It is often said that “necessity is the mother of invention” and so, on Friday, July 5, the basketball court at Lenox Road Baptist Church in Brooklyn was transformed into what has been described as a “Wonderland of Gold,” with a touch of purple decorated for royalty.
The occasion was the grand celebration of the 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary of Jamaican-born Ruel and Eudel Wallace.
The couple migrated from Kingston, the Jamaican capital, in 1985 and have settled in Brooklyn ever since.
Since migrating to the US, the Wallaces said they have made Lenox Road Baptist Church their “church-home” and are very active in various ministries in the church, including the marriage ministry.
The celebration was co-hosted by the couple’s youngest son, Lenworth Wallace, and Hyacinth Robinson-Goldson, Mrs. Wallace’s sister.
During the cocktail hour, guests were entertained by saxophonist Allan Brown, a member of the church.
“Though partially impaired, his mastery of all genres of music was evident and enjoyed by the 250 guests, with rounds of applause, and other gestures of appreciation,” Robinson-Goldson told Caribbean Life. “Some were swaying and singing along in nostalgic harmony.”
She said the program began with Mr. Wallace’s “grand entrance,” escorted by two of his daughters, Michelle Knight and Jacqueline Wallace, both teachers in Kingston.
James Knight, Jr., one of the grandsons, preceded Mrs. Wallace, who was escorted by Lenworth, a former teacher of Wolmer’s Girls School in Jamaica.
During the “Rededication of Love Ceremony,” the Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick Cohall, senior pastor of the church, reminded the couple of “How special they were of God’s gift to each other” and that “their lives have touched many through their ability to navigate the ups and downs of life”, according to Robinson-Goldson.
She said Dr. Cohall offered the couple a special meal of the “Loving Cup,” which he said symbolized spiritual food for the next leg of their journey, committing them into “God’s continued care and protection”
In bringing pastoral greetings, First Lady Minister Sophia Cohall said “how proud and blessed” they were “to have such a fine example of two people committed to each other and to God working with the Marriage Ministry of the church.”
She thanked them for their selflessness and their Christian examples of love, as written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: “Love is kind, love is patient, love is not boastful…”
First Lady Cohall told the couple, based on the support of family and friends at the gala event, that “you came from good stock.”
Robinson-Goldson said her daughter, Millicent Bailey, coordinated and produced the celebration as a gift to the Wallaces, who she calls “mom and dad.”
Bailey said the couple “have been there as a part of the village since my childhood.”
“This is my special gift to them on this special milestone”, she said after offering a tribute in dance to the song “Our Love” by Natalie Cole.
After the sumptuous dinner, Minister Carlyle Johnson, complemented by two sisters from the church choir, sang “My Tribute” from the album “Keep on Singing” by Grammy Awardee and gospel singer Andre Crouch.
Keneshia Maxwell also gave a tribute in spoken word, modeling her inspirational writing from Toni Morrison, renowned American novelist, essayist and professor emeritus at Princeton University.
“Keneshia took the audience on a journey of sultry, passionate, religious, rhythmic, and vivid imagination through the 50-year journey, stating how she, ‘as a young black woman, has been empowered by their true demonstration and good examples,’” Robinson-Goldson said.
The Men’s Chorus of Lenox Road Baptist Church paid tribute with “Sometimes it takes a Mountain,” a song popularized by the Gaither Vocal Band.
Michelle, Jacqueline and grand-daughter Shari also entertained with a medley of songs in “gospel-reggae.”
Jacqueline McFarlane — sister of the Rev. Karl Henlin, of the Gregory Park Baptist Church, in St. Catherine, Jamaica, where the family worshipped prior to migrating to the United States — read a tribute from Rev. Henlin and his wife, Lisa.
Robinson-Goldson said a family tribute by Salome Graham, sister of the bride, who resides in Jamaica, “brought the house down.”
“Unlike the other tributes, hers was given as poetry in the style of the famous and iconic folklorist extraordinaire of Jamaica, the late Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverly,” Robinson-Goldson said.
“In Jamaica, whenever the oldest one leaves the country-side for greener pastures in Kingston, all the others follow,” Robinson-Goldson quoted Graham as saying, periodically breaking out in Jamaican dialect. “When the bed can’t hold everybody, some sleep on the floor, some sleep on bed, and some even on chairs.”
Others who paid tribute included Rashford Mendez, friend of the family; Marcia Robinson, daughter of the late Rev. James H. Robinson, oldest brother of the Robinsons; niece Lorna Elliott; nephew Leacroft Legister; Vanica Robinson-Smith, Mrs. Wallace’s sister; and Rafael Gill, Mrs. Wallace’s supervisor.
Gill spoke of Mrs. Wallace’s “commitment, dedication, and detail she gives to the special needs children she serves daily on the job”, according to Robinson-Goldson.
“Mrs. Wallace is one of my best employees,” Gill said.
Overwhelmed with emotions, Mr. Wallace thanked all on behalf of his wife, stating “three years ago, Millicent said ‘Mom and Dad, I would like to give you a special gift for your 50th Wedding Anniversary.’”
“Tonight, she gave us a present wrapped up in gold fit for royalties,” he said.
“It is truly a blessing to have such a group of family and friends,” he added. “And, after 50 years, we are not standing by our own strength but (by) the strength of the Almighty.
“I promise to keep this treasure, this golden lady of my life wrapped up in a box with a special lock and key, but making the walls transparent so that the world can see the beauty that lies in her,” continued Mr. Wallace, referring to his wife.
In quoting Ellen G. White, the late author and an American Christian pioneer, Mr. Wallace said: “Life is chiefly made up, not of great sacrifices and wonderful achievements, but of little things.
“It is oftenest through the little things which seem so unworthy of notice that great good or evil is brought into our lives. It is through our failure to endure the tests that come to us in little things, that the habits are molded, the character misshaped; and when the greater tests come, they find us unready,’” he added. “’Only by acting upon principle in the tests of daily life can we acquire power to stand firm and faithful in the most dangerous and most difficult positions.’”
The couple then echoed in unison: “To God be the Glory.”
The Rev. Sharon Downer, assistant pastor at the Lenox Road Baptist Church, closed the spiritually-filled gala affair with prayer, Robinson-Goldson said.