Loving Paterson (Again)
Minister’s roots, and God’s call, go deep
By Darryl Redmond
Growing up in Paterson, New Jersey, during the ’60s and ’70s was great! Just ask anyone who lived in the city also known as “Silk City,” “P-Town,” and “Brick City.” They’ll glow when speaking of the Fabian Theater, Eastside Park, the Great Falls, shopping downtown, Garret Mountain, and Costello Pool (named after Paterson native Lou Costello of the great comedy duo Abbott and Costello).
The Paterson public school system produced many successful people. They became teachers, business professionals, local government leaders, volunteers, and clergy. I wanted to be one of those people after I got out of college and return to my alma mater, Eastside High School (please refrain from singing Lean On Me), to teach music.
In high school the Lord placed two friends in my life, Kevin Baker and Kelvin Jackson. Through my friends I got involved in youth activities like the Christian Youth Basketball League and Campus Life Ministries, which was held in the basement of Faith Chapel Reformed Church. I loved Campus Life Ministries and never missed a meeting. Those meetings at Faith Chapel helped shape my faith in God. So I have faith roots in Paterson, even though my family belonged to a Pentecostal church in suburban Englewood, about 15 miles away.
Hard times hit Paterson
In the mid-80s crack cocaine showed up in Paterson, and everything changed.
I was in college when drugs took over our city. The people I admired were either in the grip of crack or wrestling with the effects of it. Our once-great city became prey to corrupt government, a public school system taken over by the state, soaring crime rates, and broken people who left a legacy of broken homes.
My thinking about Paterson changed. I sincerely felt it would be a waste of time pouring anything into something so broken.
I continued to serve at my church in Englewood, and answered the call to ministry in 1993. I was the worship leader and youth pastor, but most of my work was still being done in Paterson with the people I had met while being a part of Campus Life Ministries. People like Dean Trulear, Bob Hepburn, pastor Raymond Timms, and pastor John Algera were constantly a part of my life and kept me connected to Faith Chapel Reformed Church.
My turning point
In 1998 I left the only church I had known as my home. The only pastor I had ever called my own was terminally ill, leadership and agendas were changing, and I found myself wandering in a solitary way. I could not envision myself serving anywhere but the church that I grew up in.
For months I didn’t attend church. I withdrew and did not share my struggle with anyone.
One day while walking down Broadway in Paterson, I saw the door to Faith Chapel open, so I entered. Pastor Timms greeted me and we talked. I shared with him my sense of being without direction. He listened, prayed with me, and gave me a book titled Walking in the Spirit.
For the second time in my life, Faith Chapel was there for me.
I spent the next decade serving as minister of music at two local churches in the very city I did not want to serve. Frustrated with those experiences, I sat in the parking lot of a church I had just disconnected from and prayed, “Lord Jesus, I thank you for the opportunity to serve other ministries, but I am tired, and I have three requests: Lord, I miss teaching and preaching your gospel. Lord, I need a pastor. Lord, I don’t want to serve in Paterson.”
A week later I ran into Pastor Timms again; we exchanged a quick greeting. A week after that, he called to ask if I would play the organ for Faith Chapel’s Easter worship service because their musician was ill. I fulfilled that request, and a week later he asked if I would serve again. Sadly, the organist I had been covering for had passed away. I stayed on to help the church.
I had prayed for a pastor, and I received a pastor. I had prayed for the opportunity to teach and preach the gospel, and that door was also opened. I had asked the Lord to place me anywhere but Paterson, and I found out that two out of three ain’t bad!
My selfish request was ignored because God knew that Faith Chapel needed me and, more importantly, I needed them.
Keeping the light on
In 2010 I was installed as lead pastor of Faith Chapel Reformed Church, and I am glad that God never let me leave Paterson. The people of Faith Chapel are the most loving, forgiving, and praying people I have ever met.
In a city that is struggling due to fatal shootings and a recent heroin epidemic, Faith Chapel has become a thriving congregation and a lighthouse in the darkness.
Wednesday night Bible study averages 60 to 80 participants, and Monday night youth meetings reach kids ages four through 19. Members like Beverly Brevard work to provide health fairs that attract hundreds of people from the community. The church holds outdoor prayer services where we pray for people’s needs.
The day after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012, Faith Chapel opened its doors even though we had no power, and people came to worship that morning because no other churches were open. A woman who made it there said, “I drove around the city for an hour and couldn’t find one church open. I’m glad you opened your doors.”
I know how she feels.
Darryl Redmond is pastor of Faith Chapel Reformed Church in Paterson, New Jersey.