The Rev. G. Daniel Jones is bidding farewell to the Grace Baptist Church of Germantown. Yet Jones, who has been pastor for the past 19 years and Grace Baptist for 31 years, is confident that he is leaving behind a strong and stable Northwest Philadelphia congregation.
Grace Baptist celebrated Jones’ tenure and their church anniversary in full style recently. First, there was a banquet that drew more than 700 to the City Line Hilton. Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church in New York, was the keynote speaker for the event that took place on Friday, May 17.
Then, Jones preached his last anniversary sermon from the Grace Baptist pulpit on Sunday, May 19. Rev. Arlee Griffin of Berean Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, was on hand with his 41-voice choir to celebrate the occasion. Finally, Jones will preach his last Grace Baptist sermon at the Communion Sunday worship service on Sunday, June 9.
“This is a unique stable church,” Jones said. “The last three pastors have been here for a total of 95 years. There was the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Sr. who was here 42 years, then Rev. Patrick Hughes for another 22 years and I’ve been here for 31 years. The stability of this church that was established in 1892 is here, and I know it will continue to grow in that stability.”
Jones said that among the historic moments was when the Boy Scouts troop 358, based at Grace Baptist, became the only ensemble to perform at both inauguration ceremonies for President Barack Obama. Also, in 1987 the church was recognized at the Lott Carey Baptist Fallen Mission Convention for the “duplicity of ministries” they have ranging from the Grace Teenshop and AARP chapter to its ministries for the homeless and those with HIV and AIDS. Grace even boasts an intergenerational liturgical dance ensemble featuring both men and women ranging from children to adults.
“I don’t know what my legacy will be because it’s not me who determines that,” said Jones, a Norfolk, Va. native. “What I can say is that we have broken the gender barriers here. Before I came there were no women licensed to preach, no females ordained, and only men were deacons. All that has changed, and we are fully integrated.”
Jones is also proud of the fact he is leaving “an empowered congregation,” who had years of making important decisions. He attributed this to his leadership style that encourages church members to actively participate in the life of the church.
“I am never a dictator or autocratic,” the Grace Baptist pastor said. “I say that I enable voices of expression. I give the leadership by shaping what they are doing in a theological context. The result is solid discipleship and a loving church. We have a bond but I will give them to space now to evolve to the next level of stewardship, numerical, physical and physical growth, and in contemporary worship.”
Grace Baptist currently has a search committee looking for Jones’ successor. There will be an interim pastor placed until they do. Jones said this will be a diligent process. “It must be someone who understands that this church is a gift to the community and will continue the stability. My transition to pastor was smooth as were the others and that new pastor must be unique in that the smooth transition must continue,” Jones said.
The Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church in Mount Airy is expanding its mission abroad. The church’s Social Justice Outreach Committee will be holding the Hippo Water Roller project fundraiser at its church home at 224 E. Gowen St. on May 28, with a 5:30 p.m. reception followed by a presentation. Proceeds will benefit the water irrigation project for South Africa coordinated by Grant Gibbs, Hippo Water Roller director.
Many hands are coming together to ensure that South Africans have wider access to clean drinking water. Among them are Carol Duncan, who serves as deacon for both Grace Epiphany and St. Martin in the Fields in Chestnut Hill. She also serves as chairperson of the social justice committee.
Grace Epiphany longtime members Hillary and Renetta Holloway are among the early supporters of the Hippo Water Roller program. Patricia Robinson-Burns, a Grace member who also is the local Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority chapter’s health issues leader, and Sandra Bacote, another Grace member, are members of the outreach team.
“The Social Justice Outreach Committee of the Grace Epiphany Church has worked to think globally and act locally,” said the Rev. Thomas Eoyang Jr., pastor of Grace Epiphany. “[This effort] helps achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development goals for eradicating global poverty. Specifically the church has worked to achieve Goal 7 — to ensure environmental sustainability and Target 10 — halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.”
Thus, Grace Epiphany is providing financial support for the Hippo Water Roller, according to the pastor. A harnessed barrel-shaped containers that allows for 24 gallons of water to be rolled across all kinds of terrain is used. The containers enable villages without water resources access to larger amounts of water.
“We are working at Grace Epiphany Church to bring in partners to support this effort and hear the director of the project,” Bacote said. “Grant Gibbs will come from South Africa to present on the Hippo Water Roller in Mount Airy. The cost of one Hippo Water Roller is a mere $145, so we hope to get as many as possible to support us in this.”
Eoyang is hoping that after Gibbs’ May 28 presentation, more will commit to the initiative. He noted that the congregation has “an eye toward increased Hippo Water Roller distribution in South Africa for Nelson Mandela International Day” which is July 18.
The official mission of Mandela Day is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better. In doing so organizers hope to build a global movement for good. Ultimately it seeks to empower communities everywhere.
For more information about the Hippo Water Roller project visit www.hipporoller.org or contact Grace Epiphany Church at (215) 248-2950.
One cannot have a discussion about Afrocentricity without discussing the way Africans throughout the diaspora express their faith. Whether it is through traditional African religions, the Black church, or a hybrid combination of indigenous and foreign sacred beliefs, it will come up. This was certainly the case when the Second Annual World Conference was held in Philadelphia recently.
