Fenimore church celebrates Black History Month

Praise Team sings “There’s a Spirit in this Place.”
Photo by Nelson A. King

Parishioners and visitors at the predominantly Caribbean Fenimore Street United Methodist Church in Brooklyn were treated on Sunday to an exhilarating all-day celebration marking Black History Month.

Commencing with a near-four-hour-long Worship Service in the church’s sanctuary, the celebration culminated with a cultural package in the Fellowship Hall that spanned almost three hours, as congregants and guests feasted on Caribbean, African and African American delicacies, and were enthralled by speeches, singing, dancing and drumming, among other things, reflective of Black’s heritage.

The Cultural Committee, headed by retired Trinidadian Registered Nurse Marlene Ferguson, also honored church members, Jamaican mother and daughter Lola Clark and Diane Mitchell; Trinidadian Brenda Hutto-Lucas; and African Americans Dr. Marguerite Thompson and Mildred Hurlock.

Fenimore Street United Methodist Church, on the corner of Fenimore Street and Rogers Avenue, is considered a mini United Nations, with members from several Caribbean countries, as well as from countries in Central and South America and Africa.

With a sampling of African Americans, Vincentians, Jamaicans, Barbadians and Guyanese, however, predominate.

“We are kings and queens, princes and princesses,” said the church’s African American pastor, the Rev. Dr. Maxine Nixon, during the closing ceremony. “We thank you for coming out. We had a preaching sermon to remind us of who we were and whose we are.

“We not only had a good time; we went to Motown, to Huntington Playhouse,” she added. “Tell your neighbor we are in this church for a purpose.”

During the Worship Service, Jamaican-born guest preacher, pastor Audley Allen, associate pastor of the Community Worship Center for the 7th Day Adventist Church in Queens, told congregants that “whatever our creed or color, we came from a generous God.”

Preaching on the topic, “We are Still Here”, Pastor Allen said that “if you stand out and claim your Royal Heritage, you’ll be stigmatized and demonized,” but he added: “We are made in the image of God.

“However God made you, that’s beauty,” he affirmed. “However God made you, you’re beautiful.

“You are more that what people may see of you; you are a child of God,” he added. “God has given you love and power and a sound mind. Creative impulses are tingling in your body.

“You’re a royal priesthood, a peculiar people,” Pastor Allen continued. “Reclaim your royal highness. Preach the gospel of spiritual and social liberty. We’re royal.”

Rev. Nixon agreed, stressing at the end of Pastor Allen’s message that “we’re a royal people. We have a Royal Heritage.

“We came out of Africa, and we’re proud of it,” she said. “We have royal blood in us. No matter what people say about you, you are royal. We’re kings and queens.”

New York City Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene, the Haitian-born representative for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn, urged congregants, in brief remarks, to continue to fight for the realization of the dream of slain African American civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It is the spirit of God that we have come so far,” he said. “[For] our friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, it was the spirit of God that motivated him.

“There are people who are retired, and they cannot afford to live,” he added. “But we have to continue to fight what Martin Luther King started, and others. I am Black and I am proud, and I will continue to fight.”

The service was punctuated with a liturgical dance by the church’s youthful dance troupe, and singing by the Mass Choir and Praise Team, as well as by Sharlene Etienne, “one of the song birds” at Pastor Allen’s church.

The Mass Choir led the congregation with “We Come This Far by Faith,” “I Want to be Ready,” and “I’m Gonna Sing and Shout” and Etienne belched out “A the Midnight Cry” just before Pastor Allen delivered his message.

The Praise Team prepared the congregation for the jubilant celebration with, among others, “There’s a Spirit in This Place,” “Steal Away,” “I Got My Mind Made Up” and “I am Under the Rock.”

The congregation was also treated to a “Black History Moment” in which the brief biographies two prominent African Americans were read by two members: Marie M. Daly (1921–2003), who is best known for being the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States, was born on April 16, 1921, in Queens.

The other, the popular Oprah Winfrey, is a billionaire media executive and philanthropist, talk show host and actress.

Winfrey, who was born in 1954 in the rural town of Kosciusko, Miss., and moved to Baltimore in 1976, is renowned for being the host of her own, wildly popular program, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which aired for 25 seasons, from 1986 to 2011. In 2011, Winfrey launched her own TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

In the sanctuary and Fellowship Hall, congregants were also entertained by breath-taking musical performances by Trinidadian Ricardo St. Louis on the harmonica (mouth organ), who was accompanied by Guyanese Menes de Griot on drums.

St. Louis played several popular negro spirituals, such as “Kum ba ya,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Rob Fields, president and executive director of the Weeksville Heritage Center, gave terse remarks on the historic site on Buffalo Avenue, between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The center is dedicated to the preservation of Weeksville, one of America’s first free black communities during the 19th century.

Dr. Thompson, whose late husband was Guyanese, summarized the church and celebration’s history.

And after presentations by Eric Frazier and Dancers and Frances Irving on the saw, Dr. Patrine Simmonds brought the house down with soul-searching renditions of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Praise God, Praise God.”

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