Raised by the founders of Ford Memorial Temple Baptist Church, Bishop Andrew J. Ford II, was inspired by his parents’ determination and dream to start this church and provide a place of ministry to the community. Bishop Ford II is now the pastor of Ford Memorial and he is proud to continue his parents’ legacy.
“I think it’s an honor and privilege to carry on the legacy of my mother and father,” he said. “This is what they lived and possibly died for to build the church and help the people of the community — I count it as an honor and privilege of my mother and father.”
Bishop Andrew Ford Sr. and Elrita Ford started the church in 1953 and it was named Highway Christian Church of Christ at the time. The Fords started out small and moved from one location in North Philadelphia to another. They moved to their current location at 4301 Germantown Ave., around 1985. Shortly after, Elrita took sick and passed in 1990. Bishop Ford Sr. passed three years later.
As a way to memorialize the Fords, the congregation changed the name to “Ford Memorial Temple Baptist Church”. Growing up in the church and under the leadership of his parents’, Bishop Ford II always had a passion for music. Eventually his love for music connected to his calling to take leadership of Ford Memorial.
“Growing up in the church, of course one of the mandates of being a part of the Ford family household—and that was that I had to be in the church.” He said. “I always thought that this wasn’t something I saw myself doing in my future—it was also a mandate that we had to do something in music.”
As children, Bishop Ford II and his brother were heavily involved in music. Ford II was placed in the choir and eventually made choir director. As he began to make his mark in the music industry, he stated a record label named “Sweet Rain Records” in the late 70s. He kept it open for approximately 10 years and sold it after the passing of his mother. Bishop Ford II soon realized that his work in music would be connected for his passion in ministry.
“I didn’t know I was being prepared but that’s ultimately what happened, it was a tremendous journey but the lord is really blessed. Our choir is an award winning choir,” he said. “They’ve won, How Sweet the Sound, the Verizon choir competition.”
Bishop Ford II is also very proud of the outreach ministries hosted by Ford Memorial. Ford Memorial has a food and clothing distribution they do every month, which has served approximately 5,000 people over the years. Additionally, they have youth outreach programs and mentoring programs aimed at providing a space for the youth to talk out their everyday struggles. Their music program has allowed them the ability to travel.
“We’ve performed in Switzerland and in England, representing our church and our city,” Bishop Ford II said. “Also, we’re presently involved in the Interdenominational Crusade for Peace, an organization of pastors who have come together to combat the violence and murders in our city.”
With the goal to end violence and reach the community Bishop Ford II describes Ford Memorial’s service as “spirited” and “emotional.”
With one of their mottos “We don’t have church as usual, we have our usual church,” members of Ford Memorial aim to put their hearts in their service and work to uplift those in their presence. With a strong foundation in music, the music program maintains a strong presence throughout the church and is infused in many of the initiatives for outreach.
“Music is a very intricate part of any structural ministry. It is the forerunner of the word. We use music not to entertain but to really help people get into the worship and praise of our lord savior Jesus Christ,” Bishop Ford II said. “It prepares them for the word of God. As I tell them that, it is a preparation of the word that’s to come. Because I am musically inclined—it’s in every facet of our ministry.”
Ford Memorial consists of a diverse group of people stemming from all age groups and walks of life. Referenced as a “cross-section of people,” the congregation works to maintain their diversity and their church’s history with a few members who are still active from Ford Memorial’s founding. With a large number of youth and young adults, their demographic is ever-changing as members go off to college and return home.
From its founding from Bishop Andrew and Elrita Ford, to their son proudly leading the way, Ford Memorial aims to maintain a strong presence in the community and be a strong ministry for all those who come.
“We have a demographic of different age ranges. We’ve been able to co-exist in name of the lord,” Bishop Ford II said. “Our church is open to all people. We are a diverse church and we want everyone that wants to have a place of worship to come — we just know it’s going to be a blessing to all people that come.”
Formed 50 years ago, the Blue Gates of Harmony celebrated their 50th anniverary at Macedonia Freewill Baptist Church, 2036 Cecil B. Moore Ave., on Sunday. With 50 years of performing across the country as a gospel group, the members of the Blue Gates of Harmony sang at Macedonia in front of a large crowd gathered at the church, to celebrate their impact on gospel and various communities.
Arnold Parker, an original of the group since its founding, has been through the ups and downs of traveling and performing in Blue Gates of Harmony for each of the 50 years. From singing outside in various Philadelphia neighborhoods, to traveling to gigs across the country, Parker is proud to look back at the group’s journey and to celebrate this joyous occasion.
“It was me and a guy named Howard Quick and Jerry Johnson in the beginning — I’m the only original still with the group,” he said. “We were sitting out in the projects and decided to start a group. We were young boys in our early 20’s.”
In 1960 Parker was singing with a group in Virginia until he moved to Philadelphia where we formed the group with Johnson and Quick. After times of harmonizing together in front of different crowds, they began meeting new people and gaining new opportunities to sing.
“Musicians came in, and then we started branching out to church people and started doing different things,” Parker said. “People started asking us if we could come by and sing at churches, then we started recording and then we started traveling.”
