This Sunday (June 9) at St. Stephen AME Church at Fifth and Redcross streets, the members celebrated Youth Day and the Rev. Wayne Johnson's one year anniversary of being the church's pastor.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church, not to be confused with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, (AME Zion), has a structural hierarchy. The pastor has to be renewed every year, based on the decision of the bishop.
Members say it's been a good first year at St. Stephen for Johnson.
Dorothy Stewart, a member of the church stated, “We just love him.”
St. Stephen has a high arching ceiling with intricately carved dark wood, stained glass windows, and Johnson wears formal vestments during service.
But there was no stiff silence.
St. Stephen this Sunday was anything but silent.
“This little light of mine” rang loudly throughout the brightly lit church. The organist, the Rev. George Maize kept the spirit of the people going with his lively playing.
As it was also Youth Day, children were invited to be a part of the choir. Some were young, others were returning from college.
Maize's son assisted his dad on the keyboard throughout the two hour long music-filled service.
Johnson uses music to help him deliver his message.
Whenever Johnson would grow silent, the organ would whisper melodies to console the church. When the choir would begin singing, Maize would follow with a joyous tune and give the choir of young people energy to keep singing.
Florence Warren, a lifelong member, said Johnson was once a minister of music in New York and typically begins and ends his sermons with a song.
Johnson began Sunday's sermon by stating that “all of us have shortcomings and failures.” But he did not finish his statement. Instead he let the choir sing “I want to go higher in the Lord,” to explain how he overcame his shortcomings through his faith in God.
The church came alive. Many of its congregation swayed, clapped or tapped their feet.
But the music came to halt when he got to the meat of his sermon intended for the young people.
Johnson's message to the youth this Sunday: “Just do you.”
In the fast pace of our time, people are intertwined with material things and want what others have, he said. Many stray from what truly matters and become lost in the pool of money, image and fame.
“I never want you to lose your identity,” Johnson said, “just do you.”