Return to Philly highlights revival
The “Need 2 Grow” Gospel Revival will bring Philadelphia native the Rev. Anthony M. Bozeman, SSJ from New Orleans, home to headline the three-day event.
Bozeman is expected to help propel the revival’s theme “Come and Get Your Praise On.” The revival will be held June 10-12 at Our Lady of Hope Church, 5200 N. Broad St. with services from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each evening.
Program organizer Cynthia Brown hopes that the city’s African American community comes out to hear Bozeman, a Jesuit priest who once served as one of then four African American priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Bozeman is currently serving as pastor of the St. Raymond-St. Leo the Great Church in New Orleans.
“This is exciting because a native son is coming home,” Brown said. “We are reaching out to the city’s African American Catholic community, and others, to come out to hear our own Father Bozeman. We know that many feel a need to be revived at this time, so we hope that many will join us for three wonderful nights of renewal.”
Bozeman has returned to the city a few times since he left the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to join the Josephite order. He has also served in parishes in Washington, D.C. and Houston and before going to New Orleans where he was initially pastor of the St. Joan of Arc Church in New Orleans’ Uptown section.
Bozeman was one of six African American priests honored at “The Gift of Vocations” Red Carpet Reception in 2008, held at the St. Peter Center for Evangelization 502 S. 12th St. in South Philadelphia. The event honored six African American priest for their 131 years of combined service to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Also honored were the Revs. Rayford Emmons, Albert Norrell, and Stephen Thorne as well as Monsignors Frederico Britto and David Benz.
According to Brown, those priests have been invited to hear Bozeman preach.
The revival is also expected to bring new energy to Our Lady of Hope. It is hoped that some of the former members, as well as members of its annex parish in the heart of Nicetown, will attend.
Our Lady of Hope parish that has undergone many changes in recent years. The building was designed in the French Romanesque Cathedral style and was completed in 1928. It is in need of refurbishment.
In 1993, the parish merged with the old Our Lady of Holy Souls parish, 1901 W. Tioga. St. That site continues to be a worship center annex.
The Our Lady of Hope High School was forced to close its doors in June 2009. Last year the Cristo Rey High School moved into that building.
The revival will feature a free-will offering where those wishing to contribute to the ongoing refurbishment of the church can donate. There will be a fellowship in the church hall after each evening revival.
There is no other church like Harold O. Davis Memorial Baptist Church. The church’s pastor, Bishop Kermit L. Newkirk, Jr. is quick to list the many reasons for the church’s uniqueness. He knows it best because he was the church’s inaugural pastor when it formed 40 years ago and he’s been in the church’s pulpit ever since.
So, what is distinctive about the church? First, it was named after the late well-known preacher and radio evangelist, the Rev. Harold O. Davis “who was the T. D. Jakes of Philadelphia before there was a T. D. Jakes,” according to Newkirk.
Secondly, despite being located at 4500 N. 10th St. in the heart of a Logan neighborhood surrounded by 957 sinking homes resulting in more than 35 vacant acres, the church remains standing strong.
Additionally, the church is both Baptist and an affiliate of the United Church of Christ. Furthermore, Harold O. Davis has a clear track record of advocating for ordinary people in securing gainful employment and it is a founding member of the Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild or POWER rallying for airport jobs with livable wages.
“We are unique because despite the Logan sinking homes, this church is still standing on solid ground,” Newkirk said. “Even with the decline in population in this neighborhood as a result of 957 sinking homes we are continuing to grow. We are even trying to expand and move to Roosevelt Boulevard where there are 116,000 cars that pass there every day. I see us having a billboard directing people to Harold O. Davis Church.”
Unity Day will be celebrated on Sunday at Harold O. Davis Church. The morning worship service will bring together the church’s 600 members alongside its many other supporters and partners in a service of solidarity. This will be one of the kick-off events for their fundraising drive to build a state-of-the-art edifice that will be unique in two ways.
On one hand the new church campus will eventually house an expanded school house. It was 30 years ago that the Harold O. Davis Church became one of the few Protestant churches to open a K-5 school. With the closing of many Logan public schools in the area at the end of the current academic year, there is an even more urgent need for the church to expand to a K-12 school.
