Founded in 1837 by the Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley, Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, has a rich legacy deeply rooted in gospel music, inspirational preaching and community service. Today, Tindley has become a very progressive ministry under the leadership of the Rev. Lillian C. Smith. Pastor Smith is a ball of energy who is leading Tindley on a mission to serve the community, and to grow the ministry through winning lost souls and edifying the lives of believers in Jesus Christ.
Most of the current members are older congregants. During its early beginnings, Tindley was a megachurch before the megachurch paradigm became chic, as it is today. Located on the Avenue of the Arts, Tindley’s giant of a sanctuary can easily hold 3,000 people.
“I have been at Tindley Temple for ten years,” said the Rev. Stephanie Brown Wilson. Wilson, 65, a graduate of Palmer Theological Seminary, speaks about her calling, “As a deacon, my calling is basically connecting the church to the world, I am involved in some outreach ministry.” Wilson oversees an advocacy HIV/AIDS ministry that extends into the community, she assists the pastor in worship services, and she is a volunteer chaplain at the Simpson House, a senior residential facility in Philadelphia.
Ahmadu Ekpaji, 21, was raised at Tindley most of his life, he is a young leader there who enjoys his church affiliation and ministry service. “I am the vice president of the trustees’ board. I’ve been an usher, an acolyte, and I’m recently getting involved with the (audio) tape ministry.” As an acolyte, Ekpaji was responsible for assisting the pastor by performing minor duties during the worship service.
Ekpaji says Tindley’s soup kitchen is one of the popular outreach ministries impacting the community, “The doors are always open for most of the week, for anyone that needs a meal during the day. We also give out clothes.”
Ekpaji is from the community surrounding Tindley and he loves the family atmosphere of the church, “(Tindley) taught me how to give back to the community, and how to be a strong leader.” He loves Smith’s ministry leadership, he said, “The energy that she brings to the pulpit, it’s definitely refreshing.”
Since July 1, 2011, Smith has been the senior pastor of Tindley, “Before I served at Tindley, I served as director of connectional ministries for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. In that role, I had responsibility for 462 churches of Southeast Pennsylvania related to the United Methodist Church.” The director of connectional ministries is the steward of the vision for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference; Smith was responsible for the strategic plan and vision of the conference, “as well as providing programmatic and training activities for those (462) churches.”
Smith is known for her boundless energy. She said of her spiritual strength, “I have a lot of energy! One of my giftings is the gift of faith. I may not see it, I may not know how we’re going to do it, but if God said we can do it, we’re going to do it, no matter how hard it’s going to be.”
Smith said the median age of the residents in the surrounding community is trending toward 33 and younger, “It’s becoming more multi-ethnic, but there’s still a large African-American population.” She has robust strategic ministry goals for Tindley. “Part of our plans are to increase worship attendance, increase and improve our ministries for children and youth, increase participation of people in small groups, increase the number of people that take on a ministry, and increase income.”
Smith and her husband, David Cassidy, have been married for 13 years, and they have two sons, David Charles Jasper Smith-Cassidy, 12, and Hayward Smith-Cassidy, 10.
Shirley Tucker Green, 77, is a loving, elderly saint. She’s been an off-and-on member of Tindley for at least two decades, but is more consistent now. “I’m the president of the stewardess ministry and a member of the Bible study ministry.”
Green would recommend Tindley to others seeking a church home because, “We have so many different ministries here. The pastor is a very wonderful person, everyone loves her. And, we have different organizations going on for the young people.” Green married at a young age; she and her husband jumped the broom 60 years ago.
Since 1967, John S. Crapper, a retired employee of the city of Philadelphia, has been an active and committed member at Tindley. “I am president of United Methodist Men’s Fellowship and outreach ministry coordinator.” He teaches men’s Bible study the second Saturday of the month, “At 8 a.m. we eat breakfast, and at 9 a.m. we go into our devotions.”
Crapper has significant ministry duties. “Under the outreach ministry coordinator is the soup kitchen and the clothing bank, also the prison ministry, CATI (Charles A. Tindley Institute) ministry, the deaf ministry, and the communication ministry.”
Crapper’s offers the following advice for people wanting to grow in their fellowship with Jesus Christ: “I think the most important thing is to stay in the Word of God (the Bible). That’s my conviction.”