Pinn Memorial Baptist Church is more than a ministry center. The 106-year-old at 54th and Wynnefield has more than 600 members. It has a 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service, Sunday School, and a midweek Bible study. Yet during a typical week many from the surrounding West Philadelphia community will come through their doors for an array of reasons.
If one is hungry there are packed Philabundance bags of grocery items at Pinn. Having trouble accessing capital because of less-than-perfect credit? Pinn’s credit union may be able to help. The Police Athletic League runs its youth-oriented program, the 52nd Ward educates citizens about neighborhood issues, and the Wynnefield Residents Association convenes its community sessions here. There are even concert nights featuring the Haverford Singers or local jazz ensembles.
One of the hallmarks of Pinn is its focus on youth. Jacob L. Chatman, the senior pastor, is quick to point out that rather than holding a doctor of divinity degree, he earned his doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts. So, he though he is an ordained minister, he is not a reverend. He attributes this combination to his focus on molding the spiritual foundation and formation of young people.
“We have an educational center,” said Chatman, who serves as an Eastern University trustee. “We have all types of activities for our young people. We have 60 young people who participate in our choirs and as ushers. Last year we gave scholarships to every graduate who participates in the life of the church. These are not small scholarships, because they ranged from $2,800 to $3,500. We give them out at our annual scholarship banquet.”
Yet with all these activities and community interaction, Pinn Memorial is still first and foremost a house of worship. That’s why early on Sunday morning the parking spaces around the church fill up quickly, and one can see many walking through Wynnefield or getting off at the nearby SEPTA stop en route to Pinn. So, for the members who come Sunday after Sunday, Pinn is their second home.
On the second Sunday of every month, it is the youths who take center stage at the worship services. The Scriptural readings are memorized by youngsters as young as 8 in the month before that youth-oriented service. Youngsters are the featured singers, take over the ushering duties, and take visible roles throughout the service.
“We have a wonderful family atmosphere,” said Michael Lewis, chairman of the Pinn board. “We take pride in the fact that we know everyone by name. We have many ministries that bring the people together. That’s why people would have a hard time not liking it here.”
Chatman looks forward to the church’s continued growth in decades to come. The church’s vision includes having small evangelization groups that reach out to the surrounding community. There are also missions abroad, in South Africa and Guinea, as part of the African Baptist Mission. Of course, there is assistance to some of the schools in these nations.
There are also American missions, including one that continues to help the New Orleans victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We are now also helping another church in Alabama that was affected by the recent storm, so we are helping them get the funds to rebuild,” Chatman said.
Eugene Alston, chair of the church’s joint boards, is particularly excited about the Pinn Federal Credit Union that serves more than 65 individuals. The credit union just celebrated its 47th anniversary. “We offer those who join the opportunity to access monies at lower interest rates,” Alston said.
There is optimal use of Pinn’s expansive campus, as even other local congregations worship there. The Corpus Christi Baptist Church, the Fisherman’s Church of God in Christ, and a French-speaking arm of the Bethel Deliverance Evangelical Church all hold their services at Pinn.
So, while the Pinn congregation is in the main sanctuary on Sunday at 10:30 a.m., there is another worship service with about 260 participants in the chapel. In yet another open space, additional worshipers are congregating for yet another service.
Students from Eastern University’s Palmer Theological Seminary across City Avenue are often completing their internships at Pinn. Currently there are eight associates from Palmer, according to Lewis. “We always have an influx of young ministers who help us in operations,” he said.
Additionally, the more mature Pinn Christians have an active schedule at the church. Lewis pointed out that the “55 Alive” club, consisting of 75 members, meets at the church every Wednesday and Friday to plan outings or play games like pinochle. Recently, state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop hosted a “Senior Expo” at the church for these older adults.
Then there are the Men of St. Carmel. They have been holding fundraising breakfasts for the church community for the past five years. The church also sponsored a 2012 breakfast for veterans.
“We just have many ministries,” said Jacqueline Howard, the chair of the trustee board. “There is the women’s ministry, the men’s worship group, and a couples’ ministry. We have evangelism [outreach] that goes into the prisons for worship services with the men and the women. We have our choirs go into the local nursing homes.”
“We feel that we have good leadership here,” Lewis said. “Our business office and the financial side are administered well. We give monthly and quarterly reports that detail where every penny goes. Jackie [Howard] does a good job handling much of the business side.”
These are just some of the hallmarks that Pinn plans to celebrate at Pastor Chatman’s 20th anniversary banquet. This will be held at the Hilton Hotel on City Avenue on Saturday, April 20 at 6 p.m. Among the invited guests are friends of Pinn, many of whom attend churches in different parts of the country.
