Bishop continues family legacy

Bishop Andrew J. Ford, II.-- TRIBUNE PHOTO BY SHIRA YUDKOFF

Raised by the founders of Ford Memorial Temple Baptist Church, Bishop Andrew J. Ford II, was inspired by his parents’ determination and dream to start this church and provide a place of ministry to the community. Bishop Ford II is now the pastor of Ford Memorial and he is proud to continue his parents’ legacy.

“I think it’s an honor and privilege to carry on the legacy of my mother and father,” he said. “This is what they lived and possibly died for to build the church and help the people of the community — I count it as an honor and privilege of my mother and father.”

Bishop Andrew Ford Sr. and Elrita Ford started the church in 1953 and it was named Highway Christian Church of Christ at the time. The Fords started out small and moved from one location in North Philadelphia to another. They moved to their current location at 4301 Germantown Ave., around 1985. Shortly after, Elrita took sick and passed in 1990. Bishop Ford Sr. passed three years later.

As a way to memorialize the Fords, the congregation changed the name to “Ford Memorial Temple Baptist Church”. Growing up in the church and under the leadership of his parents’, Bishop Ford II always had a passion for music. Eventually his love for music connected to his calling to take leadership of Ford Memorial.

“Growing up in the church, of course one of the mandates of being a part of the Ford family household—and that was that I had to be in the church.” He said. “I always thought that this wasn’t something I saw myself doing in my future—it was also a mandate that we had to do something in music.”

As children, Bishop Ford II and his brother were heavily involved in music. Ford II was placed in the choir and eventually made choir director. As he began to make his mark in the music industry, he stated a record label named “Sweet Rain Records” in the late 70s. He kept it open for approximately 10 years and sold it after the passing of his mother. Bishop Ford II soon realized that his work in music would be connected for his passion in ministry.

“I didn’t know I was being prepared but that’s ultimately what happened, it was a tremendous journey but the lord is really blessed. Our choir is an award winning choir,” he said. “They’ve won, How Sweet the Sound, the Verizon choir competition.”

Bishop Ford II is also very proud of the outreach ministries hosted by Ford Memorial. Ford Memorial has a food and clothing distribution they do every month, which has served approximately 5,000 people over the years. Additionally, they have youth outreach programs and mentoring programs aimed at providing a space for the youth to talk out their everyday struggles. Their music program has allowed them the ability to travel.

“We’ve performed in Switzerland and in England, representing our church and our city,” Bishop Ford II said. “Also, we’re presently involved in the Interdenominational Crusade for Peace, an organization of pastors who have come together to combat the violence and murders in our city.”

With the goal to end violence and reach the community Bishop Ford II describes Ford Memorial’s service as “spirited” and “emotional.”

With one of their mottos “We don’t have church as usual, we have our usual church,” members of Ford Memorial aim to put their hearts in their service and work to uplift those in their presence. With a strong foundation in music, the music program maintains a strong presence throughout the church and is infused in many of the initiatives for outreach.

“Music is a very intricate part of any structural ministry. It is the forerunner of the word. We use music not to entertain but to really help people get into the worship and praise of our lord savior Jesus Christ,” Bishop Ford II said. “It prepares them for the word of God. As I tell them that, it is a preparation of the word that’s to come. Because I am musically inclined—it’s in every facet of our ministry.”

Ford Memorial consists of a diverse group of people stemming from all age groups and walks of life. Referenced as a “cross-section of people,” the congregation works to maintain their diversity and their church’s history with a few members who are still active from Ford Memorial’s founding. With a large number of youth and young adults, their demographic is ever-changing as members go off to college and return home.

From its founding from Bishop Andrew and Elrita Ford, to their son proudly leading the way, Ford Memorial aims to maintain a strong presence in the community and be a strong ministry for all those who come.

“We have a demographic of different age ranges. We’ve been able to co-exist in name of the lord,” Bishop Ford II said. “Our church is open to all people. We are a diverse church and we want everyone that wants to have a place of worship to come — we just know it’s going to be a blessing to all people that come.”

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