“We are now securing the land from the city to build our new sanctuary and school,” Newkirk said. “Currently our school is filled to capacity with 90 students. There are those who want to come to the school but we just don’t have space.”
“But we also want to be the first ecological church that uses wind and solar power. We know that we can no longer depend on fossil fuel because it’s just not economically sound. That’s why as a church who believes that we are the custodians of Earth, we want to be sustainable. God gave us the sun and God gave us the wind. I understand that even an electric company, like PECO, may be able to buy our excess energy, so that’s fundraiser for the church,” Newkirk said.
Newkirk considers that he is a visionary looking towards the bright and progressive future for his congregation. In fact, as what he calls “the organizer” for his church he has a four component model for the Harold O. Davis Church. This, he said, is a great model for any house of worship.
First, Newkirk stressed the need to realize that Jesus Christ is the “founder of the church” and that no individual should consider it belonging to him or her. Secondly, he said that having a strong music ministry is essential for praise and worship. Thirdly, one must evoke the assistance of Holy Ghost in all endeavors and never rely on one’s own strengths, talents or gifts.
“The fourth component is to be sure that you have plenty of parking,” Newkirk said. “If people come to church and have to struggle to find a parking spot they just might not come back. You really can’t expect someone to drive their new car to church and then every time they come have no where to park. In our new facility we’re going to be sure we have plenty of parking.”
Currently Harold O. Davis Church does not have any parking problems. Newkirk jests that with the displacement of the surrounding community due to sinking homes they no longer have to compete with area homeowners and renters for off-street parking spots. Yet, Newkirk stressed, if the church remains at its current location additional parking would have to be created.
This is because the church boasts of numerous ministries that draw in the community. Every Wednesday there is a feeding program that provides hot meals to the needy. They also have a food bank where struggling and unemployed families are referred to them.
Also, they work with the Philadelphia Rainbow Coalition Arc program that provides services for the disabled. On the Tuesday before each Thanksgiving the church feeds more than 1600 with members of the 35th Police District and the Philadelphia Fire Fighters among those who assist in the feeding.
“I am really following in the tradition of Harold Oliver Davis who was my pastor when I was growing up attending the Cornerstone Church at 33rd and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia,” Newkirk said. “He was a phenomenal preacher and revivalist. Originally I went to Cheyney thinking I’d be a teacher, but then I had a call to the ministry. Harold Oliver Davis inspired me because of the way that he ministered to the people and believed in looking out for their welfare. He said since I was called this is what I must do.”
One of the things that Newkirk learned from his mentor is that “a successful preacher produces successors.” So, as Newkirk is planning to retire in about five years ,he is already grooming others to take over the helm of the Harold O. Davis Church. Currently he has 18 licensed preachers including his 38-year old nephew Charles Newkirk who has been a church member all of his life.
The younger Newkirk, who works closely with his uncle, is often described as “a man of few words.” In fact, when the bishop asked him to share his reflections on the church he was succinct but forthright. “This is a great church and I would just tell all to come and visit the Harold O. Davis,” Charles Newkirk said.
The Lutheran Theological Seminary, 7301 Germantown Ave., is the city’s last accredited institution of its kind. Though the Delaware Valley boasts about nine such higher educational religious seminaries — LTSP is the only remaining member of the Association of Theological Schools who can call the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection home.
So, its Urban Theological Institute is inviting the Philadelphia community to explore what it has to offer by holding “Ministry Day 2013: Exploring Ministry Opportunities.” The event will be on June 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We had more than 100 attend our Ministry Day last July,” said Dr. Quintin Robertson, director of the Urban Theological Institute at LTSP. “At that time we announced new scholarships that were available for part-time theological studies because every bit helps. This is in addition to any other scholarships or financial aid the student may receive. This is really an incentive grant for part time students. We want more to enter church leadership and this is a way to do that.”
With the sub-theme of “A Move from the Holy Spirit,” this year’s Ministry Day will feature the Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft, Sr. speaking on “Didactic Preaching: Teaching Thru Preaching.” Croft is the Jeremiah Wright, Sr. Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics in African American Studies at LTSP. He is pastor of the St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester.