The theme of the conference was “Afrocentricity and the African Resurgence: Unity is our aim; Victory is our destiny.” It drew an international audience to the Imhotep Institute Charter High School in East Germantown on May 18 and 19. The conveners were Per-aat Ama Mazama and Molefi Kete Asante of Afrocentricity International.
Among the speakers who spoke on African religious thought were author and Union Theological Seminary professor Cornel West, California State University professor and Africana Studies chair Maulana Karenga, University of Montreal professor Boniface Diarra and Marta Vega, founder and director of the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York City.
“Justice is what love looks like in public,” said West, who noted during his discourse that he was unabashedly both an Afrocentric and an adherent to his Baptist roots. He also paid homage to the many prophetic voices in the Black community who came from various religious traditions.
In his remarks, which were given in French and translated by Mazama, Diarra said that many of the slaves who arrived on American shores carried traditional African religions, Islam and/or Christianity with them. In fact he said that the latter had already infiltrated into the African continent and infiltrated the culture, including changing the connotation of blackness and darkness from positive to negative, Diarra said.
Vega traced her own African Puerto Rican religious heritage that was steeped in Catholicism merged with Santeria. She said that her organization is working on a documentary which will showcase how these “secret societies” preserved the traditional African religions. Since slavery was largely abolished in Latin America later than North America or the English or French speaking Caribbean, these traditions are closer to its African roots, she said.
“We have retained the sacredness,” Vega said. “It’s like a puzzle that is distributed throughout the world. When you look at the sacred in that context you must together the African Mexican part with the continent with the Caribbean and the Black church.
“Latin American was colonized by the Catholic Church. So in homes you will see the altars and you think you are looking at Catholic images. They may be Catholic images but they are worshiping spirit. Behind the apparent is the African. So, in the Black Church that Holy Spirit is that spirit,” Vega said.
The first Afrocentricity International Conference was held in Paris during May of last year. It drew more than 200 from countries like Spain, Austria, France, Germany, Iceland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Italy. Next year’s conference is slated to be held in Latin America.
The headquarters of the global organization is located at the MKA Institute building, 5535 Germantown Ave. For more information about Afrocentricity International call (215) 882-9200 or visit www.AfrocentricityInternational.org.
The Rev. Clarence J. Washington is no cookie-cutter pastor. If one came to the Millennium Baptist Church in West Philadelphia on Sunday, May 5, his recently ordained wife would have been in the pulpit. In fact all of his four associate pastors are female, and half of them are single Christian women.
Washington, himself, brings to his calling to the ministry a Roman Catholic background and real world management expertise. He was originally baptized Catholic, the religion of his mother, and attended parochial schools in his hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. While a student at Bishop McCort Catholic High School he attended Baptist churches for weddings, funerals and special occasions with his father’s family.
Though his formal education ended when he earned his Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union’s Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology, his secular work is ongoing. This is because Washington works full time as a managing director for the FedEx Corporation and full time as Millennium’s senior pastor.
“I like to think that I am among the new wave of bi-vocational pastors,” Washington said. “I am director of operations for Federal Express which oversees three different states. I have 1,300 people and 160 management personnel. This helps me with the leadership and administration of the church. God has blessed me with a secular job that gives me a high level of training and expertise that I can bring back to the church.”
This has enabled the pastor to help his congregation and the surrounding community in tangible ways. There are times when he directs the unemployed or underemployed to a job opportunity either at his company or through his professional networks. He is also able to mentor and counsel, particularly young, African-American males, about what they need to acquire and retain employment.
Washington attributes the combination of the spiritual with the practical as one of the reasons that Millennium has seen an influx of membership among those between the ages of 25 and 40. Among these are college-educated professionals as well as those needing to acquire skills to make them more marketable in the work world.
“I believe that this is the generation that didn’t learn about responsibility and needs direction to become more responsible,” Washington said. “So, we show them here what Christ expects of them including their responsibility to themselves and their families. This is really a generational thing.
“This generation grew up with so many distractions with the shopping malls and technology — all things that could keep you away from serving God. Some already have their degrees, but others may be on public assistance and need to take the responsibility to maybe go to college or get the skills they need to help them advance,” he said.
So, Millennium has a Free Ministry Operation for Young Adults. This ministry allows those from late adolescence to early adulthood to fellowship on trip excursions and other outings as well as informal and formal discussion groups.
The church also holds missionary dinners where there is outreach by younger members to seniors who may live in convalescent institutions. “It’s all about not just coming to church to sit, but getting out of the church and taking up the responsibility to serve out of love,” Washington said.
Since being installed as Millennium’s pastor in 2002, Washington has preserved the church’s rich heritage while tearing down outmoded traditions. For instance, at one time when a single mother brought her child to be blessed it was not done in the pastor’s office. Now, the church makes it a joyous celebration as even children born out of wedlock are brought into the sanctuary to be publicly blessed before the congregation.
“We are very conscious of making the church available to the community,” Washington said. “We understand that a baby has not done anything wrong being born. There was a time when churches like this one would not allow non-members to have a wedding or funeral in the church. We do allow the community to use the church.
