Canaan Baptist Church of Christ
Serving from the Heart of Harlem since 1932
History - Page 2


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Dr. Walker pastored Canaan for 37 years. Canaan’s legacy as a church of social action brought some of the greatest preachers and dignitaries in the world to our pulpit, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Dr. Gardner Taylor, Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Congressman Charles Rangel, along with the local and foreign press, celebrities, and scores of international visitors, filled the pews every Sunday. Canaan was the first stop of South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela’s on his first visit to the United States as President.

Dr. Walker ‘s mandate was for preaching connected with the responsibility of transforming the community and liberating the minds, bodies and souls of those who hear the gospel of Christ. His walk with God through Christ was predicated on his advocacy for the poor, indigent, disenfranchised and voiceless people of society. After suffering four strokes, the Harlem pastor, theologian, human rights activist, cultural historian, prolific writer and the nation’s foremost authority on the music of the African-American religious experience, retired from Canaan in October 2004. In great appreciation for his dedication, selfless service and inspired leadership, the church conferred upon Dr. Walker the title of Pastor Emeritus.

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15

When the time came to replace the legendary Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, the 1400- member congregation began a long and arduous journey. What would prove to be the toughest chapter in the church’s history began in 2001 when an ad hoc pastoral search committee was created to help find Dr. Walker’s replacement. The 17-member committee of deacons, trustees, and disciples was first chaired by Deacon Larry Smith, Chairman of the Official Board, and later by Rev. Jacques DeGraff. The search process was expected to last no more than 18 months, but stretched into two years.

Candidates were invited to preach at least twice and participate in congregational town hall meetings. In August 2005, three candidates were selected to return for a “preach-off” and breakfast meetings with the church leadership: Dr. Welton Thomas Smith III, of River Rouge, Michigan; Dr. Thomas D. Johnson Sr., of Danville, Virginia; and Dr. Michael Andrew Owens, of Detroit, Michigan.

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132 West 116th Street - New York, NY 10026