(From left) Bishop Ernestine Reems, Pastor Sonja Dawson, Bishop Wilbert Baltimore, Bishop Gregory Dixon, Pastor Carol Houston, Bishop Barbara Amos and Pastor George Thomas. (photo by Lyn Rose)
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Sentinel Religion Editor
The installation of Rev. Sonja Dawson, Esq., attracted nearly 1,000 people who witnessed her elevation to pastor of the 3,000-member New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. The service occurred January 24 in the church’s main sanctuary located at 402 East El Segundo in Los Angeles.
New Mount Calvary was founded by Rev. Dawson’s father, the Rev. Dr. Lonnie Dawson, who organized and led the church for nearly 50 years along with his wife, Mrs. Mamie Dawson. Shortly before his passing on December 21, Dr. Dawson appointed his daughter as pastor-elect.
“This was an awesome, humbling, experience. I’m just so grateful from all support from church family and church community at large,” said Rev. Dawson.
Well-wishers at the installation service included bishops, pastors and evangelists representing major denominations and independent ministries. A celebratory atmosphere filled the air as accolades were delivered by Pastor Michael Fisher of Greater Zion Church Family, Pastor Najuma Smith-Pollard of St. James A.M.E. Church, Pastor George L. Thomas of Holy Chapel M.B. Church, Overseer Jawane Hilton of Church on the Hill and several more clergy.
Bishop W. Todd Ervin of Church One in Long Beach, said, “I support and affirm women in ministry and I’m just happy to see this happen, especially in the Baptist Church, which traditionally does not receive women in senior leadership. It is a great thing to see this happening. It’s a great move of God and I’m excited about it because the Bible says His sons and daughters shall prophesy in the book of Joel and it is happening.”
More support was expressed by Rev. Kim Ervin, co-pastor of Church One, who said, “I think no one is more befitting of this appointment than Sonja Dawson. She has worked hard, she’s been diligent, and she’s been faithful, so she deserves this. I just pray that everyone here at this church is behind her and supports her because she has a long road ahead of her.”
Elder Gary Sprewell of the Church of God in Christ, added, “I’m here to support Pastor Sonja Dawson because she and her father were kind to me.
It’s a very historic moment, not only in the Baptist church, but in Los Angeles. I’m just so happy to be a part of this historic moment.”
Guest preacher for the occasion was the renowned Bishop Ernestine Cleveland Reems, founder and senior pastor of Center of Hope Community Church in Oakland, CA. Her sermon entitled “Lose the Grasshopper Mentality and Let’s Take the Land” commended the congregation’s support of Rev. Dawson and encouraged them to maintain faith in God.
Using Numbers 13:26-33 as her scripture reference, Bishop Reems said, “New Mount Calvary, God has blessed you and given you everything you need. So, let’s go and possess the land. Let’s take this whole area. Doubting Thomas’s can’t get anything from God. Whatever vision God gives this woman of God, use it. All things are possible with God. Believe Him and those who don’t believe, nothing will happen.”
Bishop Reems also said, “Be like Joshua here in New Mount Calvary and say, ‘We can do all things with God.’ Shout about the future. Be wholly on the side on the Lord. God will raise you up to a greater level in this 21st century and all those people that have a grasshopper mentality, we are going to pray you out of here. We’re not walking by sight, we’re walking by faith.”
Conducting the installation were Bishop Wilbert Baltimore, pastor of Holy Cathedral Church of God International; Bishop Gregory Dixon, senior pastor of First Church of God Center of Hope; and Pastor Carol Houston, senior pastor of Bethel Unspeakable Joy Church.
Rev. Phillip Miles and Sis. LaCarol Miles served as co-chairpersons of the service. Also participating were Mrs. Mamie Dawson, Rev. Delores Lakey-Stewart, Rev. Lonnell Dawson Williams, Deacon Elroy Webb, Bro. Walter Mason, Sis. Leslie Addison, Bro. W. Michael Fletcher, and the New Mount Calvary Mass Choir, Praise Team, and Praise Dancers.