christian education, greeters, kitchen, security, media, music and arts, youth and singles and hospitality ministries. There are also marriage and couples ministries, including a ministry for courting couples.
The church has had a series of pastors. Many of these recommended their successors. This was the case when Pastor Warren C. Robinson recommended Smith, a son of the church, as his successor last April 20. At that time Smith was pastor of the New Covenant Christ Worship Center in Charlotte, N.C. and lived in a nearby suburb in South Carolina. Smith initially commuted from the Carolinas until he relocated his family back to Philadelphia in July.
Currently, Deacon Matthew L. Medley is the chairman of the board of deacons. Darnell Medley serves at the church clerk. Paula Hatten is the church’s administrative assistant.
“The 90th Street Mount Hermon Baptist Church has come this far by faith,” Hatten said. “Our faith through Jesus Christ, the great head of the church, will lead us. Through bishop-designate Smith’s preaching, teaching and leadership the church is proving to grow in number, as well as in unity and love as head leads the church in the spirit of excellence to the glory and honor of God.”
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.