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BMCR celebrates 50 years and looks to the future

Posted: September 11 2019 at 12:00 AM
Author: Diane Strzelecki


From left to right: Meghann Oglesby - Guest Emcee, Rev. Dennis Oglesby, Jr., Claudette Lehew - Guest Minister of Music from Memphis, and Rev. Albert M. Shears, Worship Service Preacher and retired NIC Elder, celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Chicago BMCR at St. Mark UMC on June 30, 2019.

On Sunday, June 30, the Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) held its Annual Worship Celebration at historic St. Mark UMC, a Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) Chicago Southern District landmark that produced Chicago BMCR founders and early leaders such as Rev. Maceo D. Pembroke, Sr., Rev. William T. Carter, Helen M. Fannings (Ammons) and Marie McFarland. 

The celebration, which brought together members, family, and friends to lift up ordinands, retirees, life members, and honorees, was also a time to celebrate BMCR’s 50th anniversary with the theme “This Far by Grace.” Musicians included the Chancel Choir of St. Mark UMC, and musicians and vocalists from Transformation UMC and Resurrection UMC. BMCR President Rev. Dennis M. Oglesby, Jr. provided greetings and the Rev. Albert Shears (retired) preached the sermon. 

Selena Roberts, Lay Leader (Resurrection UMC) and longtime member of BMCR, said the service was inspiring. “If you had any doubt of how we could make it through another 50 years, Rev. Shears’ words were very encouraging and really motivational,” she said. “I could see others were motivated to continue on and do whatever we can to make sure BMCR is around to celebrate at the 100th anniversary.”

A member of Chicago BMCR since 1971, Sylvia Jo Oglesby, organizes the annual event and was honored to be part of the anniversary celebration. “I’m blessed to be aware of our history and still be producing and serving and doing what the Lord requires me to do,” she said. “We had a wonderful worship program.” 

BMCR was founded in 1968 with the mission “to raise up prophetic and spiritual leaders who will be advocates for the unique needs of Black people in The United Methodist Church.” The June 30 event celebrated such milestones as 47 years of the Maceo D. Pembroke Institute for Ministerial Recruitment and Leadership Development, 23 years of Keeping Hope Alive Ministries (HIV/AIDS Awareness), and five Episcopal Leaders: Bishop Edsel Ammons, Bishop Charles Jordan, Bishop Jonathan Keaton, Bishop Julius Trimble and Bishop Tracy Smith Malone. 

Roberts notes that part of BMCR’s work centers on running culturally relevant programs for children and youth so they “see who they are and what it means to be a United Methodist.” It’s important to her to stay connected with the movement of African Americans in the UMC and the church’s policies and relationship to BMCR, but at the end of the day, it’s the word “United” in the denomination’s that is her greatest affirmation. 

“We may have Korean churches, Hispanic churches, Caucasian churches, African American churches, but I see all of us worshipping together,” Roberts said. “We are worshipping a true and a just God; we are brothers and sisters in Christ.” 

BMCR Awardees/Honorees
Life Members Awards
Rev. Dr. Norval I. Brown (Deerfield First)

Darryl Harris (Gorham)

Luenetta Jones (Hartzell Memorial)

Sandra Jones (Hartzell Memorial)

Betty Lewis (St. Mark) 

Valorie Tatum (Englewood Rust)  

The Founders’ Legacy Life Membership
 (established in 2018 to honor BMCR founders in the 50th year)

Rudolph D. Smith (St. Mark)

Yvette Harris-Black (Transformation Community)

The Rev. Margaret Ann Williams “Joy of Serving Award” 
(given to a clergy and layperson for rendering extraordinary service)

Rev. Darneather Murph-Heath (Elgin DS)

Vickie Powell-Bass (Wesley Chicago)

Chicago BMCR 30th Annual Laity Awards - Sept. 28 at 12 noon with a luncheon at Holiday Inn Matteson Hotel, 500 Holiday Plaza Drive Matteson, IL. Donation: $60. Click for details.

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