The 2012 “Forty Days of Delight” is the spiritual theme that’s guiding the pastoral leadership and congregants of Bright Hope Baptist Church, in a church-wide fast, as they prepare to usher in Resurrection Sunday (Easter, April 8), arguably, one of the most holy of Christian celebrations.
Located at 12th Street & Cecil B. Moore Avenue, the genesis of Bright Hope Baptist Church, dates back to 1910, the same year the Titanic sank! But there’s no sinking this ministry, Rev. Dr. Kevin Johnson, senior pastor, is making quantum progress leading and growing the ministries and disciples of Bright Hope!
Bright Hope, as with millions of other church congregations around the globe, is currently celebrating the Lenten Season: a period of preparation before Easter. In Western culture, the Lenten Season (or Lent), begins 40 days prior to Easter. During Lent, it is popular tradition for many Christians to fast and repent of their sins; most significantly, it’s a time of deep reflection of one’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ, remembering his life, death, burial and resurrection!
“This (Forty Days of Delight) is a time to set aside time to cleanse our mind and body, to get closer to (serving) Jesus,” shared Fred Haynes, a senior member and deacon of Bright Hope. In his 10 years serving as a deacon, Haynes said, “Serving the sick and shut-in,” has been his most rewarding service to others. Haynes has been a member of Bright Hope since 1987, a retiree of the food service industry, he’s enjoying his retirement years with his wife Robin — they’ve been married 25 years.
“This year, we are focused on (serving and uplifting) families …we are focused on our kids,” shared Ken Frieson, chair of the deacons. Frieson, 51, has served as a deacon since his ordination in January, 2008. He was recently installed as the chairman in February of this year, along with other newly installed officers. Frieson has been a member of Bright Hope since 1979, and as he reflected on the church’s rich history, he recalls the work of Rev. William “Bill” Gray III, former senior pastor and U.S. Congressman. Frieson recalled one historic event, in 1985, when Gray was chairman of the U.S. Committee on Budget, he introduced a House bill that prohibited loans and new investments in South Africa. This bill was an anti-apartheid effort to force hefty sanctions on imports and exports with South Africa, a move that helped contribute to the release of anti-apartheid activist/political prisoner Nelson Mandela.
Bright House has had global and national luminaries to visit and fellowship with its congregants, including: Nelson Mandela, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu, Jean Bernard Aristide, Barbara Jordan, Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, Ambassador Andrew Young and others. Under the current leadership of Rev. Dr. Kevin Johnson, Bright Hope continues its legacy of making social, political and spiritual impact, locally and abroad.
Rev. Johnson is a stalwart advocate for the uplifting of oppressed, disenfranchised and downtrodden people. His ministry service and community activism reflect his deep compassion and desire to help those who have been marginalized succeed.
Commenting on the Lenten Season and Bright Hope’s Forty Days of Delight fast, Johnson shared, “Last year we had a fast that our Sankofa ministry (introduced). This year, the Lord laid on my heart to do a corporate fast (church-wide).” As a result, Johnson affirms that people in the congregation have been blessed, he said that some of the testimonials have included: Members’ have increased study of the Word of God; people are experiencing promotions in a down-turn economy; wayward children have been behaving better; and troubled marriages are reconciling!
This year, Johnson has scheduled a “Who’s Who” array of pastoral leaders to guest preach during his Wednesday night Lenten services (February 22–April 4). Some of the guest preachers have included: Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller, Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church; Rev. Dr. Damone B. Jones Sr., Bible Way Baptist Church; Bishop Keith W. Reed Sr., Sharon Baptist Church; and Rev. Willie I. Graves, St. Phillips Baptist Church, to name a few.
Johnson has become a very vocal advocate for education reform in Philadelphia, “Our focus is on quality public education. (Bright Hope is) so concerned about our public schools.”
One of Johnson’s heartfelt goals is to create a single-sex/all boys public school, “We are praying for the Lord to move in a mighty way to open a public school for African-American and Latino boys.” As a proud graduate of Morehouse College, one of the world’s most prominent all-male historical Black colleges and universities, Johnson believes that an all-male public school for boys of color can become a “citadel of hope” for many Philadelphians demanding quality and impactful education reform.
“I love him so much,” muses Rev. Johnson’s wife, Kimya; in August, the couple will celebrate 15 years of marriage. Kimya’s Swahili name translated means “Quiet One” — she laughs, as she admits her mother made a mistake in giving her that moniker. Kimya is far from being coy. She zealously supports her husband’s ministry by overseeing the Women’s Day ministry, she’s involved with Children’s Ministry and she occasionally sings in the choir, among other ministry duties. A mother of 3 children (Miles, 11 yrs.; Laila, 6.5 yrs.; Lena, 4.5 yrs.), Kimya is also a full-time practicing labor and employment law attorney for the Cozen O’Connor Law Firm, and she’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Kimya has an aversion to being referred to as a first lady; she prefers being referred to as “A daughter of God, not a first lady,” placing emphasis on her ministry activism to serve others. Commenting about the Lenten season, Kimya said, “It’s an empowering and holy celebration!”
On June 1–2, Kimya will organize and host Bright Hope’s 4th Annual Women’s Retreat at the Embassy Suites Hotel–Philadelphia Airport. She quips, that the women’s retreat is open to the public, “To all women, no men allowed!”
The Lenten season has special meaning to Claudia Averette-Williams, newly appointed chairperson of Bright Hope’s trustee board. “When I think about what God has done (for us), my heart shouts…” for joy! Averette-Williams has been a member for 18 years, and has served as a trustee for 5 years. As a trustee of the church, “I ensure how money is spent, and I ensure that the congregation is aware of all the church finances,” says Averette-Williams. She admires Rev. Johnson’s pastoral leadership and community activism. Averette-Williams affirms that Johnson is growing the church with younger families, creating a balanced blend of elder and young congregants.
Rev. Carmen Marshall relishes that Lenten season is a time, “To recognize and celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” For Marshall, the purpose of the Forty Days of Delight fast is: “Primarily a time for the whole church to draw nearer to God. It’s a time of reordering (priorities) of keeping the Lord first, and loving God’s people.” Marshall is the church’s chief of staff; she assists Pastor Johnson, she teaches Bible study and she has administrative oversight of the church.
If you plan to visit, Bright Hope Baptist Church is located at 12th Street & Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19122. Worship Schedule: Sunday Morning Worship – 10:15 a.m.; Wednesday Night Word – 7 p.m.; Saturday Morning Bible Study – 8:30 a.m. Communion is every third Sunday. For more information, phone: 215-232-6004.