“Even the Parkside Association, when they were involved in the rebuilding of the shopping center across the street with the Shop-Rite and Lowe’s, we allowed the community to have their meetings here. I like to think we were part of that economic development process.”
The church also houses an expanding computer technology laboratory that both members and non-members have access to. Neighborhood children can be found in the center completing homework assignments or “just toying with it because they don’t have a computer at home,” according to the pastor.
There are always special activities going on at Millennium. On the heels of Mother’s Day they held their “Evening with Mothers” on Wednesday, May 15. The Deacon and Deaconess Annual Day will be held on Sunday, May 19.
This November the church will be celebrating its 66th anniversary with a revival. This will come months after the Back to School giveaway and computer lab tours on Aug. 17 at 11:30 a.m. and the Community Flea Market to be held on Sept. 21 at 10 a.m.
Before coming to Millennium Washington served at the nearby Bibleway Baptist Church located at 52nd and Media after joining Mt. Zion Baptist Church, also in West Philadelphia, during the 1980s. As a youngster he was an active Catholic who even served as an altar boy. Yet Washington was also influenced by his father who was reared Baptist and converted to Catholicism when he wanted to enter a courtship and marriage to his mother.
It was his third visit to a Baptist church that Washington said he received his initial calling to ministry. It was a small still voice that told him “this is where I belong,” he said. Yet he just filed the revelation into the back of his mind until another trek to a Baptist church many years later after earning his undergraduate degree from Lock Haven University. After that he heeded his calling by entering seminary.
Now his family is strongly anchored into the faith and life of Millennium. His wife, Donna Marie Washington, also earned her M.Div. degree from Virginia Union. The couple just celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary on Friday, May 10.
Their oldest daughter, Jasmine, is a graduate school student and University of Delaware alumnus. She works with the young adult ministries. Their younger daughter, Shana, is away at college. She is president of the student body at the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore. The family’s youngest member, Jeremy, is a freshman at the University of Delaware and sings with an a cappella groups.
“I like to say that there’s no one better to help new members love their church than my wife,” said Washington. “She now serves as spiritual advisor, head of the women’s ministry, and directs the new membership classes. She is the first person they see when they come into the church. So, when it comes to loving God and loving your pastor, there’s no one better to show them the way.”
Best-selling Christian author Patricia Haley has not only developed a following for the Mitchell family series, but she has her own story as the ultimate integrator.
As Haley was signing copies of her new book, “Betrayed,” her fifth novel focusing on a family’s lesson in forgiveness amidst crisis, she also shared bits of her own story as a full-time engineer while penning fiction, serving at the non-denominational World Overcomers Church outside Chicago, and being a dedicated wife and mother.
This she did Saturday at the CLC Bookstore in Cedarbrook Plaza, Cheltenham Avenue and Easton Road, in Wyncote. There, women who are fans of series and those who were shopping in the Cheltenham Township bookstore, lined up to get a copy of “Betrayed” or one of Haley’s other books.
“I remember when she was living around here, working for the electric company and starting to self publish,” said Michelle Mitchell Day, a member of Oxford Presbyterian Church in Mount Airy. “Now she has all these great books. So when I heard she’d be here I knew I had to come even though since I’ve gotten married I now live in New Jersey.”
Delores Carroll of Cheltenham has read all of Haley’s books. She said that she was awaiting the new book that is among the follow ups to the best selling “Chosen.” “I just could not wait to see what this family would get into next and the lessons that they would learn,” Carroll said.
“I just happened to walk in and see the author here,” admitted Constance Gregory, a writer from West Mount Airy and a member of St. Peter’s Church of God in West Philadelphia. “I happen to love theater, so I am impressed by anyone who is a great storyteller. I do read a lot of Christian books and I write things that are faith-based. So, I am looking forward to reading this work.”
Haley said that her Mitchell family series is a modern day interpretation of the biblical sagas surrounding King David and Solomon. Initially, she planned a trilogy, but soon realized readers wanted to learn more from the characters, how they overcame unfaithfulness and dealt with forgiveness, and to see how their lives evolved.
“There is a lot of wisdom in this faith-based drama series that started in 1998,” Haley said.
When Haley wrote her first book she was able to sell more than 20,000 copies through self publication. The Delta Sigma Theta soror subsequently attracted the attention of a major publishing house. So, what started out as a sideline is now part of her regular routine. But, Haley has not given up her “day job” nor does she plan to.
“This is my ministry,” Haley said. “I realize that I was called to be an encourager. Writing is how I bless people. It’s a gift that God called me to use. I have a degree in engineering and a MBA in finance, and I manage a group of actuarial analysts in North Africa, Asia and Europe — that’s the job I do.
“God blesses me with being able to take care of my family, being active with the Deltas and my church, spending time with my husband and daughter, taking vacations, and doing all that is important to me. When I have a writing deadline I’ll write every day for maybe five to eight weeks, but other than that I lead a full balanced life and am able to do all I want to do. It’s just one of the greatest joys to find your purpose and go about doing it.”