Our Church History
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called
unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9
The new year of 1982 began with a gathering at the home of Bro. and Sis. Robert Dix on January 2nd. “Thankfulness” was the theme. The meditation message delivered by Rev. Kelley was inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:9 – “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” With a newfound purpose and determination, our founding members and Rev. Kelley continued to meet and build upon our vision.
Plans were formulated for organizational worship services, which would include the continuation of the duty of tithing. The group’s next worship service was held on January 9th at the home of Deacon and Sis. Robert Green Sr. This service was led by Bro. Richard Anderson who performed beautiful uplifting spirituals on the piano. Bro. Robert Green, Jr. read the scripture, and Deacon Clarence Cunningham delivered the invocation. The aptly chosen hymn was “Amazing Grace”. Following a stirring rendition, Rev. Kelley continued to feed the members’ souls with the deliverance of a sermon he titled “The Upper Room Experience – A Good Place to Start.” Rev. Kelley shared that memory with pride and wonderment, “that was the sermon, and we put a committee together to handle finances. We received tithes and offerings...and didn’t have a bank account.”
Reflecting on the lengthy transition from in-home worship services to our first church service, Rev. Kelley remembers the main reason was that “many of the Senior Pastors in established churches didn’t want to open their doors to us for fear of offending the historic Cornerstone Church, so it was difficult to find a place to worship." He recalls that the move from in-home worship services to Christ Fellowship Baptist Church’s first in- church service was initiated by Dr. William Augustus Jones, Jr. of
Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Dr. Jones called Rev. Kelley to extend an invitation to host Christ Fellowship’s organization at Bethany Baptist Church. Rev. Kelley graciously accepted, and on the evening of Friday, January 15, 1982, the first in-church worship service of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church occurred.
That Friday evening is memorable for many reasons. It was the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his “I Have a Dream” speech served as inspiration and motivation for everyone involved in this momentous event. Also, New York City had been hit by a snowstorm and our dedicated members had to make their way through several feet of snow to get to Bethany Baptist Church. Many recall trudging through banks of snow that came up to their knees, but we were not deterred. With prayers of thankfulness in our hearts, members of the newly formed Christ Fellowship Baptist Church made our way. Finally, we all gathered in the Fellowship Hall of Bethany Baptist Church for the official birth and formal organizational service. Surely it was a sight to behold as 126 charter members were present.
Presiding over the service was Rev. Dwight Parker of Detroit, Michigan. The late Rev. Isaiah Tillmon Sr., Pastor of the Morning Star Baptist Church and moderator of Mission District Association of Detroit, Michigan, conducted the Service of Covenant. Supporting his son, as he had from the start, was the late Rev. David Kelley Sr., Pastor of the Second Canaan Baptist Church and moderator of Fellowship District Association of Detroit, Michigan who delivered the word of God. Motions were set forth by Sis. Esther Freeman and seconded by many for the name and the call of the Pastor of the Church. Rev. David Lawrence Kelley II was unanimously selected to the pastorate. This was indeed a good beginning. Christ Fellowship Baptist Church was on its way.
It had been a good day all around. With Pastor Kelley and the members often planning far in advance where we would meet for service, being offered the use of space by a local pastor was a kindness we welcomed. As blessings would have it, earlier that same day, Rev.Fieldstadt, Pastor of The Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at 1380 Jefferson Avenue in Brooklyn, called Rev. Kelley with an offer. He offered the use of Prince of Peace on the upcoming Sunday after his own church’s worship service was over. Rev. Kelley reminisced, “so that night, amidst the snowstorm, when we held the first worship service to organize our church, we were able to announce where we would meet that third Sunday morning. The elation and jubilee and joy broke out that we had at least a place to worship on Sunday.” And so, on Sunday, January 17, 1982 at Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church, the newly formed Christ Fellowship Baptist Church held its first official Sunday church service.
The First Year: 1982
“...and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1
Building a House: 1984 – 2006
In January 1984, we purchased a building located at 100 Putnam Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. The intention was to create a house of worship we could call our own. There were renovations to be made to the property, and the process was to have taken some time. We were committed to seeing it through. It was God’s will, however, that this house of worship was only to be had for a short period of time.