For ticket information for the pastor’s anniversary gala or general information about Pinn Memorial Baptist Church visit the website at pinnmemorial.org.
The Ausar Auset Society will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Germantown this weekend. The Philadelphia chapter of the international neo-Egyptian religious and spiritual organization will mark this event by hosting the group’s founder Ra Un Nefer Amen I. The gala will take place at the Lotus Academy, 340 E. Haines St., on March 17 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Amen will also be releasing his new book, “Not out of Greece.” He is author of 35 books on spirituality, health and relationships, including the “Metu Neter Series.” This series chronicles the foundation of the ancient African religious practices which serve as the basis for many contemporary cosmological, including the popularized Kabala, systems.
The Nile Café will be catering the event with a soul vegetarian menu. Musician Steven “Katriel” Wise, several spoken word artistsand African drummers will be providing live entertainment. Local artists and cultural vendors will be displaying their wares.
“Ausar Auset has been dedicated to returning to, and preserving, ancient Kemetic or Egyptian culture,” said Seshemsia Aakhut, of Mount Airy, the 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 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.
Aakhut, known to many as Linda Bell, is quick to point out that the society’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York. It also has several temples in several American cities, like Washington, D.C., Chicago and Atlanta. There are also worship centers in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, Ghana, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
There’s much to celebrate Bethlehem Baptist Church in Spring House as the members celebrate their 125th anniversary this year. From the “Visions to Victory” weekly television broadcast to housing homeless families on the church campus, it is clear that Bethlehem is more than just a house of worship.
The Rev. Charles W. Quann, the senior pastor, is quick to point out that it was God’s plan for Bethlehem to be a predominantly African-American church nestled within a multimillion-dollar largely Caucasian community. The neighborhood is so exclusive one cannot find it on most navigational maps.
So when Bethlehem purchased the land for the campus built eight years ago, some wondered how it had secured the former synagogue for just $3 million. It also overcame township zoning hurdles as wary “blue-blood” neighbors voiced concerns about their property values. Yet even as a commuter church Bethlehem now boasts of some 18,000 members, according to Quann.
“We have the vitality of a rich history,” said Quann, who is the church’s eighth pastor. “But we also have a glorious future. It is one thing to be excited about one’s past, but it is (meaningless) if it’s just something to reflect upon. It is clear that God is using this congregation and will do so in the future when you look around and see all the young people.
“By our adoption of the Kinsey Elementary School in West Oak Lane, God has called us to serve students in the Philadelphia School District. Even as Kinsey, during these critical times, is scheduled for the chopping block, we will continue to serve those children. Our church is not bound by location and neither is our service —that’s why we also serve more than 100 children in Kenya,” Quann said.
So the church has taken definitive steps during Quann’s 25-year tenure at Bethlehem to be more family-friendly. For instance, there is a children’s Bible study going on at the same time as the 9 a.m. worship service. In this way, families who must drive 15 minutes from Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods or even take longer commutes from Wilmington or Reading can maximize their time.
The church also has the Hype children’s ministry and a chapter of the Amachi mentoring program (founded by the Rev. W. Wilson Goode) that keeps the young people engaged. Among the projects are collaborative efforts with Villanova and Saint Joseph’s universities for an enrichment program or reading initiative. These have contributed to the church’s diversified its membership, which now includes those from the Latino, Asian-American and Caucasian communities.
Even some in the surrounding neighborhood have now embraced the church. Bethlehem can accommodate the parking overflow for the 11:15 a.m. service by using the Upper Dublin High School lot. There are even shuttle buses that will take church families to the campus.
The local secondary school will also be the venue for Bethlehem’s anniversary gala in October, according to Quann. “We will be honoring all the former pastors, including three living pastors. We will have children from Kenya here for two weeks and they will attend the church picnic and the special service on Sunday, Oct. 27,” he said.
The keynote speaker for the anniversary celebration will be the Rev. Dr. J. Louis Felton, senior pastor of the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in West Oak Lane. Also being honored will be Robert W. Bogle, president and CEO of the Tribune. “We want to recognize the Tribune for the work they have done in recognizing the work of our church, because we are grateful for the visibility,” Quann said.
“We have also recently added the Rev. Tamika Moore, who is a strong pastor,” Quann said. “She brings with her freshness and vibrancy. During our anniversary year we are able to welcome her.”
Additionally, the church will highlight its many missionary endeavors. After the crisis in Newtown, Conn. the Bethlehem Youth Mission raised $4,000 to send to the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Couples are able to have a “Date Night with the Pastor” to help strengthen their marriages, and individuals can also meet with Quann at a neighborhood Starbucks for coffee and to discuss their spiritual concerns.
