Canaan Baptist Church of Christ
Serving from the Heart of Harlem since 1932
5th Pastoral Anniversary
Theme and Tribute by David Julian Hodges

Canaan Baptist Church of Christ
5th Pastoral Anniversary Sunday, April 10, 2011
Theme and Tribute by David Julian Hodges

The Canaan congregation has been blessed with the ministry of the Rev. Thomas D. Johnson for the past five years. And today marks his 37th year as a minister of the gospel.

Thank you, Pastor Johnson, and our First Lady, Mrs. Donna Johnson. These past five years, the Canaan congregation has been the beneficiary of your steadfast vision, “inspired by God, driven by faith, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.” We, as a church, prayed fervently for you, and God answered our prayers, and called you to the Canaan pulpit.

I hope everyone noticed that I prominently thanked Mrs. Johnson in the first part of this tribute...and that is by design, because she, too, deserves our praise and accolades. Pastor Johnson was indeed called to the Canaan pulpit. “And just as he was called...she was hand-picked too…for it takes someone special to do what she must do!” So, Mrs. Johnson, I want you to remember--these words of tribute are just as much for you as for the Pastor. We value the life you’ve led before us these past five years.

This anniversary celebration is our formal opportunity to pay tribute to our pastor and First Lady and to give a great, big public “thank you” for the many things you’ve done for us, and with us. And, I’d be less than frank if I didn’t add…for the many things you’ve done despite us! For, in many ways, maybe more than we’d like to admit, in the immortal words of the celebrated Harlem poet Langston Hughes, we haven’t always made life for you a “crystal stair!” Yes, these five years with us have had some tacks in them, some splinters, and some torn up boards!

So, this formal, public opportunity to pay tribute to you is a welcome opportunity, because there are some things you need to hear from those of us whom you’ve pastored so well. As a member of this historic church, I am honored to have been chosen to bring this tribute, and to enunciate this theme. I am honored to bring the message that we love, revere and honor you.

We have all benefitted from five years of thoughtful, scriptural sermons that have rightly divided God’s word of truth. Your sermons have lifted our spirits and YES, disturbed our consciences! You have shaken us out of complacency and self-righteousness. We have benefited from five years of exhortation; five years of important new initiatives: you’ve instituted two Sunday services, you began the Young Adult Ministry and the Young Adult Choir. We’ve benefited from five years of teaching--you resumed our regular Bible study, after an interruption of several years. Yes, Pastor, you’ve done much, and I could recite a further litany of many tangible accomplishments. But more than this, we pay tribute to you this day because of the way you’ve lived before us, for the way you’ve responded to God’s Call. That--more than anything else--is why we value you and thank you!

We’ve benefited beyond measure from being “eyewitnesses to your response to God’s Call.” You have shown us, by precept and example, how all of us, by faith, are to respond to the Call of God. The best of all preachers are those who live their creeds. To see good put into action is what everybody needs. So we bring tribute to you today, for the way you’ve lived out the Call of God upon your life. For, in you, our Pastor and First Lady, we’ve witnessed five years of “steadfast, unwavering faith”; five years of purpose and vision; and indeed, five years, as our anniversary theme so eloquently proclaims, of being “inspired by God, driven by faith, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

All of this, in the face of cynicism and sometimes outright opposition and turmoil. Yet, hasn’t it always been this way, with God’s chosen, through the ages? How many are the biblical examples that we know who have

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132 West 116th Street - New York, NY 10026