The first place the Blue Gates of Harmony traveled to was New York. Parker reminisced singing songs they recorded like “Take Care of me Lord until I get Home,” — which they played at Macedonia during their celebration.
Singing mostly gospel with a bit of contemporary, Parker also reflected on what it was like to travel on the road.
“It was really hard — sleeping in and out of hotels is really tough,” he said. “Sometimes you get paid less than what you thought you were going to get paid — but that’s part of the life.”
As the Blue Gates of Harmony experienced the good times and the rough times on their exciting journey as musicians, Pastor Terry Oakman of the National Temple Baptist Church, remembers what it was like to grow up in admiration of the group in hopes of being like them one day.
“One of my cousins was a member and they’re more like a family group to us,” Pastor Oakman said. “The funny thing is, I’ve always grown up and wanted to sing with them — I haven’t quite made it yet.”
Pastor Oakman is a member of the Sensational Travelers, a gospel group that he’s been a part of for the last 14 years. He is pleased and proud to celebrate this milestone. The Sensational Travelers travel with Blue Gates of Harmony once a year to South Carolina and Oakman has always found them to be role models.
“They were one of the groups we mocked all the time; they kind of modeled for us what we wanted to be like,” he said. “Endurance is what really comes with it. When you have the passion for it you really become persistent with it. I’m sure their 50 years was not the easiest years but when you love something and take passion, not pride it in — it pays off.”
The crowd cheered the Blue Gates of Harmony on as they celebrated and took the stage at Macedonia.
“This is our 50th and we’re trying to enjoy today,” Parker said.
Family-like environment, close relationships and intimacy are attributes a small church environment can bring to its congregation, and it’s those qualities that Jones Temple Church of God in Christ prides itself on.
Pastor Roland Thompson is proud to pastor Jones Temple, as he finds it to be a church filled with loving people. After contributing to building the sanctuary itself, Thompson truly feels a close connection to his congregation.
“Well I have been here 40 years and I became pastor 10 years ago—before that I was the head elder,” he said. “I also helped build the sanctuary. It was a little lot and it took us, a small congregation, about 20-some years.”
Jones Temple was founded in 1927 when senior Bishop Charles Mason sent Elder Daniel Jones Sr. from Georgia to Philadelphia. Daniel Jones III, the founder’s grandson, said his grandfather told his wife, Estella, “The Lord has called me for work in Philadelphia.”
The name of the church was changed to Macedonia Temple shortly after its start in Philadelphia. This was its official name until Bishop C. Range Sr. proclaimed the church should have been named after its founder, Pastor Daniel Jones Sr. The church was then given its current name, Jones Temple Church of God in Christ.
Pastor Thompson and the congregation work to maintain the “community feel” Jones Temple has provided to Philadelphia throughout the years.
Jones Temple works to reach out to all generations of the church by hosting a children’s ministry, a youth or teen ministry, men’s and women’s ministries, weekly Bible studies and a young adult ministry. Along with this outreach, Jones Temple hosts prayer nights on Tuesdays and Fridays. Pastor Thompson notes that along with their other prayer services, he makes sure their Sunday service is fulfilling — even if it goes over the scheduled time.
“We start our morning service at 11:30 a.m. and normally we’re out by 1:30, but if the spirit gets a hold of us we’ll be out a little later,” he said.
Children and youth are also important demographics for outreach for Jones Temple. Thompson and the congregation make an effort to reach out to the youths, valuing them for maintaining the longevity of the church.
“We are also training our children to be able to take our place, because without youth in the church, the church is a dying church. We have a lot of older members and we’re trying to train our youth through Sunday school and evangelism,” Thompson said.
In an effort to conduct outreach for the church, Jones Temple plans to visit various areas of the city with cards that will state, “Jones Temple, the church of hospitability.” With pictures of the church and other materials, Jones Temple plans to reach the community to promote growth and visit different areas every other month.
“Church growth is very important,” Thompson said.
Daniel Jones feels the dedication to uplift the surrounding communities is an important aspect of Jones Temple and its goals and initiatives.
“We feed the community and minister to the needs of the people of the community. We have pioneers that would have the young ladies of the street come, sit and eat; food was always left out for them,” he said. “When they come they would have the opportunity to come and get nourished—they know they have a shelter here where they can come and be nurtured, both with food and spiritually.”
The work outside the church is equal to that within it, and Kelli Britt has felt encouraged by the relationships she has built within Jones Temple. Britt feels she has positively benefited from the intimate church setting.
“I’m a member; it’s an honor and pleasure to be under the leadership of Pastor Thompson, I’ve been a member for about 18 years and this is my family church,” she said. “One thing about this church is that the people of Jones Temple are so warm and compassionate, and this is the church of hospitality.”
Although Jones Temple works to maintain a distinct separation of church and state, it consistently encourages the congregation and community to register to vote, regardless of party affiliation. The Rev. Chester Williams of Jones Temple has particularly made it a point to educate community residents on voter ID laws and the importance of having their voices heard in the upcoming November presidential election.
