Friday, June 26, 2015

Richardson: 40 Years at Grace Baptist

W. Franklyn Richardson '90MAR was appointed pastor of Mount Vernon's Grace Baptist Church in April, 1975.

One of the best known and most highly revered ministers in the New York area, Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson '90 MAR is celebrating 40 years at the helm of his Mount Vernon church, the Grace Baptist Church, which has a membership roll that exceeds 4,000.  It was April, 1975, when he was tapped to be senior pastor of the church, arriving in suburban New York after stints as pastor of churches in Virginia.

Forty years later, the church is booming, busy and thriving and has dozens of hands in many activities in the community.  The church, a religious home to many, has a strong, vigorous, visible community presence.  That includes its community development corporation that invests in business and housing development, health awareness, job training, and education.  That also includes ministries that are engaged in arts and culture, food pantries, culinary arts, legal issues, music, history and immigration. The community development arm has built in aggregate over $100 million in affordable housing.

Yale and YWAA in past years have not neglected him for his service, not only in the Westchester community but for contributions around the nation. He is a past recipient of the Yale Outstanding Service Award for exceptional service in the community.

Richardson is a former General Secretary of the National Baptist Convention, USA, which represents over 8 million church members and was a member of the Central Committee for the World Council of Churches. He has served on the board of the National Urban League and is Chair of the Conference of National Black Churches.

Richardson maintains ongoing ties to the Yale Divinity School, from which he received his master's degree. (He has a doctorate from the United Theological Seminary.)  He has helped recruit students to the school and has served as a resource or assistant for seminars and other coursework.

Always one to lead or provide guidance in community issues, in late June in the days after the church shootings at a Bible study meeting in Charleston, he applauded Walmart's decision to halt the sale of the Confederate flag in its stores. "We applaud Walmart for making the bold and morally correct decision to remove Confederate flag merchandise from their stores and web sites," he told Electronic Urban Website. "The Confederate flag is an offensive symbol for African-Americans in particular and for all people of goodwill."

In February, he declared his support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's school reforms.  In an essay in the local Journal News, he responded to outcries by some that reform wasn't necessary.  He wrote, "To suggest mission is accomplished is premature when far too many of our schools are a long way removed from what anyone should consider acceptable." He added, "The governor understands you can't spend more and more money in the same way over and over and expect a different result."

In May, he spoke to graduates of Virginia Union University, where he received his undergraduate degree and where he chairs the school's board of trustees, and urged them to act as "custodians of our future."

His church in Mount Vernon this spring paused to recognize four decades of service in Westchester, but his beat didn't stop. It pressed on with more deeds to be accomplished, more work to be done, and more communities to assist.

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