Janes Memorial United Methodist Church has deep roots that date back to 1872, when the church was originally named Janes Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of Bishop Edmund Storer Janes, one of the leaders of the Methodist movement. To date, Janes is continuing to expand its ministry via its outreach in serving the Philadelphia community.
Rev. Dr. Andrew Foster III is the senior pastor of Janes Memorial, and he brings a strong ministerial résumé as the shepherd of his current congregation. A United States Air Force veteran, Pastor Foster is a member of the 6th generation of Methodist pastors. Foster’s pastoral credits includes service at Clearview United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, assistant pastor of historic Tindley Temple United Methodist Church and senior pastor of Grace Community United Methodist Church in Chester where he founded Grace Community’s Resource & Empowerment Center, Inc.
His academic credentials are just as impressive. He earned his bachelor of arts in political science from Rutgers University, Camden, N.J.; a master of divinity at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wynnewood; and a doctor of ministry in marriage and family counseling from Philadelphia’s Palmer Theological Seminary.
“I’m in my fourth year as senior pastor, but I served two years as associate pastor back in 2001 through 2003,” said Foster, a Philadelphia native, born in Germantown, but who now resides in South Jersey.
Pastors are confronted with many challenges, and Foster believes relevance is important. “I think the biggest challenge for any church, previous as well as current, is the fact of being relevant,” he said. “Meeting the needs [of the people] from the cradle to the grave; whether you’re a young adult, teenager or senior citizen, making sure that things are relevant within the church, I think, is the biggest [challenge].”
For Janes to be relevant, Foster has been moving the congregation to become more active in outreach ministry service into the community. One of the church’s marquee community outreach initiatives is its Start Smart, Stay Smart program — an initiative that incorporates discussions, info sessions and workshops on peer pressure, bullying, nutrition, job search skills, college access information, book-bag distributions, etc. “We’re trying to be relevant by being an intergenerational church,” he said.
Janes Memorial has attracted celebrities to join its congregation.
“I’ve been a member of Janes, since, for the last 15 years or so,” said Jerome Wells, chairman of the trustees’ ministry. Many Philadelphians know Wells as the famed radio personality “Jerry Wells” from his broadcast years with WDAS 105.3FM and with Radio One, WRNB 100.3FM. “And I’m the communications officer; I do the press information.” Wells is also a member of United Methodist Men ministry.
Wells is one of Foster’s greatest supporters.
“What Pastor Foster does, he takes it from the academic, theological and spiritual angles… He’s able to bring the message forth with full Biblical references,” said Wells.
Lolia Thomas, a proud member of Janes since November 1963, said: “What attracted me was, I had known about the church, I had relatives who were members of the church, and my husband’s family members were at the church.”
Thomas is a retiree of the Social Security Administration. In addition to her strong family ties to Janes, Thomas is personally riveted to Janes because of its myriad of ministry offerings.
“It’s really the preaching of our various ministers, the singing of the choirs that we had, and also the fellowship of the members.” said Thomas who added that that her fellow church members “show their Christian love toward everyone.”
Bianca McCall, 25, has been a vibrant member since age 14, “but I’ve been going to the church since I was 5.”
McCall is attending Cheyney University majoring in liberal studies with a focus on philosophy.
“I want to go into public relations and advertising,” said McCall. “So right now, I’m a member of the adult mime ministry,” and she’s preparing to become a trustee.
“I would definitely recommend [my church], especially for people who are looking for a new church home, because it can be a very scary decision for some people. Our church is very family oriented. That’s what I have always loved about Janes. That’s one of the reasons why I have remained an active member of the church.”
Gertrude Louise Johnson, holds special prominence at Janes as one of its longstanding members; but more importantly, Johnson is a member of a small, elite, global community of centenarians, she turned 101 years old on Dec. 23, 2012. Johnson is a prolific poet, and she can recite some of her many original poems with great passion.
Commenting on what she loves most about Janes, she said, “I love the gathering [of members during church services]. That’s where I get most of my joy, I just love people.”