Furthermore, the church hosts special events like comedy shows and concerts featuring top name artists. Also, it is line dancing time every Tuesday at 11 a.m. and even the senior pastor is likely to drop by to learn a new step. This is part of the church’s growing holistic health ministry.
“It’s important not to be so rigid and tight that you don’t eliminate stress. So, part of our mission in being a holistic church is to show that as Christians we can laugh, be fit and enjoy ourselves even as we look toward our future,” Quann said. Looking ahead also means that there will be capital improvements coming to the Spring House church building. To fully utilize the three-story edifice, the church will be adding an elevator. Just last week members were filing zoning petitions to install the elevator after raising pledges of $200,000 toward the $300,000 project from the Capital Campaign Fund.
One may even find Quann at speaking at other churches or having other preachers and even politicians in his pulpit. When Praise for the Cure, a breast cancer foundation, held its kickoff last summer Quann was quoted as saying, “I am no longer timid about wearing pink because it’s all about raising awareness of early detection.”
Or, when Ebenezer Memorial Baptist Church in Norristown held its 168th anniversary celebration recently, Quann delivered the sermon.
“This is a church on the cutting edge,” Quann said. “That’s why if there is an issue that affects Montgomery County, this township, or any other community where members live, I will have elected officials or someone from the American Red Cross come in here. I have served as a trustee at Abington Hospital and I serve on the Montgomery County Housing Authority, and I will share what I do.
“We have borrowed a theme of President Barack Obama’s campaign as our slogan,” admitted Quann, who was among the featured speakers at last September’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. “We say that we are fired up and ready to go for Jesus. We are not an isolated or stagnant church, so we are constantly ready to move our church into the future.”
Those who cannot get to Bethlehem Baptist can check its weekly “Visions and Victory” television program which airs on WPPX, channel 61 every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. It is also featured on Gospel Highway radio daily at 2 p.m. Furthermore, the church has a Facebook page and utilizes contemporary technology, like Skype, to broadcast services online.
Bethlehem Baptist Church is located at 712 Penllyn Pike, just off Dager Road and Bethlehem Pike near Blue Bell. It has Sunday worship services at 9 and 11:15 a.m. For more information call (215) 643-4977 or visit bbc4christ.org/.
Since taking the pulpit seven months ago, McKinley Memorial Baptist Church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Marlon Millner, has been a prophetic voice. On a recent Sunday morning, this North Carolina native didn’t know that he’d preach why Black History Month was more than the lessons on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So, intermingled with his keynote scriptural passage were contemporary applications of the community organizing work of the late Rev. Hosea Williams.
Thus far his spirited leadership has been inspiring the Willow Grove church. This will be evident when the church officially installs McKinley as pastor. It will take place at the Blair Mill Inn in Horsham on March 17. The event will “only be a ritual,” and won’t have much of the traditional ceremonial lineup, according to Millner.
“God called me, I was anointed, and then I was appointed to be this church’s shepherd,” Millner said. “This is just the public installation because I’ve already been doing the work. I didn’t even want it to be a black-tie banquet. The luncheon will [feature] the Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode who is my friend and personal mentor. We will have the Cheyney University Concert Choir because they sing both Negro spirituals and traditional anthems with talent and youthful vibrancy.
“More important than any installation is the fact that this is the flock that God has given me to serve. When my family arrived at McKinley, the people were very gracious. There’s a real family spirit here with a rich history and a rich legacy that spans generations. They want this ritual because this is one of the [hallmarks] of this church who truly worships together.”
Millner said he was called to the ministry when he was 10-years-old. During a church play he spontaneously drifted from the script and gave a short impromptu sermon on Luke 4:18. It was many years, however, before he heeded his initial call.
“I was a young man and I wanted to explore the world,” he admitted.
The pastor earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and became a journalist. He then earned his Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. After becoming a Pentecostal elder at the Apostle Church of God in Christ, he was ordained at the Philadelphia’s Redeemer Baptist Church. Millner also combined his media experience and ministry as communications director for the American Baptist Churches USA.
Most recently, he was the associate pastor of the Harold O. Davis Memorial Church in North Philadelphia. Besides Goode, he also singled out the Rev. Dr. Wayne Croft among his mentors.
“He really taught me the art and craft of African American preaching that prepared me for what I am doing now,” Millner said.
The pastor said that his wife of more than six years, Diana, is a blessing to his family life and congregation. The couple has two children, 5-year-old E. J. and 3-year-old Imma, who he said are his additional blessings.
He added that his wife’s background of managing multimillion dollar church accounts, fundraising, and development has provided many resources for McKinley.
“She was not one of those woman prepped to be a church first lady, but she is a wonderful asset,” Millner said.
