Challenging all to be their best at special Mt Zion weekend
There was a Men's Day weekend at Mt Zion AME Church, Southampton differing from most in the past that traditionally set aside one day, a Sunday for special services.
The ‘Best Man Challenge' was the theme of the weekend. Rev Dr Mark Tyler, PhD, visiting with his wife from Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, challenged all, gender neutral, to be the ‘best' notwithstanding their circumstances. Drawing inspiration from 1 Samuel 13:14 the guest preacher cited how Joseph and Gideon, among others relied on God for direction and exhibited no fear when confronted with major challenges.
The energetic and innovative pastor of Mt Zion the Rev Dr Jahkimmo Smith, PhD, and his guest preacher evidently have much in common. Dr Tyler said the two of them share the same birth date. But he, Tyler got here first. He has the esteemed honour of serving as the 52nd pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia. That is the mother church established by Bishop Richard Allen, the former slave and Founder of the AME denomination.
Although this past weekend was the first extended stay in the island for Dr Tyler, he seemed to have come here tremendously ‘onionized'. He mentioned how his own academic life had been impacted by Bishop Anderson who became President of the World Council of Churches, with more than 560 members, representing 322.
Dr Tyler cited contacts in various ways with Bermudians during one of five pastorates, leading up to his present posting.
In a Black History Month feature in February, this writer Ira Philip related how Bishop Vinton Anderson's journey in the ministry began on a Palm Sunday in 1946. Anderson and yours truly being young Allen Temple Church activists and close friends attended the closing of the 60th Session of the Bermuda Annual Conference.
When the Presiding Prelate, Bishop RR Wright offered full scholarships to young men desirous of training at Wilberforce University. There were four respondents, Anderson, Philip, Cyril Butterfield and Wesley Wharton. Becoming aware that the training was for the ministry, Philip backed out, feeling he would have missed his true calling, as he was well on the road as a young Parliamentary Reporter for the Bermuda Recorder newspaper.
The others stayed the course, Wharton and Butterfield eventually becoming outstanding Presiding Elders in their respective regions.
This writer's ears pricked up as Dr Tyler discoursed Sunday at Mt Zion about how he became ‘onionized' (Ira's word) through the influences of Anderson and Wharton in particular; and others including a former pastor of Mt Zion, the late Rev Dr Larry Lowe; and several Bermudians worshipping at his church while attending the University of Miami in Ohio.
He related how Wharton had built an influential church in the city, but members always lamented that he did not complete its steeple. It was through an act of faith that Dr Tyler was most influential in recent years having that steeple finally built without cost to the congregation.
The weekend services at Mt Zion were highlighted by the church's Male Voice Choir, directed by Minister of Music Terry Henry singing like never before. One leader claimed the choir was the best, this side of heaven. During the Sunday services they were pitched by a remarkably gifted soloist, 13 year-old Angelis Hunt. He moved worshippers to their feet with his renditions. Angelis is considered to be blessed with a velvet voice, and is a youth showing tremendous promise for the future.
The afternoon service on Sunday was brought to a dramatic close, with educator Stanfield Smith, chairman of the Men's Day committee, thanking Dr Tyler and his wife for their inspiring participation throughout the weekend. With a signal to the Minister of Music, a Gombey tune with a religious beat struck up and two Gombey Dancers made their way down the aisle to the altar and put on an act which their elders would find hard to beat.
The dancers, aged four and five seemed to have the distinguished Dr and Mrs Tyler on the verge of getting into the act themselves. Mrs Tyler, however was presented with colourfully dressed ‘Gombey doll', with compliments of the Men of Mt Zion. She held it aloft, saying she will treasure it.