He is author of “The African American Pulpit Journal” and contributor to the book “From One Brother to Another: Voices of African American Men, Vol. II.”
Croft is a scholar holding both two master’s degrees from the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as a DMin and a PhD from Drew University.
The day’s agenda will also include ways to build a dynamic ministry, meetings of emerging preaching with church leaders, praise and worship, exploring one’s call to the ministry, and several workshops.
The Rev. Dr. Karyn Wiseman will discuss ministry and self-care, while the Rev. Ann Colley will highlight women in the ministry. Additionally, “Evangelism and Church Growth” will be the topic for discussion by the Rev. Keon A. Gerow. Finally, the Rev. Dr. Robert B. Robinson will be featured talk will be “Scripture in the Life of the Church.”
“This is always an important event,” Robertson said. “Last year we had a very good response. With the large number of African American churches and leaders in this city, it is important to having courses and programs relating to African Americans.”
Ministry Day 2013 has a registration fee of $15, which includes lunch. Those interested can register online at ltsp.edu/ministryday or by calling (215) 248-7302.
Sometimes it takes a faith-based foundation to ensure that youngsters get a well rounded education. Perhaps no one is more aware of this than Tonya Dorsey. As a pianist, composer and conductor of the Tonya Dorsey and New Vision Choir she often grooms youngsters from her church and the community who show musical prowess.
Now, on the heels of the Philadelphia public schools threatening to remove music in the 2013-14 academic year, Dorsey is continuing to give young people the chance to cultivate their musical gifts. That’s because the nonprofit Tonya Dorsey New Vision Scholarship Fund gives music students resources to continue their musical education at local music schools or through private instruction.
The 6th Annual Scholarship Awards Ceremony and Concert will be held at the Walter K. Gordon Theater on Rutgers University’s Camden campus, Third and Pearl streets on June 2 at 4 p.m. The event will feature Tonya Dorsey and New Vision Choir, the Winslow Township School String Orchestra, and others. The donation of $10 will benefit the scholarship fund.
“Since we started back in 2003 we have given out 60 scholarships to young aspiring performing artists,” Dorsey said. “Some have been accepted to play in statewide youth orchestras and major in music in college.”
So, after a rigorous application process that began in February with auditions in April, the 2013 Tonya Dorsey New Vision scholars will receive their accolades on Saturday. The number of scholarships awarded each year is based on available funding, according to its organizers.
“We always look forward to having a full house at this event,” Dorsey said. “My fingers are tired from sending out hundreds of letters to people who have attended our concerts in the past. We recently held auditions recently for the new music scholarships and it went very well.”
Fundraising for the music scholarships is ongoing and over the years, the New Vision Choir has held numerous fundraisers. Other faith-based organizations and churches have also participated in charitable drives to ensure there are monies for the budding young school-age musicians and vocalists. For example, Pentecost Assembly of Jesus Only Morning Star Church, 1629 N. 20th St. in North Philadelphia held a fundraiser for the music scholars last November.
“When I started New Vision Choir I thought we would just be performing,” said Dorsey, a member of the St. Martin de Porres Church in North Philadelphia. “I had no idea that this scholarship fund would be started. After our first [fundraiser] we were able to give one scholarship. The next year we were able to give four scholarships. Then in 2010 we were proud to give 13 scholarships for these musicians to be able to study music.”
In many ways the Second Baptist Church of Germantown is a microcosm of 21st Century America. It has a healthy mixture of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the African-American and adjacent communities. There’s even generational diversity as the church has a full roster of kindergarteners in their Sunday School and young or midlife adult parents to matured adults from primelife to the wisdom years at their worship services.
The Rev. Ernest Flores attributes the diversity as the church for producing a growing congregation. On a typical Sunday one will find more than 200 in its sanctuary. On some special occasions most of the 315-plus on their membership rolls will be present. This is a marked increase from the floundering congregation of older adults when Flores arrived at the Mount Airy church more than a decade ago.
“Through God’s grace, love and mercy we have become an inclusive family,” Flores said. “We are 75 percent African American, 20 percent European American, and the rest is Hispanic and Asian. We have those who are well off and those who are not. So, with this wonderful mix of people we are growing. But, we are small enough that I can call everyone by name.”
