Homestead church celebrates heritage with biblical message, awards

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 5:06 a.m.

With its eighth annual black history celebration, Park Place AME Church of Homestead shared the message that its members are “born for greatness.”

Taking the theme from Genesis 45:3-11, Park Place AME welcomed members, friends and awardees to reflect on the life of biblical figure Joseph as they celebrated Black History Month with a luncheon on Saturday at Second Baptist Ministries Hall in West Mifflin.

Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery.

Imprisoned by his arrogance and set free by his ability to dream, Joseph ultimately rose above his conditions to become the favorite of his new home's leader, the Pharaoh.

“Joseph and his example are fitting for our community today,” said Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen, the keynote speaker. “All of the adversities that Joseph suffered only served to build his character. God had a purpose in these adversities.”

Allen told guests that no one can stop God's purpose in a person's life, except for that person. She said individuals must learn to trust God, to love and to forgive their brethren.

“We have a moral breakdown,” Allen said. “Self-centeredness is a major issue in our society.”

Allen referenced the shocking occurrence of a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe while standing at the corner of 13th and Filbert streets in center city Philadelphia earlier this month.

What should be more shocking, she said, is the message he carried — a sign explaining that the KKK killed 3,446 blacks in 86 years, while black-on-black murders surpass that number every six months.

He is Sixx King, a 35-year-old black man, who wanted to bring awareness to the “hypocrisy, complacency and apathy” in today's African-American culture.

Allen believes reviving the black community's relationship with God will resolve the issues King described.

The problem, she said, is not political. It isn't social. Rather, it is fundamental.

“God is our source, and all these other things — the government, the programs — are resources,” she said. “If you take away a resource, I will suffer; but if you take away my source, I will die.”

Allen said young people must be taught by today's adults and elders that there is a difference between right and wrong and that there is an absolute truth that can be learned through faith.

With freedom comes responsibility and accountability, Allen said, noting that blacks must eliminate the victim mentality.

“Circumstances do not determine success,” she said. “Choices determine success.”

Where the Lord is not, Allen said, there is bondage. And without living by God's example through Jesus, she added, blacks are enslaving themselves through poorly chosen behaviors in today's society.

Allen acknowledged that no human is perfect, but what makes a person redeemable is recognizing that he or she needs God.

“She issued us a challenge,” emcee Ruth Smith said. “The challenge is that we are not doing enough, and I encourage everyone to meet that challenge.

“Give us a year. Mentor someone. Do anything you can, because if we do not reach our youth, they will be a lost generation.”

Park Place AME's celebration honored individuals who already are doing their part to build a strong, faithful black community.

Awardees included Allen; the Rev. Helen M. Burton, pastor of Payne Chapel AME; Leslee Peters, a West Mifflin Area graduate who now attends Slippery Rock University; Louis Wheelter, a Korean War veteran and longtime government employee who now serves as a trustee of Park Place AME; Earnell Miller, owner of Earnell Miller's Auto Center; and Richard Walker, the chief marketing officer and business attorney for 1-800 Law Firm.

As each honoree accepted an award, Park Place AME's the Rev. Kevin Parks said, “You were born for greatness.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or

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