It’s been 30 years since Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony was installed as senior pastor of Fellowship Chapel in Detroit. He succeeded Rev. James E. Wadsworth, Jr. at Fellowship, after the elder preacher passed. Wadsworth had been a mentor and spiritual advisor to Anthony, going back to Anthony’s years as a youth.
While Anthony’s first sermon at Fellowship was three decades ago, he said he still remembers the inaugural message preached as if it were yesterday.
“My first sermon was the Black Church in Revolutionary Times,” Anthony said. “As a result of the sermon, some people left the church for good. However, some other people joined the church because of the sermon.”
For those who have followed Anthony’s life, at least from his teen years into adulthood, they shouldn’t be surprised that he delivered a fiery, black revolutionist/spiritually-laced sermon right out the gate. After all, the Black Power movement in America was born in the mid-to-late‘60s while Anthony attended Detroit’s Central High School. Thus, he didn’t miss any opportunities to formulate social and political philosophies from the movement and facilitate them into action for change in the black community, including the church.
“My thing was always about black unity,” Anthony said. “It has always been about building organizations of activism, which spilled over into my spiritual and social orientation in church.”
After graduating from Central, Anthony attended Wayne State University, where he continued to grow as a black activist for change. He ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Anthony later earned a master’s degree in pastoral ministry, and received an honorary doctorate of arts degree, both of which are from Marygrove College. Additionally, Anthony attended the University of Detroit for Advanced Study in Black Theology.
What further developed Anthony’s thinking about creating platforms and programs to help empower black people, was a month-long trip to the Motherland, where he visited Ghana and Liberia. According to Anthony, who was still a college student at the time, it was in Africa that he saw black people effectively running entire governments, businesses, school systems, flying airplanes, and many other things not seen in America at the time.
Anthony returned to Detroit with a stronger sense of black pride, punctuated by the African values, principles, and cultures learned across the Atlantic Ocean. He joined such organizations as the Pan-African Congress, USA, created to encourage and strengthen bonds between people of African heritage.
While Anthony was elevating his role as a change agent in the black community, the church was calling his name.
“There were so many people in the church that kept pushing and motivating me,” he said. “It just kept coming…the church, the church, the church. Yet, it was still a gradual realization that this is perhaps what I should be doing. However, everything about the church was falling in place, and it felt comfortable and natural. Rev. Wadsworth, Sr., my mentor, was very instrumental in helping me make the decision to go into ministry.”
Therefore, it’s exciting times at Fellowship Chapel these days, as the church celebrates Anthony’s 30-year pastoral anniversary under the banner theme, “The Power of a Prophetic Preacher.” Fellowship Chapel, located at 7707 W. Outer Drive on the city’s west side, is honoring Anthony’s milestone with a series of programs and worship services beginning on Wednesday night, Feb. 22 with a Youth Poetic Celebration.
On Sunday, February 26 at 9:30 a.m. at Fellowship, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, will preach at the anniversary worship service. Later that evening at Fellowship, beginning at 5:00 p.m., an anniversary Rhythm & Jazz Praise Concert will be held, featuring trumpeter Rayse Biggs, pianist Al McKenzie, and other jazz musicians.
“As we celebrate Rev. Anthony on his 30th anniversary, we are excited and thankful that God sent him to lead our congregation,” said Larry and Silvia Sims, co- chairs of the 30th pastoral anniversary. “We are forever reminded that he is a man whose teachings reflect on all of God’s children.”
In addition to serving as senior pastor at Fellowship for 30 years, Anthony, since 1993, has also served as president of Detroit Branch NAACP. Additionally, he was recently re-elected to the NAACP National Board. He also was tapped to co-chair the NAACP’s National Religious Affairs Department.
While it seems as if the two leadership roles at Fellowship and the NAACP are polar opposites, Anthony makes the case of their connectivity.
“I believe, preach and teach that we are Christ-rooted, to the degree it is our focus and faith,” Anthony explained. “However, we are also African-centered. We have a particular culture, a particular history, a particular view of the world, and everything should be connected. I don’t see the role of the black church and the role of the NAACP as antithetical; I see them as having a symbiotic relationship that feeds off each other.”
Anthony, however, is appreciative of the support received from Fellowship Chapel’s members.
“I give praise and thanks to my church for allowing me to be a part of the NAACP for the last 24 years,” said Anthony, who along with First Lady Monica G. Anthony, have four daughters. “I could not do what I do with the NAACP without Fellowship Chapel’s support.”
For more information on pastoral anniversary events, contact Fellowship Chapel at 313.347.2820, or log on to www.fellowshipchapel.org.