Piney Grove Baptist Church, a staple in the community, has been a prominent force in the community for over 33 years. Throughout the years, Piney Grove has not only been a place of worship to many but also a resource.
In addition to their sanctuary, Logan Elementary School sits directly across the street-facing North 17th Street from the church and daycare located just right of the church.
The Rev. Robert Paul is the fifth pastor of Piney Grove Baptist.
“God has blessed us immensely. My wife and I have 53 years of marriage and 33 years of pastoring Piney Grove Baptist,” Paul said. During his time at the church, the reverend has added two daycare buildings and a rental property he says has helped the church to grow ‘immensely’.
The Coronavirus has forced PineyGrove to operate differently for the past months including, howPaul conducts funerals.
“We had our first COVID funeral,” said Paul, who called this an unusual time. “We brought the body in and it was viewing only in the sanctuary. We left out the sanctuary. We headed over to the schoolyard and had a beautiful, large homegoing service in the schoolyard. We had a coffin in the schoolyard.”
According to Reverend Paul, only immediate family members were allowed to enter the church for the viewing, which concluded a total of 20 people.
“About 20 people were inside only for the closing. When the coffin was closed, the funeral director took the coffin out the door, wheeled it to the center of the schoolyard, and there the family had two great big tents set up. We observed the social distancing,” Paul added. Our door attendees for the funeral totaled over 100 people.
Paul recognizes that his church does things differently due to COVID, but service times added weekly to accommodate the growth and needs of Piney Grove. Cindy Davis, a member of Piney Grove for the past 17 years attending, pastor’s pre-recording on Friday to get a jump start on hearing ‘The Word’.
A resident of North Philadelphia, Davis enjoys being able to watch service live stream.
“We can still get the word and if the pastor isn’t there he gets the youth pastor to share the word also,” said Davis. She relies on one of Paul’s favorite teachings, John 3:16, to get through the pandemic. “This gets me through my day-to-day believing and understanding how God died for my sins. I’m grateful.”
Paul read and preached Joel 2:25-27. “And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten,” Paul shouted. ”God never winks at sin. Sin must always be dealt with. The old testament is also applicable to the new testament.”
Paul reminded his congregation that he didn’t always live the way he lives today.
One person who has helped Paul sustain the church and living a more fulfilling life is his wife, Sister Joyce Paul. Sister Paul, the administrative coordinator for the church, has found her passion for not only being the pastors wife but also the chairperson for the Sisterhood Fellowship.
According to a study conducted in 2017 by The Centers for American Progress, nearly two-thirds of mothers are breadwinners and Black and Latino’s mothers were primary, sole, or co-breadwinners.
Sister Paul believes that her calling is to spiritually fuel the women of her church. ”If they have the word of God, it will most certainly keep them strong, ” Paul said.
Paul has started a card ministry, something she calls minimal.
She sends out greeting cards especially on birthdays, with a monetary gift of $5. ”And this is her own money, ” Paul professes. ”The Lord gave me that during the pandemic, and it’s working wonderfully, ” added Sister Paul. The Sisterhood Group gathered together via Zoom to enjoy an online ’QuaranTime’ call where they focused on God’s timing for their life.
When asked why Paul did not leave Piney Grove during the strike of the pandemic, Sister Paul answered the Rev. Paul would not have it any other way.
He said that due to the coronavirus his membership has grown. ”Piney Grove is a community church, and we have the heart of God, and we must help our brothers and sisters all the ways that we can,” he said.
And by helping, Paul is not referring to just spiritually. The church had a benevolent offering to members who need help financially.
Paul, also a recruiting officer for The Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 19. said the union has relied on his church to provide backpacks and supplies to students at Logan Middle School. Paul was one of the first Blacks who came into the Union. Although Paul is retired, he decided to volunteer his time to the Union recruiting. Paul plans on opening Piney Grove Baptist Church up by the end of the year, but before members come back, he plans on deep cleaning the church.