The 185th celebration of the Brooklyn Sunday School Union Anniversary Day Parade held on June 5, 2013, a non attendance day for all public school children in Brooklyn and Queens, is now a tradition in transition. Some traditions withstand the test of time. Those which survive usually undergo a series of challenges; a period of highs and lows, and their survival is attributed to the solid foundation on which they are built.
The committed faithful continue to march through the hustling and bustling Brooklyn streets, year after year. The parade route is now shorter and the spectators are fewer, but many constants still remain. These are the NYPD escorts, marching bands, drummers, banners and church folks from prominent historical churches such as, The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Bridge Street AME Church, Bethany Baptist Church, Brown Memorial and Cornerstone Baptist Church, all paving the way with salutations. Many church leaders lament the dwindling number of participants in the parade but there is still an overwhelming sense of purpose, praise and perseverance.
Bryan Kearse, President of the Brooklyn Sunday School Union believes that the decrease in attendance is due to the “ changing of the guards at other churches.” He says that the union must create new recruitment efforts. Wayne Vaughan, superintendent of the Concord Baptist Church Sunday School, believes that teacher training and joint fellowships among churches will help improve membership, but he also stresses the social connection which must be addressed though tackling the social issues in the communities and even a Rights of Passage for youths, as a pathway to recruiting new Sunday school members. Although some congregations are not as supportive as they should be, Rev. Dr. Payton, assistant pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, says that he will continue to do his part to increase participation. He does not see a crisis; he sees opportunity.
The Brooklyn Sunday School Union is now struggling and all agree that this tradition of churches celebrating Anniversary Day must be passed on from generation to generation. Brooklyn is known as the “Borough of Churches,” and the implementation of new concepts should bear fruit. Attendance at next year’s parade will be the proof.