After an international search, historic Zion Baptist Church on Broad and Venango in North Philadelphia has a new pastor. The Rev. A. Carl Prince, of Virginia, was installed during a grand celebration and installation service Sunday attended by hundreds of congregants, clergy and members of the community.
With the theme “Celebrating the sacred marriage between pastor and people,” the service was the eleventh pastoral installation at the church and expressed Pastor Princes’ vision of making the church responsive to the community in which it resides.
“Today’s event was a culmination of our pastor and people celebration,” said Rev. Prince, who added that a series of services were held leading to his installation.
“Zion’s impact in the community is very significant historically and so I am trying to build the legacy of leadership in terms of empowering people in terms of reaching the urban underclass,” said Prince.
Prince spoke about a meeting with Councilwoman Cindy Bass to discuss ways to resolve the problem of crime and violence which has become far too common on Philadelphia streets.
“There are 300 murders in the city of Philadelphia at this point and I think the number one priority at this point is crime and violence,” he said. “I know that is the mayor’s priority, I know that’s city council’s priority and I know that it is going to be my priority.”
Under the late Rev. Leon Sullivan, the church served the underprivileged through various initiatives and institutions such as the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) and succeeding in opening the first Black-owned and operated business center, Progress Plaza, in America. Prince hopes to continue fighting many of the obstacles Sullivan faced.
“I think we have to look at the issue of unemployment, I think we have to look at the issue of more educational issues that we’re dealing with,” said Prince, who noted that he would like to continue the legacy set by his predecessors at Zion.
Prince points to a recent job fair held at the church during which he said more than a thousand applicants attended with hopes of finding employment. Another example of continuing the legacy of social relevance was a book bag giveaway in which he says over five hundred students were given book bags for school.
“Each Sunday our Care Ministry ministers to the urban underclass, the untouchables of society because we know that God loves them… we ought to touch them as well as feed them and clothe them,” said Prince.
Prince said that the installation process began with the prayers of the congregation who subsequently launched a national search of over 260 applicants. According to Prince, he was selected by more than two-thirds margin.
“Whenever a pastor comes together with people it is a sacred marriage,” he said. “It is sacred because God has brought us together.”
In fact, during a gala held at the Hilton Hotel on City ave. to celebrate the installation where an estimated four hundred people attended, the pastor’s wife wore her wedding dress to symbolize this marriage with the people.
Dr. Emma C. Chappell, who chaired the installation committee, has been a member of Zion for over fifty years said that the grand service was five months in planning and consisted of two services, one morning and one in the afternoon. During the afternoon service, ministers from churches around the city gathered around the newly installed pastor and prayed for him, promising their support.
“I see a lot of similarities,” said Dr. Chappell when asked if she saw any similarities between the newly installed pastor and Rev. Sullivan. “Even some of his mannerisms are very much like Leon Sullivan’s.”