Thursday, January 26, 2023
Top Religion Stories of 2022
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Religion Editor
Published December 28, 2022

Pastor Sonja Dawson (Courtesy photo)

Rev. Sonja Dawson Marks 11th Year as New Mt. Calvary Pastor

The Rev. Sonja R. Dawson, Esq., celebrated her 11th anniversary in January as the senior pastor of New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. She is one of the few women in the United States to head a major Baptist congregation, however, she has not let gender prevent her from achieving great things in Christ. More than 200 people attended the drive-through celebration with vehicles from lining up for blocks on El Segundo Blvd. (and causing minor traffic jams) as NMC members patiently waited to drive into the lot to bestow cards, gifts and air kisses upon their spiritual leader.

Pastor William Turner (Courtesy photo)

Pastor William Turner Retires

After more than 50 years of ministerial service, the Rev. William Turner Jr., retired in April as pastor of New Revelation Missionary Baptist Church in Pasadena. During his tenure, the congregation grew spiritually and numerically as well as opened a preschool, infant care program, an elementary school, and a full court gymnasium that the community uses on a full-time basis. In recent years, Turner spearheaded a supportive housing program to assist chronically homeless individuals and homeless disabled veterans. Also, he partnered with World Central Kitchen to serve meals to essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pastor J. Benjamin Hardwick (File photo)

Dr. Hardwick at 90 – Still Fighting for the Lord


At the age of 90, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Benjamin Hardwick remains unwavering in his commitment to Christ and lifting up others. The Sentinel highlighted his legacy in May. As the pastor of Praises of Zion Missionary Baptist Church in South L.A. and president of the Western Baptist State Convention, he serves as a senior statesman to hundreds of pastors and laity.  When he speaks, people listen and likely because he has an solid history of standing firm in the name of the Lord and fighting fiercely on behalf of his community.

Bishop Charley Hamer Jr. (Courtesy photo)

Bishop Charley Hamer Assigned to CME 9th District

The Rev. Dr. Charley Hames, Jr., is the new presiding prelate of the Ninth Episcopal District of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes all CME churches in California and four more states. His assignment was announced during the 40th Session of the CME General Conference, held June 25 through July 1. Previously the pastor of Beebe Memorial Cathedral CME Church in Oakland, Hames led the mega-congregation of 3,000+ members for 19 years.

Judith McAllister and Kirk Franklin (photo by Darin McAllister)

Kirk Franklin Performs on Skid Row

Grammy award-winners Kirk Franklin and Maverick City Music gave a free performance in July for the people living on L.A.’s skid row. Judith Christie McAllister was among the recording artists joining Franklin on stage. Their appearance kicked-off the Skid Row Revitalization Project sponsored by the Los Angeles Mission. The event featured a street festival offering prayer, on-site showers, hygiene kits, giveaways, haircuts, a beauty salon, food vendors and medical screenings.

(ONSCENE.TV photo)

Victory Baptist Church Destroyed by Blazing Fire

A major fire consumed Victory Baptist Church in Los Angeles on Sept. 11. The historic edifice was largely ruined by the flames, which destroyed the roof and interior of the building. Carlos Francisco Diaz was charged with setting fire to the property. Victory Baptist has played an integral and historic role in South L.A. ( Many famous gospel artists appeared at the church and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached during a service in the 1960s. Victory Baptist Pastor W. Edward Jenkins has vowed to continue the ministry despite the destruction of the edifice.

Rev. G. Mansfield Collins (Courtesy photo)

Rev. G. Mansfield Collins Passes Away

An uplifting memorial service was held on Oct. 10 to celebrate the life of the Rev. G. Mansfield Collins, who passed away at the age of 102. A confidant of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Collins was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement in L.A. In 1963, he organized the Los Angeles Freedom Rally with King as keynote speaker. Nearly 40,000 people attended including actors Sammy Davis Jr., Paul Newman, and Dorothy Dandridge. The organizer of All Saints Community Church in Los Angeles, Collins later became an AME itinerant elder and pastor. After retiring in 1995, he joined his daughter, Lisa Collins, in launching L.A. Focus Newspaper.

(File photo)

Taste of Soul Features Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Gospel Stage

Local choirs took center stage on the Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Gospel Stage at the 17th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival on Oct. 15. The crowd rejoiced and praised God while listening to the music by J Kingdom, KJLH Radio Free Voices, B. Terrell and VIP Choir, GMWA L.A. Chapter and other artists. Thousands of people enjoyed the daylong event, which also featured comedy by Pastor Lester Barrie and J-Redd, who served as emcees.

Pastor Charles Blake II (File photo)

Elder Charles Blake II Installed as West Angeles Pastor


Elder Charles Blake II was installed as the senior pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ on Oct. 23. He succeeds his father, Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., who served 53 years as the spiritual leader of the mega-ministry. 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.

Presiding Elder John E. Cager III (File photo)

Rev. John Cager Elevated to Presiding Elder

The Rev. John E. Cager III, pastor of Ward AME Church in Los Angeles, was promoted to presiding elder of the denomination’s Midwest North District comprised of 22 churches in Kansas and Nebraska Bishop Clement W. Fugh, presiding prelate of the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church, announced the appointment on Oct. 24. A pastor in Southern California for more than 18 years, Cager has been on the front lines advocating for the underserved. In addition, he has served as president of both the Southern California AME Ministerial Alliance and the ecumenical Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders for the past few years.


Categories: Religion
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