For Millner, the spiritual strength of his family and church community is crucial. March will also be revival time at McKinley, located at 214 Cedar Ave. in Willow Grove, from March 11-13 at 7 p.m. each night. These will offer a different preacher from three different Delaware Valley churches each night. The revival is open to the community.
It’s also not too late to get tickets for the pastor’s installation luncheon. Luncheon tickets, which are $40.00 for adults and $20.00 for children age 3 to 12, will continue to be sold until March 3. For ticket information visit http://go2mckinleychurch.org/WhatisHappening.dsp or call the church at 215-659-3074.
Ruth Sizemore was the founder of the annual Pre-Labor Day Soiree, inductee in the Philadelphia African American Legends Hall of Fame, leader of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Black Nurses Association, and former president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Council of Negro Women.
Sizemore died at her Laverock home on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. She was 84.
She was also listed as one of the “10 Most Influential Blacks in Philadelphia” by the Tribune in 1999. This came on the heels of being installed into the African American Legends Hall of Fame (AALHOF) at Drexel University’s Mendel Theater and being named one of 12 women included the WDAS Female African American Leaders of Organizations calendar in 1996.
A former model, Sizemore is an alumnus of the old Flamingo Modeling and Charm School. During her fashion career she modeled for Run-Way Model, was voted Philadelphia’s Most Popular Model, and was the 1956 Miss Sepia.
Her career is noted in Rosemary Reed’s 2004 book “Threads of Time, the Fabric of History,” and the National Association of Fashions and Designers named her as one of Philadelphia’s Best Dressed Women.
Yet among the things Sizemore is known for is increasing the local membership into the NCNW. When she stepped up to the helm of the Philadelphia chapter in 1996 the group “increased its membership by 33 percent,” she told the Tribune Magazine in March 1997. She was the brainchild of the local chapter’s involvement in voter registration and education by joining forces with the old Black Women’s Voter Crusade alongside the late C. Delores Tucker.
“We made a great impact in these drives,” Sizemore said.
“We added 1,400 new registered voters in addition to increasing our own membership.”
Her NCNW community service included collaborating with the Gateway Feed Program, the Salvation Army food program for the shut-in, and collecting toys and clothing for needy African American families. She also spearheaded the Quaker Oats breakfast which she said “recognized women in the trenches” who were contributing to the local community on a grassroots level.
She was born on March 30, 1928, to Walter Berry and Isabel McFarland-Berry. She grew up and attended public schools in Greenville, S.C. As a young woman she met and married her “church sweetheart” Charles Daniel Sizemore. Together they purchased and managed real estate property in the Philadelphia area.
Upon relocating to Philadelphia she earned an associate’s degree from Community College of Philadelphia, a bachelor of science in nursing degree from Lawrence University, and a bachelor’s in human services from Antioch. She also studied at Temple University and participated in the BSN Co-Op program at Hahnemann. As a R.N. she worked as a nursing supervisor, rehabilitation nurse, public health nurse, did clinical research for the government and was active with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Black Nurses Association.
Sizemore also served as lifestyle editor for old Delaware Valley Defender newspaper for almost a decade. Her by-line later appeared in the Tribune, the Leader, Scoop newspaper and the Germantown Courier, covering social events including writing about her own late-summer, at-home Pre-Labor Day Soirees.
Her home-based large social gatherings began as Super Bowl parties in her Overbrook home before turning into one of the premier late summer galas that hosted more than 150 guests outside her Laverock home. She said she rotated the invitees so that those in attendance could network and broaden their civic affiliations. Guests ranged from personal and professional friends and those active in faith communities to virtually every African American elected official, judge and professional organization leader.
Sizemore was also a champion for neighborhood causes through her other volunteer efforts. She was an active volunteer with the Red Cross Bloodmobile, the conversion of the Stenton Child Care Center, the PGH Nursing Home, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia Foundation, the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation and others. Though a longtime Republican, Sizemore volunteered for Organizing for America and contributed to President Barack Obama’s campaign.
The recipient of more than 50 accolades, Sizemore was active with numerous organizations. Besides the NCNW’s Chi Eta Phi Theta chapter and the African-American nurses group, she was a member of 2000 African American Women, a matron with Loucelia Chapter 38 of the Eastern Stars, the National Association of Business and Professional Women’s Club, ministries at Bright Hope Baptist Church, the Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Philadelphia Urban Guild, the Association of African American Life and History and the Laverock Civic Association.
Sizemore is survived by her daughters, Gerry and Gwen Sizemore; grandson, Chris E. Ballard, great-grandson, Brandon C. Ballard; niece, Isabel Coombs; and nephews, Charles Berry, Robert Palmer and Sylvester Palmer.
Services will be held January 30 at 10 a.m. at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 1601 North 12th Street.