Brooklyn Methodist church celebrates 133rd anniversary

Anniversary Choir wears pink ombre and sings “My Help” by composer Bam Crawford. The performance was directed by Sis. Barbadian Sophia Eversley, with Sis Trinidadian Patricia Senhouse as soloist.
Anniversary Choir wears pink ombre and sings “My Help” by composer Bam Crawford. The performance was directed by Sis. Barbadian Sophia Eversley, with Sis Trinidadian Patricia Senhouse as soloist.
Gillian Prince

Fenimore Street United Methodist Church, on the corner of Fenimore Street and Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn, celebrated its 133rd anniversary in grand style, during its Worship Service, on Sunday, Oct. 23.
According to Shanae Als, the daughter of Barbadian immigrants, who’s a member of the church’s Media Ministry, the celebratory worship began with the triumphant hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, and welcomed “back home” the Rev. Dr. Ian Straker – son of Jamaican-born, the late C. Yvonne Straker – who delivered the sermon.
The Anniversary Service, part of a month-long cerebration, was preceded by a “Grab & Go” Luncheon and Anniversary Hour of Praise.
Staying true the church’s motto, “Loving God and Loving People,” Als said extant pastor, the Rev. Roger Jackson, a native African American New Yorker, who grew up in Queens, led the congregation in the litany, “proclaiming that, for 133 years God has nurtured and fed us, shown us His grace, given Himself in word and sacrament, empowered us with His holy spirit and placed us in loving fellowship with one another.”
Als told Caribbean Life over the weekend that the Anniversary Hymn, “O God our Help in Ages Past”, was followed by Praise and Worship songs: “I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me”; “Welcome Into This Place”; “Oh, Magnify the Lord”; and “You Are Alpha and Omega.”
She said the Dance Ministry rendered “a powerful performance” of “I’ve Got the Victory” by Yolanda Adams, with the Mission Statement being recited.
In preceding the sermon, Als said the Anniversary Choir – directed by Barbadian-born Sis. Sophia Eversley, and wearing pink ombré to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month – delivered “a heavenly” rendition of “My Help” by composer Bam Crawford.
Introduced by Rev. Jackson, Rev. Straker, who holds a doctorate in American Religious History from Princeton University, preached on “Journey to the Land of the Giants” that was grounded in scripture verses from Numbers, Philippians and Luke.

Rev. Roger Jackson accepts a citation from Malcolm McDaniel, representative from the Office of Mayor Eric Adams.
Rev. Roger Jackson accepts a citation from Malcolm McDaniel, representative from the Office of Mayor Eric Adams. A. Francilia Johnson

He said growing doesn’t have to, and often doesn’t, happen, stating that we “must pass through wilderness to get to the Promised Land.
“Land of giants, we are never going to live there,” said Dr. Straker, who also earned a Master of Divinity Degree from the Yale Divinity School in 1985 before pursuing a year-long residency in hospital chaplaincy at Yale New Haven Hospital, while completing five years of service as an associate pastor of the Black Church at Yale. “The way forward seemed impossible.
“Caleb and Joshua knew that their strength was dependent on God,” added Dr. Straker, who has pastored United Methodist churches in Mount Vernon, Yonkers and Brooklyn. “If they were about God’s business, God would have you back.
“When you look back at our shift from rural to urban, this church had to adjust, and it was a challenge,” continued Dr. Straker, who has taught courses in African American religious history and African religions at Barnard and Haverford Colleges, and Princeton and Wesleyan Universities, in addition to the Union Theological Seminary, the Howard University School of Divinity and the Samuel Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.
In reflecting on the history of Fenimore Street United Methodist Church, Rev. Straker said the ethnic composition changed in the 60s and 70s, and that previous churches didn’t survive.
“A new time, a new challenge, find a way to deal with giants,” he urged. “Are you up to the task? Our God is able, and we can keep on keeping on.”
Rev. Straker – who is currently completing a full-length biography of the early American Methodist preacher, Freeborn Garrettson, while working with the Rev. Dr. James A, Forbes, Jr., as a staff member of the Healing of the Nations Foundation – noted that the community made it through the flu and COVID-19 pandemics, essentially inferring that no task is too big for God.
“Fenimore can blaze the way for all of us to make it through” [and to] “continue [our] celebration, continue on the journey with the help of God, knowing that, if we continue to partner with God, we will be able to journey through the land of the giants and beyond,” said Dr. Straker, a member of the editorial board of Methodist History, in his sermon that was well received, according to Als.

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (9th District of New York) extending greetings.
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (9th District of New York) extending greetings. A. Francilia Johnson

She said Honorary Fenimorian and Congressional Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants – who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn – shared greetings on behalf of her office and from her mother Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the trail-blazing first Caribbean-born woman to serve on New York City Council.
“Out of sight is not out of mind”,” said the congresswoman, the only African American woman serving in the New York congressional delegation, stating that the work her mother currently does is “out of the village that raised her.”
The younger Clarke said “Mother Una and C. Yvonne Straker were running buddies back in the day.”
Als said Clarke’s Director of Constituent Services Rachelle O’Neil presented the church with a proclamation; and Malcolm McDaniel, from the Office of Mayor Eric Adams, also presented the church with a celebratory decree.
Since October was Pastors’ Appreciation Month, Als said Pastor Jackson and First Lady Kim Fowler-Jackson were presented with gifts from Anniversary Committee member Belizean Barbara Moody.
“We are learning everyday why God placed you here,” said Moody tersely.
Als said among the pioneers acknowledged were Dr. Marguerite Thompson, “who ensures that our history up-to-date”; and Bro. Lester Jack and Sis. Muriel Johnson.

Doreen Thomas, Anniversary Committee, co-chair.
Doreen Thomas, Anniversary Committee, co-chair. A. Francilia Johnson

Anniversary Co-Chair Jamaican Doreen Thomas extended “greetings of sincere thanks” on behalf of Committee Chair Trinidadian Marlene Ferguson.
“We are on a journey and, with God ‘s help, we will continue and get there; and you will be with us as well,” said Thomas, alluding to the sermon.
She subsequently told Caribbean Life: On behalf of the Anniversary Committee, we thank everyone for coming out to celebrate this special event and especially welcome Rev. Straker to his home church.”

First Lady Kim Fowler-Jackson accepts a gift from the Anniversary Committee.
First Lady Kim Fowler-Jackson accepts a gift from the Anniversary Committee. nA. Francilia Johnso

Other invited worshippers included members of Lenox Road and Mt. Lebanon Baptist churches; and Vanderveer Park, St. Mark’s and St. Paul’s United Methodist churches.
“We may not have got all we wanted, but we got all we need,” said Rev. Jackson, who, prior coming to Fenimore Street United Methodist Church, served as senior pastor of the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in East Flatbush.
He thanked the committee and all service participants, and extended an invitation for those who do not have a church home to join Fenimore Street United Methodist Church, because “we do not have any perfect people here, but we are doing our best to love another.”
He also thanked his Brother-in-Christ, Rev. Straker, to whom he had extended an invitation to speak at last year’s anniversary service.
According to the church’s history, Fenimore United Methodist Church of Flatbush was organized “out of the first Methodist Episcopal Church on Lenox Road and Flatbush Avenue and was incorporated on Aug. 20, 1889.”
The church was formally admitted to the New York East conference in April 1890 and dedicated in May 1890.
“Despite our many challenges, Fenimore Street United Methodist Church, through its past and present ministers, we have been able to stand as a beacon of hope and love at the corner of Rogers and Fenimore Street,” said the church in a statement.

 

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