|Celebrating 100 Years of Service, Purpose, Pastors, and Progress|
|By Rosie M. Greggs, 1st Episcopal District|
While celebrating 100 years of our Church’s existence, the members of St. Luke African Methodist Church in Newark, New Jersey reflected on our past, celebrated our present, and looked forward in faith with great expectations to the future of our Church. In 1916, the Walsh Peterson family, who worshiped together regularly, saw a need for another AME Church in Newark. Brother Peterson gathered his family and a few other people together to meet with him on Broome Street where they worshiped faithfully and organized the Exodus AME Church. Later, Brother Peterson petitioned the New Jersey Conference for a minister, which led to Rev. W. C. McDonald becoming the first pastor.
Through the years, our faith in God and strong determination to remain a viable part of this spiritual community have led us through a name change, mortgage burning, ebbs and tides of membership, a burned down and rebuilt edifice, a total of 19 pastors, and many other faith-strengthening situations. Saint Luke has attracted some of the country’s most influential voices including Secretary Hillary Clinton, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and countless New Jersey governors and political officials. Singing sensation Dionne Warwick started her singing career at St. Luke AME Church under the tutelage of her grandfather and 12th pastor Rev. Elzae Warwick.
Under the leadership of current pastor, Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Hooper, we are focused on growing our congregation and are using The Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 as our theme, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Many activities have taken place during this year’s centennial celebration including a “Young Peoples Choir Reunion Kickoff Concert” in June where many members returned to fellowship. For the month of October, each Wednesday we held “Worship on Wednesday” and several pastors came during our “Fresh Fire Revival Series” to encourage us on our journey of spiritual preparation for the centennial celebration.
On Friday evening, October 22, we celebrated 100 years of service, purpose, pastors, and progress with a first-class Centennial Gala Affair at the Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel. Sister Brenda Lazier chaired this celebration and our Master of Ceremony was our very own Mr. Quinting Lacewell of Atlanta, Georgia. It was an affair to be remembered for a very long time. Over 230 people attended. Everyone was happy to see each other from far and near. Best of all, we all looked sparkly for this occasion! Our current pastor, the Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Hooper, presented Centennial Awards for outstanding services to three of our former pastors and their spouses: the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. John Gussie Ragin, retired Presiding Elder and our longest tenured pastor having served 29 years, Presiding Elder and Mrs. Howard L. Grant, and the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. James E. Deas, Sr. Current members, recent pastors, new members, former members, family, and friends all celebrated as one big family. We were favored with the presence of members of the Newark City Council, the mayor’s senior staff, and St. Luke member New Jersey Assemblywoman Blonnie R. Watson (29th District). We received a strong and powerful message from Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. Mayor Baraka explained that he and his administration needed the help of our churches in the fight for our young men in the streets.
On Sunday, October 16, 2016 Sister Joyce Clement, a member since the 1930s; Mr. Phil Murphy, Democratic Party candidate for Governor of New Jersey; his Chief of Staff, the Rev. Derrick L. Green; South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James; Central Ward Councilwoman Mrs. Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins; Chief of Staff, Ms. Cynthia Reese; and other dignitaries worshiped with us for our Centennial Worship Service. The Right Reverend Gregory G. M. Ingram, Presiding Prelate of the 1st Episcopal District delivered a rousing sermon from the 100th Psalm entitled, “Every Praise is to Our God!” When the doors of the church were opened, five promising new members joined our church for which we praise and thank God. Looking forward, we have our sights of faith set on higher heights of service in the Lord. We look back and savor the strength of our forefathers for it gives us the courage to push forward. By the grace of God, they make us who we are today and we are determined to run on and see what the Lord will do.