Central Chapel A.M.E. this month is honoring Pastor
John Freemans 10 years of service with the church. The celebration
includes several services this weekend.
Chapel honors Pastor John
While attending a church camp when he was 16, John Freeman felt that God
called him to be a minister. But he didnt listen at the time. Instead,
he spent the next several years playing his keyboards in rhythm and blues
bands, wrestling professionally and running a nightclub.
But he finally heeded the call.
I ran from the calling for at least nine years, Freeman, 56,
said in an interview last week. But I realized you cant run
fast enough to outrun God.
Since he stopped running, Freeman has pursued a long and satisfying career
spreading the word of God. A minister since 1974, Freeman this month celebrates
his 10th anniversary as pastor of the Central Chapel A.M.E. church. The
celebration includes a service tonight (Thursday), at 7 p.m., with Elder
Ronald Logan of Springfield as guest preacher, and a family fun and game
night tomorrow (Friday), at 6:30, at the churchs Education and Family
This Sunday, Feb. 23, the celebration concludes with two services. The
morning service features the Rev. Dr. Ronald L. Glenn, presiding elder
of the third Episcopal District, with singing by the Central Chapel Mass
In the afternoon the
Rev. Dr. Frederick A. Wright, pastor of Wayman A.M.E. Church in Dayton,
will preach and the Wayman Choir will sing.
Central Chapel parishioners feel they have a lot to celebrate.
Hes brought a warm, sweet spirit to the church, Jonas
Bender said of Freeman. Hes a great preacher, a wonderful
man and Im so proud to have him as our preacher.
A member of the church for almost 50 years, Ernestine Benning works closely
with Freeman as a volunteer secretary.
I believe Pastor John has brought to us his love, support and assistance,
she said. He does it with his everpresent smile, his hugs, his handshakes,
his gift for teaching, his ministry and, most of all, his prayers.
Freeman agrees that he and Central Chapel A.M.E. have been a good fit.
Its been a good marriage here, he said of his relationship
with his parishioners. These people have a mind to work.
Pastor John Freeman clearly thrives when working hard. His parishioners
note his long hours visiting his parishioners, his involvement in all
aspects of the church, his ability to complete three college degrees while
pastoring a church and working as chaplain at Wilberforce University.
Ive never seen someone put out the energy that he does,
said Bender, whose own father was a minister. Not even my father.
Freeman sees nothing remarkable about tending to the needs of his parishioners
its his job, part of the commitment he made to each person
in his church when he signed on as pastor. And pastoring a church means
being connected to each and every member in a way that goes beyond friendship,
he believes. If youre family, youre family, he
Freemans high energy level and capacity for hard work surfaced early
in his career, when he pastored three churches simultaneously after being
ordained in 1974 from Cincinnati Bible College.
You just do what you have to do, he said of that experience,
adding with a note of pride, I preached a different message at each
Freeman later cut back to two churches in West Virginia, then transferred
to the Southern Ohio Conference, where he served as director of campus
ministry at Miami University in Oxford. In November 1992, he came to Central
Chapel, which, according to Orlando Brown, had had 18 pastors in the past
This time the pastor stayed.
Freeman appreciates how his church stuck by him when his mother died in
a car accident in 1993. A spirit-led woman, according to her
son, his mother ran a grocery store in tiny Switchback, W.Va., was active
in church and never received a formal education he was high-school
age before he realized she couldnt read, Freeman said. Her death
prompted in him a desire to finish his own education.
After her death I got on a pilgramage, he said. The
church has been understanding.
He studied for and received his bachelors degree from Wilberforce,
a masters from Payne Theological Seminary and, a few years ago,
finished a doctorate of ministry degree from United Theological Seminary
Freemans pursuit of a higher education provided a role model for
young parishioners, Jonas Bender said.
Hes motivated people, Bender said. He wanted young
people to know that if you got something that should be done, you just
tighten up and do it. Its been marvelous to watch.
Now that hes finished his higher education, Freeman stays busy teaching
Wednesday Bible study classes, attending board meetings, visiting parishioners,
tutoring ministerial students and writing sermons.
A gifted speaker by many accounts, Freeman says sermon-writing is a mysterious
process. It seems you start writing your sermons on the day you
are born, he said. Some I write, some are spontaneous, some
are in concert with the liturgical season and sometimes I wait for God
Freeman also brings to worship his talent for singing and playing keyboard,
which, several parishioners said, adds vibrancy to the Sunday services.
He enjoys incorporating into his services a variety of music, from traditional
hymns and gospel music to more contemporary songs.
His lively worship services help keep the church healthy, his parishioners
believe. Freeman is proud that Central Chapel has grown numerically,
financially and spiritually in the past 10 years, with a current
membership of about 143 members. While retired people form the backbone
of the church, Central Chapel also has a growing number of young people,
he said, and overall the church membership crosses all age groups.
Youre going to hear some crying, some cracking of bones, some
laughter and some pain, Freeman said of Central Chapels diverse
ages and moods.
Under his pastorship, the church has pursued big projects, such as the
addition of the Education and Family Life Center, which was completed
in 1998 after a multi-year fund drive. Freeman continues to dream big
dreams, including his wish to televise Central Chapel worship services
and to use the Education and Family Life Center to provide more community
outreach services, such as workshops on financial or health issues.
A church that stays open only on Sunday isnt much of a church,
he said. Church service is when you go out and feed the hungry,
clothe the naked and visit the old. God blessed us so that we can be a
blessing to others.
The father of three grown children and husband to his childhood sweetheart,
Brenda, who was recently ordained as the churchs associate pastor,
Freeman could at age 56 choose to slow down. But, characteristically,
he shows no signs of doing so.
I havent finished this race, he said. I have not
reached perfection. I try to live a holy life, to live as sinlessly as
possible. But if I fall by the wayside, I know that failure does not mean
Im finished. I believe God forgives us.
Pastor John wouldnt mind staying put for the rest of his pastoral
career, and hopes to pastor at Central Chapel as long as hes able.
My hope is that I retire from here, he said, adding in a voice
that seemed to already know the answer to his question, If theres
such a thing as retirement.