West Angeles Church of God in Christ moved forward with new leadership with the installation of Elder Charles Blake II as the senior pastor of the renowned mega-ministry on Sunday, Oct. 23.
Blake II and his wife, Lady DeAndra Blake, succeed his parents, Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. and Lady Mae L. Blake, as the spiritual leaders of the huge congregation, which exceeds 25,000 members. During the Bishop’s 53-years tenure, West Angeles expanded to operate more than 80 community outreach programs and become one of the largest affordable housing developers in South L.A.
In recognition of the ministerial achievements of Blake Sr. while simultaneously welcoming the new pastor, the membership hosted several events during its Honor and Celebration Weekend. Activities kicked-off on Oct. 21, with a Tribute Concert saluting the legacy of Bishop Blake.
The program, under the direction of Dr. Judith McAllister, featured leading gospel artists including Donnie McClurkin, Dorinda Clark Cole, Smokie Norful and Doc Powell. Also performing were David Daughtry, Jesse Campbell and the West Angeles Mass Choir.
On Oct. 22, the Brotherhood Committee presented “A Morning with Bishop Blake and Pastor-Designee Charles Blake II,” which received rave reviews from David G. Moore, chairman of the Deacon Board and the Brotherhood Committee.
“This is the absolute best Brotherhood ‘Breakfast with the Bishop’ event that we’ve ever had, and we’ve been doing this since 1986,” declared Moore. “The spirit of the Lord was there, Bishop Blake was in his element, and it was just awesome. We also talked about the transition with Pastor Charles and how excited we all are for that. God was all up in it!”
Later that day, the West Angeles Women’s Affairs Organization sponsored “An Afternoon with Lady Mae and Lady DeAndra.” In addition to members attending, special guests included Dr. Betty R. Price, Supervisor Frances E. Harris and Evangelist Allyson Bowels.
Price, wife of the late Apostle Frederick K.C. Price and a longtime friend of Lady Mae, shared how impressed she was with the gathering. “What I loved about today is that the saints were unified and on one accord. All of them exhibited an attitude of cooperation and had a mind to work in support of the new pastor,” she noted.
“I love how our new first lady (DeAndra Blake) gave and bestowed honor upon First Lady Mae Lawrence Blake. The fact that she is so yielded to walk into her assigned position that God has opened to her; the fact that she wants to work at the side of her husband as a servant really touched my heart,” added Dr. Price.
Bowels admired Lady Mae’s ability to make each individual person that she encounters feel special, even in the midst of working within “such a massive congregation. Like God, she had a way of making you feel special as if you were the only one.”
Offering comparable remarks, Supv. Harris, who attends Hillside Tabernacle COGIC and Greater Page Temple, insisted, “Today [was] absolutely amazing. Lady Blake is the epitome of a first lady, and we honor her for 53 years in ministry, and we are just ecstatic over what God has done and the passing of the baton to Lady DeAndra Blake. We know that God’s going to bless, so just continue and move forward.”
Accolades to Bishop and Lady Mae Blake continued at the Sunday morning worship service as several members recounted how the spiritual leaders touched their lives. The speakers included Courtney Vance, who joined West Angeles with his wife, Angela Bassett, 23 years ago; Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his wife, Cookie, members for more than 30 years; and Akosua Busia, who united with West Angeles shortly after appearing in 1985’s “The Color Purple” and now works in full-time ministry in Ghana.
“For 11 years, Bishop Blake labored in the ministry at West Angeles, preaching five sermons each Sunday. Bishop and Lady Mae have always gone above and beyond what is right and have earned the right to some r-and-r – rest and relaxation,” said Vance. “Now, we will be by their son’s side as he labors in the ministry.”
Johnson recalled how his wife told him, “I met one of the greatest pastors at West Angeles.” Speaking to Bishop Blake, he admitted, “I don’t idolize a lot of people, but I idolize you. You changed my life, so that I’m not ashamed to glorify Jesus. They’ll never be another pastor like you.”
Turning to the bishop’s successor, Johnson stressed, “Pastor Charles Blake II, we’re going to get on board – don’t even worry about it. I followed your dad and I’m going to follow you.”
Cookie Johnson said, Bishop Blake and Lady Mae – you mean the world to us. Back in 1991, when Earvin was diagnosed with HIV, you were there and you told us, ‘God was in control’ and I’ll always be grateful for that. You became our family then and you’re our family now. And Charles and Lady DeAndra, we are looking forward to the future and will be right there with you.”
A youth contingent also testified about the benefits of the church’s various ministries geared towards young people. One recent high school graduate credited her training and a scholarship received from West Angeles in aiding her admission into USC. The youth also presented gifts to Bishop Blake, Lady Mae, Pastor Charles and Lady DeAndra.
Actress Busia debuted a video from colleagues in Ghana, who praised Bishop Blake for visiting their country as part of his Save Africa’s Children initiative and aiding in the building of a new chapel. She also presented the bishop with a ceremonial golden sword of rest and Lady Mae with a royal kinte cloth shawl. To Pastor Charles, Busia gave a royal hand-carved stool and she gave a gift to Lady DeAndra as well.
Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church, delivered a stirring message taken from 2 Timothy 2. After commending Bishop Blake for his accomplishments over five decades, Ulmer urged Pastor Blake to “know the power of and walk in the resurrection power of God.”
Urging faithfulness to “the one who called you to serve,” Ulmer encouraged the new pastor not to give up when challenges occur, but to remember, “God is still in control and has one more move for your life.”
At 4 p.m., the Jurisdictional Ecclesiastical Installation Service of Pastor Charles took place at the West Angeles Cathedral.
Born and raised in the church, Blake II served 13 years as the director of Community Relations at West Angeles and assistant pastor prior to being appointed co-pastor in Nov. 2021. A graduate of Oral Robert University, he received his Master of Divinity degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center, which is also the alma mater of Bishop Blake. In addition, he graduated from the Harvard Leadership Institute and the Institute of Church Administration and Management.
Despite his stellar qualifications to serve as senior pastor, Blake II acknowledged that some people have reservations about his ability to lead and seek to compare his ministry to his father’s. Yet, he offered a thoughtful and humble response to those harboring such concerns.
“Some have said that I have some very big shoes to fill, but I’m not supposed to fill my father’s shoes. They are uniquely fitted to his feet. God gave Bishop Blake the shoes that he needed to walk in his time on his terrain, but now we are on different ground in a different age. God has given me the shoes that I need to walk the path through the terrain for this time. The work is great, but I believe the God will continue to guide and strengthen me, as I seek to serve Him and His people” he replied.
Contributing Writer Denise J. Gibbs contributed to this article.