Easter is ushering in a new season of growth for the pastors of some of the largest congregations in the D.C. area after two years of online services and limited live worship experiences.
For the first time in more than two years, the main sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover, Md., was filled for Good Friday service as seven pastors preached the “seven last words” Jesus spoke from the cross.
“The blessing is fellowship,” said Rev. Henry P. Davis, pastor of the church. “And that is the new church, the church is a hybrid or combination of people watching online and coming in person.”
Davis’ comments came moments before the start of the annual community event that dates back nearly 20 years, and spirits were high for what was, in many respects, a family reunion.
The event was also special for Rev. Matthew Watley, senior pastor of Kingdom Fellowship AME in Silver Spring. This Easter Sunday will be the first public service for the Kingdom Fellowship Life Center in Beltsville for Watley and his 5,000-member congregation.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and other elected officials have been invited to attend because the church received a $13 million grant to create a resource center for residents in the northern part of Prince George’s County.
“It’s two buildings. On April 29, we will consecrate our worship center, and on April 30, we will cut the ribbon and have the groundbreaking for the Kingdom Fellowship Life Center,” Watley said. “The ironic thing is that we started this entire project during the pandemic.
“We have the worship center, we will pay that on our own but we have another building, 100,000 feet, the Kingdom Fellowship Care Center, where we will provide services for the community for a range of wrap around services such as feeding programs, clothing programs, job training and other educational programs,” he said.
Two decades ago while an assistant minister at Reed Temple, Watley developed a ministry for federal workers at Union Station called “Power Lunch.” He then opened a satellite called the North campus in Montgomery County and now he is coming back to Prince George’s.
“I think the Lord has called us in a season of service to our present church site,” said Watley, who is among a new generation of pastors who have combined solid theological training with business savvy and old-fashioned preaching skills.
Watley was among seven ministers who presided over Friday’s service, including the first-ever woman — Rev. Marrisa Farrow of Greater Allen AME in the Jamaica neighborhood of New York City’s Queens borough.
Also on hand was Rev. Anthony G. Maclin, pastor of the Sanctuary of Kingdom Square, which has a new church home in Upper Marlboro.
Other pastors who preached were Bishop Lanier Twyman of St. Stephen’s Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Rev. Tony Lee, pastor of Community of Hope AME in Temple Hills, and Rev. LaVaughn Hughes, pastor of Faith Temple No. 2 in Capitol Heights.
Rev. Dr. Duane Kaye, pastor of the First Baptist Church of North Brent, preached about the first words Jesus spoke on the cross, and even though this was his first time being asked to preach, he had no problem stirring up the audience.
Watley had a soft opening of his new church for members on Palm Sunday at the new Prince George’s County location at 11710 Beltsville Drive. On Friday, April 29, Bishop T.D. Jakes will conduct an already sold-out consecration service, with the dedication service and groundbreaking for the Kingdom Fellowship Life Center scheduled for the following day.