On Sunday, Grace Baptist Church of Germantown installed the Rev. James H. Buck Jr. as its 10th pastor in 125 years.
The church hosted two services to celebrate a pastor they anticipate will enhance their firm foundation in the community.
“We are just grateful to God for this experience. I’m grateful to God for this chance to serve at a historical church like this. They have had some of Black America’s greatest prophets to grace this pulpit — from the likes of Dr. Gardner Taylor and Dr. G. Daniel Jones, who was the past pastor here. A lot of people know about Dr. Jeremiah Wright Sr. and his son. But there have been other great preachers to come through here and share the Word of God and basically help mold, shape and build, not just this local congregation but this global congregation,” said Buck. “I’m not only excited but I’m looking forward to working with a congregation of that magnitude.”
Even as Pastor Buck sees himself following a line of great pastors, dozens of his peers and public officials lauded him as a leader that Grace can be excited to have within its walls.
At the Sunday morning service, prior to the afternoon installation, the Rev. Dr. Kenyatta R. Gilbert, an associate professor in Howard University’s Divinity School, advised the congregation that their new pastor is real in a modern day world of “Pinocchio” prophets.
“He’s teachable, he’s relatable. He’s candid. He’s passionate. And he is consistent,” said Gilbert. “Don’t place on him something you would not place on yourself. Speak the truth. Speak the truth to power. Speak the truth to love.”
Buck brings experience from a community activism standpoint, having led a North Philly church that partnered with a health clinic to provide affordable healthcare to people in need; a daycare “to aid mothers and fathers in the Philadelphia area”; and a pie company that provided jobs to returning citizens.
Throughout the afternoon installation service, he was recognized by his peers and public officials for his work ethic.
“He is very aggressive. He is a hard man to say no to,” said Sharon Powell-Lee, Senior Director of Governmental Affairs for Comcast. “He’s taking you to a new plateau.”
City Councilwoman Cindy Bass (D-8) described Buck as a man “that will not take ‘no’ for an answer.” And State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-200), whose district includes Grace, recalled that Buck, who began pastoring Grace three months ago, “came to my office with an agenda. He made it plain that he is here to serve you.”
Following these speakers was the Rev. Gus Roman who delivered a sermon, themed, “Advice for an Urban Pastor,” based out of Acts, chapter 20.
Pastor Buck begins his service at Grace with the “Mission Possible” vision, which focuses on “mission, evangelism, discipleship, stewardship and worship” and will include “leadership training, along with youth and young adult development for the future church.” Technology was also cited by Buck as a key area of development and the church has already begun “live streaming” its services. The immediate next steps are to streamline the ministries and make room for the root work.
“The urgency right now is making sure we tie up all our loose ends. We had healing services this week to try and help us move forward. The next thing is to do a mini audit and look and see what ministries are relevant and what ministries are not relevant. After that, we will deal with leadership and discipleship teaching,” said Buck. “This congregation is not only seeking to strengthen the community, but strengthen the individual. We are not afraid to deal with those complicated issues. We are not afraid to deal with the issues that people take their hands out of.”
Deacon Clifford L. Stanley, the chair of the pastoral selection committee, oversaw three years of searching for Grace’s pastor. He said there were several factors that the church considered when selecting Buck.
“We were looking for somebody with a strong Scriptural and spiritual foundation that could not only attract the younger people, but also address the intergenerational [congregation]. Preaching the Word is important, but also being able to teach,” said Stanley. “We had well over 50 that applied but he was the best. He was smart, down to earth, passionate and considerate.”
Stanley added that he looks forward to Buck “taking us in the the 21st century [and] getting us out of doing things because they are routine.”
Jacqueline Garden-Marshall, a member since 1983, agreed.
“I love him because he is very alive and he’s not going back to 1940 and 1950,” she said. “He has a vision for us in the 21st century. He sees we need to come out of our comfort zone and be true to our motto, not just in the community but seeking the community’s heart.”