“We set up tables across the community stressing for people to fill out brand-new registrations,” he said.
With a grand goal of reaching out to the city from a small church with intimate appeal, Thompson feels his members truly benefit from their setting and relatively small size.
“Some of the things we do here are unique; we have a lot of love, and most of all we have the spirit of the Lord in the house. There isn’t a time that I can recall that we had service where the spirit of the Lord didn’t come in. People had cancer that God has healed. God has done great and miraculous things in this place. God has blessed us with faithful members,” Thompson said. “It’s like family—when you’re not there and you don’t come, you’re missed.”
It was another successful year for the “Annual International Locks Conference: Natural Hair, Wholistic Health & Beauty Expo,” as they held their 18th Annual conference last weekend.
The Locks conference held at the Imhotep Institute Charter High School, 2101 West Godrey Ave., hosted more than 5,000 people throughout the course of the weekend with various hair, financial and children’s workshops, speakers and vendors.
The weekend also included zumba fitness sessions, live music, panel discussions, food, an annual hair show and various other activities.
The organizers were pleased with the great turnout and positive response. One of their main initiatives, to promote Black-owned business , was also accomplished.
“The whole conference is put together to promote African-American owned businesses,” said Sakinah Ali-Sabree. “We have vendors from all over the country. We bring all these people in to see all of the positive energy and support. Everyone that comes for the first time really feels loved and feels like it’s family.”
Ali-Sabree has been assisting the conference since she was in high school in the 90s. She began volunteering in high school and continued in college. She was pleased this year’s conference — with the theme “Rock’n and Lock’n,” was a success.
The conference was formed in 1994 when a group of young women joined together to plan an event focused on celebrating the unique beauty of their natural hair.
The women wanted to provide a venue for exchanging goods, services and information. With a mission to inspire social change and instill a sense of empowerment, the Annual International Locks Conference has developed greatly since its founding.
Veronica Freeman, a volunteer coordinator for the conference, assisted with one of the reflexology workshops. Freeman was also pleased with the turnout and felt the marketplace of vendors proved to be a major success.
“The market place was one huge area that was set up with vendors and along the hallways we also had vendors on the second floor,” she said. “Entrepreneurs were present with different types of products and creativity and a lot of the products were well made.”
Organized by the Kuumba Family Organizing Committee and Hair-ITAGE, the conference welcomed guests from all over the country including, Massachusetts, New York, California and various countries in the Caribbean.
“People truly are interested in raising our consciousness to provide us with information to make us even stronger in our stance as people of African descent,” Freeman said. “I spoke with a gentleman yesterday who came from New York and a woman who came from Boston — and there’s all types of religions and I think it gives us the opportunity to gather together, put down our differences and just be one with each other.”
One of the ways a person can relieve emotional distress is through a practice called art therapy. It allows a person to express how they’re feeling through art and non-verbal practices.
The staff of the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia (AVP) exercises art therapy with their clients and is hosting an exhibition of art therapy at Art Sanctuary, located at 628 South 16th. St. through Oct. 18.
“You can see that obviously it’s a really good way, especially when you don’t have the words and you can’t talk about it yet, to sort of cope with what you’re feeling,” said Megan Augustin, development assistant and event coordinator of the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia. “One of the reasons for this event was to bring awareness to what we do but also show those feelings you can’t hear in a private session — you can see what they’re going through.”
The opening reception of the exhibit was held Oct. 4 and artwork was placed around the exhibit room by youth AVP clients who used art to express their feelings towards violent crimes.
The AVP is an organization that helps youth resolve conflicts in a nonviolent fashion and assists and provides support for victims and their families after a violent crime. They provide intervention, prevention and support programs in an effort to reduce the cycle of violence in Philadelphia. They provide support to the families and children of victims to violent crimes.
Deborah Spungen, founder, believes often times people overlook the effects of a violent crime on the victim’s family.
Spungen’s daughter was murdered in 1978 and since then she was inspired to create an atmosphere where the family members of a victim to a violent crime, could seek help.
“There were no programs for homicide, about two years after she died I started to get interested,” she said. “Ed Rendell was the District Attorney at the time and we had support group and eventually under Ed Rendell — just as he was leaving, we got a small grant to open an advocate office.”
When Spungen opened an advocate office they received a grant of $9,200 and at the time had “a desk and two chairs,” as she describes it. The now developed AVP is located at 2000 Hamilton St., suite 304. While working to rebuild the lives of those who lost loved ones, AVP provides services that are free of charge to their clients.
“For every victim of homicide, there’s at least three “co-victims,” said Spungen. “You multiply that and — that’s a lot of people.”
Guests gathered at the opening reception in the gallery of Art Sanctuary on Thursday night, to observe the artwork filled with expression and emotions from the youth who have lost someone in their lives. Rebecca Selvin, a therapist at AVP shared with the crowd how meaningful the artwork is and how important it is to provide support to those who are grieving.
“I work with children and families and we do a model called ‘family play therapy’ —it’s working with the whole family together,” said Selvin. “I think when you look some of these pieces, they are so moving.”