In September 1985, during the process of renovation, Hurricane Gloria blew down the structure. As we viewed the destruction and allowed our tears to flow freely, we offered prayers of thanksgiving and acknowledged how blessed we were that no one had been injured. As heavy as our hearts were, we held fast to our faith and refused to give up on this part of our vision.
A few months later in December, we were able to purchase a new property located at 7-9 Sumpter Street in Brooklyn which would become our new church home. One month later, on January 19, 1986, we officially occupied
the building just in time to celebrate our fourth anniversary. One member fondly recalls the day. “Though it was raining, we marched down Fulton Street from Stuyvesant Park with a police escort until we arrived at our new church home. Once inside, we were inspired by messages from Rev. Joseph Barlow (“The Transforming Power of a Renovated Mind”) and Rev. Robert A. Laws (“And I Will Fill This House With Glory”). We dedicated this house to the worship of God, the witness of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit.”
A New Vision: The Blue Church of Brooklyn 2006 – 2010
As is true in many sectors, positive growth of any kind can most often be attributed to successful outreach, community connections, and fellowship. Such was the case for us. For twenty years and six months, January 19, 1986 to July 22, 2006, our second house of worship at 7-9 Sumpter Street served as a church home for many. Most Sundays it was a blessing to have both morning worship services filled to capacity. Church attendance and membership grew steadily. Our congregation had surely increased from the initial 126 charter members who filled the Fellowship Hall of Bethany Baptist Church back in 1982.
In 2005, with new goals and new dreams to be realized, Pastor Kelley announced his vision for our new church. Achieving that vision would require the same faith, commitment, and dedication it had taken 24 years earlier. It would also take one million dollars ($1,000,000) to begin the construction phase. In 14 months, believing in our pastor’s vision, we achieved the first goal and raised the funds needed to begin construction on what has affectionately become known as “The Blue Church of Brooklyn”. But once again, we would temporarily be without a home.
Our wilderness experience began with the demolition of 7-9 Sumpter Street on July 22, 2006. This event brought about mixed emotions: sadness at seeing our old church razed, and joy in anticipation of seeing
the new church erected. On a good note, finding a temporary home was easier this time around. Pastor Kelley was able to arrange the rental of a house of worship so that we could regularly attend Sunday services together. For three years and seven months, we gathered faithfully at Bethel Seventh Day Adventist Church, located at 457 Grand Avenue, in Brooklyn. Many milestones and other memorable moments in our history were acknowledged and celebrated at Bethel, such as our 25th church anniversary in January 2007.
Although we were grateful to have a place to worship together, the construction of our new church home was always close at heart in thoughts and prayers. At one phase during the construction, many of us gathered at the site to observe as the diaconate participated in prayer and anointing services of the foundation beams. Members of the Diaconate Ministry signed their names, dates of birth, and favorite scriptures in a Bible which was laid into the foundation in the center of our church. We were all encouraged to participate in writing our prayers on the steps of the pulpit prior to having it covered in carpet. So many of us showed up that day and patiently awaited our turn.
As construction of our church home continued, Pastor Kelley held a brief ceremony at Bethel to consecrate the cross prior to it being placed atop the church. Pastor Kelley also kept us informed of the milestones reached until the final day when all was done, and we could go home.
On Sunday, February 21, 2010, we assembled in our new blue edifice for the first time as a family and held our first service under our new roof. The resounding phrase that expressed our joy after that initial gathering was simply: What a fellowship! While we experienced many highs and lows throughout the construction phase, we always remained faithful that God would bless us to persevere and continue to worship Him in our new house of worship.
The Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting ceremony was held on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. The honor of cutting the ribbon
was respectfully bestowed upon Deacon Clarence Cunningham, one of our founding members who, at the age of 97, was the oldest male member of our congregation. Several community leaders, religious leaders, and friends also attended and participated in the dedication of our new building. In attendance were: Rev. Victor T. Hall Sr. (Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jamaica, New York), Rev. Anthony Brazile, (Pastor of Rock of Help Christian Fellowship in Brooklyn, New York), Rev. Shaun J. Lee, (Pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York), Rev. Dr. David A. Hampton, (Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York), Rev. Steven Carter, (Pastor of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York), Rev. David K. Brawley, (Pastor of St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York), Rev. Dr. Arlee Griffin, Jr., (Pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York), and Bishop Albert Jamison Sr., (Pleasant Grove Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York). The Deacon Board adorned the communion table, and Deaconess Barbara Robinson extended a warm and hearty welcome to our guests. Rev. Hall delivered a powerful and heartwarming sermonic message.
