Feature

It Started in a Tent . . .

And 90 years later, the church thrives

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In the thunderous recording of “Upon this Rock,” Sandi Patti belts out the lyrics that perfectly describe Clarendon Road Alliance Church in Brooklyn, New York: “Upon this rock I’ll build My Kingdom/And on this rock forever and ever it shall stand.” Clarendon Road has been standing as a towering testimony of a mighty rock of faith for 90 years, making it one of the oldest African-American churches in the C&MA.

In July 2012, the church recognized this momentous milestone with a dynamic Big Apple–style celebration. There is indeed a time for everything—and it was a time to celebrate. The Saturday night banquet was elegant and reflective, attended by church members, government officials, Alliance officials and community well-wishers. The Sunday worship was powerful and full of promise for 90 more years of dedicated ministry. The choir was swaying, the congregation was waving and the Spirit of the Lord was in the place. Older congregants testified about God’s goodness of yesterday, and new congregants caught the vision of tomorrow.

The church began as a result of the great tent revivals in New York City during the summer of 1922. In May 1925, the members purchased a church building at 1024 Bergen Street near Rogers Avenue and named it the Alliance Tabernacle of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. The purchase was made possible through a gift to the C&MA years earlier by one of God’s stewards for the establishment of an Alliance work in Brooklyn. For many years the Bergen Street ministry reached the people of Brooklyn with special evangelical efforts and a missionary emphasis, all the while continuing the summer tent meetings in various parts of the city; however, in 1944, health department restrictions made such tent services impossible.

By 1948 conditions in the neighborhood, Bedford-Stuyvesant, had changed. The church board consulted with the C&MA headquarters in seeking the mind of the Lord. They decided to sell the building (which is now owned by Ebenezer Wesleyan Church) and purchase the property on which the present church stands. It was erected at a cost of $100,000, including land, and was renamed to reflect its new home.

A change of location brought other changes to Clarendon Road. Over the years various pastors graced the church’s congregants with the Word of God. Missionaries shared the heart of God for lost people. Some members received their calling and launched out into a faith-filled journey of overseas missions. The changes of time also brought diverse ethnicity to the church. Currently, Clarendon Road is a vibrant mixture of Caribbean and African-American members.

One of the keys to Clarendon Road’s success has been the unity of the congregants and their zealous commitment to the gospel. God has blessed them with a spirit of praise and giving as they donate faithfully to missions. The church members have combined cultures and traditions from various ethnicities to form a unique creation of God’s expression of love and acceptance. The people who worship at Clarendon Road have learned how to pray together, calling on the name of the Lord for every need.

Only the Lord knows if Clarendon Road will see another 90 years of ministry, but members of this dynamic congregation look toward the future. For their most recent pastor, they wisely selected Charles Galbreath, a young graduate of Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary, to lead them. With vitality and vision Pastor Galbreath breathes life into the church, something that is desperately needed during these difficult days. Pastor Galbreath believes in “bridging the gap between the traditional and contemporary while fulfilling the Great Commission.” His vision, from John 15:5, is to develop a congregation with deep roots and new branches bearing fruit in the name of Jesus Christ.

Intercessors—called “Gatekeepers”—volunteer once a month to be in intense prayer before, during and after Sunday worship services. They also serve during altar calls and offer prayer for healing and missions at the pastor’s direction. “Overflow” is a ministry designed for post-college young adults who are transitioning to the next phase of life. The group members gather to network and share best practices within a Christian setting. “Alpha and Omega” takes youth into a deeper relationship with Christ, encouraging them to make life choices based on biblical teachings and a demonstration of Christ in every aspect of living. According to Barna Research, members of the Millennial generation do not make Christianity their initial choice when they begin religious explorations. Therefore, Clarendon Road members nurture and embrace this generation as they envision the next hundred years of ministry.

When Hurricane Sandy recently devastated the New York metropolitan area, Clarendon Road Alliance Church immediately began relief efforts. Members, with the help of the community, assisted two churches that were destroyed in the Far Rockaway area in reaching out to their stricken neighbors. More than 50 coats, eight cases of water, 14 bags of clothes and shoes, bundles of fresh vegetables, boxes of snacks and, of course, an abundance of blankets were gathered and given to the relief effort. The team also collected more than 40 bags of nonperishable food items to help bring Thanksgiving to the hard-hit area.

Clearly Clarendon Road brings alive the Word of God in Matthew 16:18–19: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Solidly, the church embraces its past, is encouraged in the present and is empowered for the future. Each choir member, missionary, elder, Sunday school teacher and congregant is ready to make the next 90 years even more powerful than the last as the church stands on the firm rock of faith and hope.

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