On Sunday, members of New Temple Baptist Church at 2633 Wharton St. welcomed the Rev. Luden Centeno of Jerusalem during their annual White Service.
“We have a young man who travelled 15 hours in a plane to tell us to spread the Word of God,” said Cynthia Jefferson long-time member of New Temple. “In Philadelphia we seem to be spreading everything [else]. I love my city, but I love God more. We need to tell young people to put the guns down and lift their hands up [to God]”
During the service, members welcomed the Jerusalem pastor whom Jefferson describes as an example of God’s transformative powers.
“He wasn’t always a preacher,” she said speaking of Centeno’s days before finding Christ. According to Jefferson, Centeno struggled with drugs while growing up in Philadelphia.
Stella Goodman has been a member of New Temple for over a decade and called Centeno “a wonderful man of God.”
“It’s a wonderful thing to gather our brothers and sisters in the house of the Lord and we strive to be a beacon on this corner, to invite lost souls in,” she said.
Bishop Edward Thomas, New Temple’s pastor, said the annual White Service was held in honor of members who have passed on to be with the Lord.
“We’ve been carrying this service in White for the last 30 years and we’re just so delighted to have this service,” said Thomas.
The service was called the “Candlelight and White” service in times past but later became simply known as the “White Service” because during the service Thomas said.
“Because we dress everything in white and we turn the lights out,” he said.
Thomas said the White Party originated with the late Gladys M. Gaddy and A.D. Williams, who began the annual services three decades ago.
Thomas said that Centeno has been in Philadelphia for nine weeks and during that time travelled and preached while worshipping at New Temple Baptist who decided to honor him during their annual White service.
“The theme of our program is ‘Jerusalem comes to Philadelphia’ and he comes all the way from Jerusalem, and we thank God for him,” Thomas said.
The welcome extended during this year’s White Service isn’t something that happens once a year but is extended to the surrounding community continuously, said New Temple member Vance Robinson.
“I would say that this is the type of church that people feel comfortable in and this is also a community helping church, we do anything we can to help the community and I think that’s a part of every church’s responsibility,” Robinson said.