Soon thereafter, in keeping with his vision for the community a large, Pastor Kelley initiated an outreach in which he invited those who lived in the community to attend a special worship service. He wanted to let them know that Christ Fellowship Baptist Church would always remain the beacon of hope we envisioned, and everyone would always be welcomed through its doors. With the support of the ministers on staff, a community-wide Dedication and Blessing Ceremony was performed on August 29, 2010. It was such an inspiration to see the pews filled with parents and guardians who brought their infants and toddlers to be dedicated, and their youth and teenagers to receive a blessing. One member stated, “just being able to give this opportunity to so many of our young people in this community is a blessing.”
Strengthening the Foundation:
The Leadership of
Christ Fellowship Baptist Church
Our leadership has grown over the past 37 years. Pastor Kelley remains in position as Senior Pastor and has remained true to his words and reason for wanting to start our church. As he stated in the beginning, undertaking the challenge to develop and create a new church was to “give persons a chance to continue in ministry and move forward in Kingdom-building”. In the years throughout our journey toward our 35th anniversary, twelve new members were added to the Official Board of the church.
We have also had the honor of providing the licensure and ordination of several of our members to the gospel ministry. They include: the late Minister Ralph L. Johnson, licensed to the ministry; Minister Clementine (“Tina”) Hill, licensed to the ministry; Rev. Kim Y. Neal, ordained, March 1992; Rev. Anthony Brazile, ordained, November 1993; Rev. Shunda Fussell Clark, ordained, April 2004; Minister Lucinda Hampton, licensed to the ministry; Minister Rodney Plummer, licensed to the ministry; Minister Katherine Timmons, licensed to the ministry; Minister Monique Kitchings, licensed to the ministry; Minister Fernando Arroyo, licensed to the ministry and later ordained in September 2013; Minister Matthew L. Davis, licensed to the ministry; and Minister Samuel Clark, licensed to the ministry.
There were new additions to the ministerial staff: Minister Sebrone Johnson (2008), Rev. Daris Dixon-Clark (2011) and Rev. Dyanne Pina (2013). In 2012, Rev. Shunda Clark was appointed Executive Pastor, and in 2014, Rev. Pina achieved appointment as Associate Pastor.
We considered it a blessing to have several former members reinstated and record numbers of new members join our church body, many of whom were candidates for the first baptism which took place in April 2010. Our Midweek Prayer, Praise and Proclamation service resumed
and continued to provide spiritual nourishment in preparation for our greater work in the community.
In 2013, an ordination service was held, and we witnessed three remarkable events: Chairman of the Board of Deacons, Willie Neal Sr., was elevated to Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Deacons; Deacon Gary Sheares Sr. was appointed Chairman of the Board of Deacons; and Min. Fernando Arroyo was ordained.
“Trust in Him who will not leave you, Whatsoever years may bring;
If by earthly friends forsaken,
Still more closely to Him cling!”
(From: Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand, Jennie Wilson)
As a church body, we pray for the blessing of continued service to the community and families touched by our ministries. There’s also hope and prayer for greater increase in membership, spiritual growth, and opportunities to experience and create more memorable events for our members and community in the coming years.
As we remain forever committed to building God’s kingdom, we also seek to wholly and unabashedly cling to our motto and forever remain “a people joined in fellowship through the cross of Christ.”
The events that led to the development and creation of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church are bittersweet. Often in life there are times when opportunity appears in the guise of disappointment and the only way to know the difference is to challenge what lies before us. The tenacity with which one chooses to challenge a perceived disappointment can either be a catalyst toward success, or digression into failure. Identifying an opportunity must be acknowledged at the right moment, and such was the case for Rev. Kelley. When the governing body of Cornerstone Baptist Church put a roadblock before him, a group of reverent supporters encouraged him to believe it signified a new beginning.
