On Sunday, September 20, I performed with the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn Choir at First Congregation Church in Stamford, Connecticut. Reverend Dr. Cari Jackson, a previous interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church, was being installed as the Senior Pastor at First Congregation Church. It meant a lot for our choir to sing at her installation in Connecticut because she had been at our church for over 2 years and we all had a special bond with her. Pastor Cari has a way with words. Her sermons are so easy to relate to, you would think she was speaking to you personally. All kinds of people, young and old, all from diverse backgrounds, could relate to her words. It's amazing, actually, how well she could speak about God and his existence in our life. One phrase that she always closed with us was, "God is as close as your very breath. Breathe deeply and know that God's presence is with you".
Pastor Cari is not your typical pastor. She is a black, female, lesbian reverend who holds not only a Ph.D., but also a law degree. She is a lover of words and she writes poems when she is not preaching. The choir rode in a bus to the church in Connecticut and it took a little over an hour to get there. It was fun riding together in anticipation of the service. We really didn't know what we were getting into; we didn't know how the other church would be or how they would react to us. The First Congregation Church was established 365 years ago, in 1635. They had years and years of white pastors at the church. This service would be the first time that they had a Black, female, and gay pastor installed as Senior Pastor. It was truly a historic service. Read the press release.
During the service, we sang "Come, Let Us Worship the Lord", "No Ways Tired", "Order My Steps", and a few other hymns. I co-lead "Order My Steps" with Bertilla Baker, a great singer and actress. Bertilla has been a lead singer for the choir for many years and is a beloved member of the church. LaChanze FordJour was at the service and performed a song. She was the winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a musical for her role of Celie in the Broadway Musical, The Color Purple. She performed, "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me" and it was excellent! Her voice was so full and dynamic and she really connected to the song. Also, after the service, LaChanze and her husband, Derek Fordjour, both complimented me on my performance of "Order My Steps". They were both really impressed at my delivery of the song. It was nice to get such a compliment from LaChanze.
Overall, the service was a real success. Pastor Cari got the recognition and celebration that she deserved. First Congregation Church is entering a new chaptor by installing Pastor Cari and are headed towards real change. In the history books of First Congregation Church, installing Pastor Cari was like the inauguration for President Obama. I am glad that I was able to witness such a great historic event.