Salem Baptist Church in Roslyn

Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown is now Salem Baptist Church. The church has moved to Roslyn. — PHOTO: Abdul R. Sulayman

Regular readers of my column recognize that I make every effort to highlight memories of holidays on or around the time they fall on the calendar each year. In the spirit of this practice, today being Easter Sunday, I turn to my memories of Easters of the past.

Interestingly, this Easter Sunday is quite different than in past years for a very special reason. It is an Easter Sunday that I will remember for the rest of my life. You see, back on Jan. 21, 2017, my column, “What’s up with Salem Baptist Church,” focused on a dream that is a reality this Easter Sunday.

As you may not recall this column, I invite you to Google it or look it up at www.phillytrib.com in the Lifestyles section. In this column, I continued my annual criticism of Black folk and their failure to move forward to take advantage of Dr. Martin Luther King’s efforts to provide more economic freedom. I repeated a theme that has run through most of my MLK-related columns: Nothing is more embarrassing than Black folk celebrating King’s birthday in White owned and operated venues. I indicated that I had not planned to participate in the MLK activity, of my church that year, because of the location of the event. I changed my mind! My decision to attend my church’s annual MLK luncheon was motivated solely by the desire to support my church. However, as indicated in that Jan. 21st column, while sitting in the banquet hall of Presidential Caterers in East Norriton, where our MLK luncheon was held in 2017, I was aware of some things that had been brought to the attention of a few members that caused me to realize that this might be the last time my church’s annual MLK affair would be held in a non-Black-owned facility.

Yes, it was the last time because what I had heard back in 2017 regarding my church has become a reality. For on this Easter Sunday, I gather with other members of Salem Baptist Church and visitors as we move in a much-needed direction of religious expansion, economic security and economic independence.

On this Easter Sunday, we are worshiping in our new sanctuary on Woodland Road in Roslyn, Pa. Since our first worship service was held in our new sanctuary last week, on Palm Sunday with many worshipers, I anticipated celebrating Easter Sunday in this spacious sanctuary with many more members, visitors and amenities.

The celebration of Easter in our new home is enhanced by many aspects of this new location: the marble floors; the beautiful music from a state of the art organ; more than 600 parking spaces, which will eliminate frustrations caused by seeking parking before service; adequate space for comfortable seating; sufficient restrooms; a huge banquet hall for receptions and other gatherings; 10 acres of land which will allow for outdoor activities and events such as the Easter Egg Hunt held this past Saturday. Additionally, having a football field, being a PAL location, housing an autism school, a day-care facility, a dance studio, a movie venue and other income-generating facilities make opportunities to serve a reality.

Eventually, we look forward to opening our own facility where breakfast and brunch can be served before and after worship service. Yes, these aspects and much more are bringing the dreams of our ancestors to reality.

So, this Easter Sunday my aged memories of Easter Sundays will now be tied to this very special Easter Sunday. It will be very special in the life of my church for the visions and the sacrifices made by our congregation over the years. The roots of these dreams were planted, back in the day.

Being in a new sanctuary might enhance the significance of Easter; the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, I suspect that our new sanctuary will heighten the significance of Easter. For sure, as I sit in our new facility, I will reflect on the traditions of Easter Sundays of the past that I shared with Salem members, family and friends. In fact, being in this new sanctuary will result in a greater focus on my Easter memories of the past. I can imagine that I will look at where we are as a church family today and where we were in the past as a church family. Judging from the full sanctuary last week, on Palm Sunday, I suspect that we will have many members and visitors on this Easter Sunday.

There will be some in attendance that my pastor refers to as “EMC” churchgoers. Perhaps you will also see some of them in your church today. These are the people that make every effort, perhaps the only effort during the year, to be in church on Easter, Mother’s Day and Christmas.

The spiritual aspect of Easter has been and will always be paramount in my mind on this special day and I am certain that aspects of today’s service, in a new sanctuary, will make it even more special. Sitting in this new sanctuary will cause me to think back to the huge Easter sunrise services held at Franklin Field many years ago that involved most of the major area churches.

Perhaps some of you recall going to one of these services at 5 o’clock on Easter Sunday morning and then leaving to go to your own church for Easter Sunday worship activities. Unlike in the past, I did not look forward to getting a new outfit this year. Nor, will I have a desire to take a trip to Fairmount Park and a trip to my neighborhood photography shop where my picture was taken in my “Easter best?”

The days of a new Easter outfit and neighborhood photography shops have long disappeared. Yet, like some of you, as I wait for Easter service to begin, I will think about those photographs displayed on the walls or placed on tables in my home. For some of you, those photos may have found a place on a mantle or hanging above a fireplace.

Many photographs taken at the penny arcades, where many of us once traveled on Easter Sunday afternoons, have not survived. But I will retain memories of the penny arcades; safe places, where we could have much fun without spending what little change we had on Easter Sundays, back in the day.

My mind will occasionally drift to other memories of the past, as I sit and wait, during the baptism of approximately 20 new members on this Easter Sunday. Salem members, like members in most churches, have their favorite places to sit. I know that after locating my desired new pew, I will look around our new sanctuary and envision the area where some of our members sat in our old sanctuary and where they would have likely sat in our new sanctuary. Unfortunately, many of these members are no longer with us; I wish that they were here to witness this transition. There is no doubt that they would be extremely proud of our growth and more importantly, the togetherness of our members after many challenges and disappointments.

I suspect that our new place of worship, with much optimism in the air, will make me resurrect memories of my fondness for Easter baskets and jelly beans. I have enjoyed Easter baskets on many occasions over the years and still look forward to jelly beans, my favorite Easter candy. Some members recognize my love for jelly beans and will continue the tradition of bringing me bags as they locate me in my seat in our new sanctuary. I will undoubtedly close my eyes and think about my mother, boiling water and pouring the water into separate cups to dye the boiled eggs.

Then, there will be memories of the Easter dinners that were traditional in most households in the past. Some of you remember that following all of the hustle and bustle that accompanied Easter, most of us returned home, where the family gathered for the traditional Easter dinner. Some of you will continue this practice today. We realize that moving into a new sanctuary does not mean we do away with the family traditions of the past.

I am sure you recall those occasions with every member of the family sitting down for dinner with no one being excused. The meals on this holiday varied from household to household. However, one thing that appeared on most tables, back in the day, was the traditional baked ham.

Going to church was once “very big” in Black communities. I believe this practice would serve us well today to help reestablish a strong value system and to show love and respect for one another.

I will proudly participate in Easter services at Salem Baptist Church in Roslyn, Pa., this year. I am sure to have vivid flashbacks to those practices from my Easter Sundays of the past. This Easter Sunday will also set the stage for me to imagine Easter Sundays in years to come because of our presence in this new edifice. This Easter Sunday will remind us of what we can do in January 2020 to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, in a place of our own; a thought I had just a few years ago but whose roots were sown on Division Street in 1884 in Jenkintown, Pa., back in the day.

Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at backintheday@phillytrib.com or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146

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