For two years at Cornerstone Baptist Church, which was led by the late Rev. Dr. Sandy Frederick Ray, Rev. Kelley served as Student Minister, Associate Pastor, and ultimately, Assistant Pastor. A few years after Rev. Ray’s passing, when the time came to select candidates to the pastorate, a much anticipated transition to leadership for Rev. Kelley did not occur. Rev. Kelley reminisces, “many were disappointed and hurt”. However, none greater than he. But they faithfully continued to worship at Cornerstone believing something greater was to come of this disappointment.
When the time came, Rev. Kelley and a number of Cornerstone’s congregation, who had been following him for more than two years, decided it was time to take the leap of faith toward a new endeavor. We joined together to start a church which Rev. Kelley said would “give persons a chance to continue in ministry and move forward in Kingdom- building”. According to Rev. Kelley, “we were organized to respond to the disappointment and the hurt of a fraction of the Cornerstone Church...we wanted a fresh start, so we began”. The blueprint for this journey was not clear as we set out. The name of this new entity we were creating would not be known until later, but faith, loyalty, and commitment were our driving forces. Thus, we set out to undertake this new challenge.
“What have I to dread what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms...”
(From: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Elisha Hoffman)
On December 5, 1981, at our first prayer meeting held at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, members knew we were totally reliant upon God for direction, and so we selected “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” as our hymn for strength and guidance. Following that first devotional service, Rev. Kelley delivered a statement of purpose. He recalls, “as a body, we had been wounded and hurt and for that reason, the theme of our first prayer meeting was ‘Cleansing’. It was truly needed to allow us to move forward.”
After this initial gathering, we decided to organize prayer meeting fellowships and meet at each other’s homes on a weekly basis. On Saturday, December 12th, Sis. Beatrice Haynes graciously hosted the first in-home fellowship. The group dwelled on “Guidance”. The following week, Deacon and Deaconess Freeman welcomed us into their home, and the prayer was for “Unity”. In-home fellowship meetings continued. On Saturday December 26, 1981 the day after the celebration of the birth of our Lord, while at the home of Bro. Harold Stewart, we voted to organize a church in Christ’s name. Bro. James Monts made the motion, and it was seconded by Sis. Esther Freeman. We signed to become charter members of the new church which Rev. Kelley stated would be known as Christ Fellowship Baptist Church. With a purpose and a name, our vision’s path became much clearer.
During the first year, 1982, we continued to lay the bricks of our spiritual foundation. Our first church conference was held after morning worship on Sunday, January 31st. Pastor Kelley’s sermon, “Spiritual Case for Christian Service,” was taken from Hebrews 12:1-2 and was very uplifting. At that time, officers were appointed and other business matters related to the continued development of our church were discussed. Development was key and crucial to carving out the identity our founding members had envisioned. The church logo, designed by Sis. Ruzelia Watkins-Ellis (granddaughter of Dr. Sandy Ray), was officially received. It depicted hands clasped around a cross, and it offered a visual reminder of our purpose. The logo also added heartfelt significance to the newly adopted church motto: “A people joined in fellowship through the cross of Christ.”
We continued to flourish as a body of Christ. On February 7th, the month’s first Sunday, we communed together for the first time. In addition, the building of the auxiliaries convened. The church’s choirs,
Usher Board, Nurses Unit, and the Pastor’s Aide Society were formed, as were the Sunday School and Bible Study classes.
In April 1982, we achieved a much anticipated moment in our journey to being: Pastor Kelley was officially installed. In celebration, two evenings of services and a luncheon were held at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, where Dr. Robert A. Laws was the Pastor. On Sunday, April 18th, Dr. William A. Jones, delivered the installation message. The charges to Pastor Kelley were given by his father, Rev. David Kelley Sr. New deacons were ordained, new deaconesses were consecrated, and a Missionary Society was created.
Throughout the remainder of the year, our focus was on being faithful and effective in ministry and outreach. As our membership regularly increased, we were ever grateful for our blessings.