One of the ways that the church’s cultural mix is evident is in the music, according to the senior pastor. Under the director of Robbin Balfour-Austin the church has choral ensembles that actually train the voices in the junior and youth choirs to master Negro Spirituals while traditional hymnody and contemporary gospel music into their services and programs. The Men’s Ensemble specializes in the classic gospel selections.
Eutha Kenner, a retired music teacher, leads a class in English hand bells. Choreographer Anne Rice-Burgess leads the relatively newer praise dance ministry. So, on a typical Friday evening one will hear the sounds of various choirs and ensembles, including the praise and worship team, resonating from the corner of Germantown Avenue and Upsal Street.
“We are one of the founding members of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Worship Empower and Rebuild),” Flores said. “When we held out assembly in North Philadelphia recently our drama team performed. I was able to deliver the keynote address. Many members of our ministries were in attendance.”
Second Baptist is always growing and evolving, according to Flores. For instance, at their Executive Council session held on Tuesday, May 7 they fine tuned their mission and value statement. It now has two primary points.
First, their mission is to share the good news and love of Jesus Christ with everyone and to invite all of God’s diverse family into a prayerful loving relationship with God, self and one another. Secondly, the church will model a loving, healthy, engaged, diverse, Christ-centered church that is growing spiritually and numerically, and reaching out locally and globally.
For Flores, having this expansive ministry is generational legacy. His father, the Rev. Aureliano Flores, is pastor emeritus of the Church of the Redeemer in Los Angeles. His brother the Rev. Dr. Paul Flores has taken over the helm of that church, while his brother Pastor David Flores is also a minister.
“We grew up knowing that we were all called to the ministry,” Flores said. “We were first generation Mexican American, bilingual and we weren’t Baptist. I developed a more African-American preaching style in seminary. Even with the last name Flores, many don’t realize I have a Hispanic (heritage) because they just tell me they think I’m light skinned.
“After I graduated from Princeton Seminary I was drawn to the American Baptist faith because of it is Christ-centered, biblically centered and committed to social justice. It is also a diverse denomination that embraces social consciousness exemplifying how Jesus had that love for all and concern for the poor, both the physically poor and the poor in spirit,” Flores said.
The Flores family also contributes to the life of Second Baptist. Deborah Flores serves at “the gatekeeper” of the congregation, according to its senior pastor. She is a kindergarten teacher at the Germantown Academy in North Philadelphia, so she is used to preparing youngsters for exclusive preparatory schools. She brings her educational prowess to Sunday School classes at the church.
Armida and Rachel Flores, who are 16 and 14 respectively, participate in the church choirs, serve as soloists, and participate in praise dancing. Thus, they are among the visible adolescents in many of the church’s many ministries.
“One of my recent social justice sermons was on making bricks out of straw,” said Ernest Flores, who is completing his doctorate at Eastern University. “There are many who are expecting inner city folks to make bricks and yet they are not providing the straw. People need education and they need jobs that pay enough to support a family. Yet there are those who will call those who are having hard times as lazy.
“They are really being like a modern pharaoh to the Hebrews. The lesson we can learn is that God was watching and that He will deliver His people. That’s why many are now being called to be the leaders that will change this system to make it more economically just for God’s people and all people. When Jesus came he actually changed the culture, and we are also called today to do that knowing that change is coming,” Flores said.
The pastor pointed out that though he has many educated professionals and working class families in his congregation who are doing well, there are also those who have higher degrees who have gotten devastating pink slips. So, the challenge is to create even more ministries to address distressed families from all walks of life.
To help the process, the church has recently ordained four female associate pastors, including the church’s first lady. They have interns who are reaching for ordination from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, the Palmer Theological Seminary and Flores’ alma mater, Princeton. They will be bringing home the point of social justice at their Youth Sunday on June 9 when youngsters will take over the pulpit and other portions of the worship service.
“This is a great, welcoming church,” Flores said. “Even if I was not the pastor this is the kind of church I would want to bring my family to. Like any church we are not perfect because I am not perfect, but we are all working for the glory of God. This is a place that the surrounding Mount Airy and Germantown community can be proud of because we embrace them all.”