As Second Olivet Missionary Baptist Church rebuilds a new young voice has emerged from the ranks of local clergy. Thirty-one year old Rev. Aaron James arrived from Rochester with his wife and two girls to become the new pastor at Second Olivet Missionary Baptist Church. Since then five years have gone by and the James family expanded adding two boys.
James attended Roberts Wesleyan College and Genesee Community College He proudly speaks of his growing up, “I have a really solid church upbringing. I was born in the church raised in the church didn’t know anything but church”
James downplays his own education, believing that it’s not necessary to deal with education, college or Divinity School unless it relates to the business at hand.
He becomes animated when he describes working under the tutelage of Rev. Willie Fray Cotton of Antioch Baptist Church in Rochester, “He was a genius, an anointed man, a very powerful man of God and I was blessed to be under his tutelage. It doesn’t matter what I got in college because it could never prepare me for pasturing”
Shortly after the congregation vacated for temporary quarters the historic century old building collapsed. Rev. James feigns surprise, “There’s nothing to prepare you for the first church you pastor falling down within a year of you being there.”
“We were in a building committee meeting and I received a call, Pastor you’d better get down here!”
After surveying the initial damage Rev. James and others left for the night since there really wasn’t anything anyone could do.
As Rev. James drove down West Street the next morning he expected to survey the damage “As I turned off 690 to West Street I saw the apartment building that’s next to the church I was expecting to see the top of the church building but it wasn’t there, as I got closer I realized it was gone and I shouted No!”
The building was gone. Soon after the last remaining portion of the structure was taken down and hauled away.
When reflecting on the sudden crisis that gripped the church community, Rev. James quietly says, “I had to trust and believe like I never had before.”
This week Second Olivet Missionary Baptist Church celebrated the opening of their new church located on the same land that once held the century old building. Some of the old stained glass windows that adorned the old church are now prominently featured in the new sanctuary.
Rev. James begins to talk about leadership and the work of a pastor in a church “How to get them to the place where God wanted them to be without upsetting the apple cart?” Suddenly as if putting a car in reverse he adds, ” In pasturing, I’ve found that sometimes you have to upset the apple cart.”
Rev. James drops the smile and continues, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is not always a feel good gospel not always a comfortable thing. Jesus himself when he went into the temple and found that they were selling, there were thieves and gambling in the temple…Jesus didn’t go in and preach he went in turning over tables turning things upside down”
The church landscaping is still being installed, the ceremonial march to their first service has concluded and Rev Aaron James appears focused.
And to those who’ll listen Rev. James mission-forward is clear “I want to continue to grow and move forward…to teach. The vision God had given me for this church goes far beyond this building it’s for this church to become self sufficient, self sustaining and for the church to be the center the community. While we are a predominantly black congregation we believe since we are in this community we believe in embodying the community and that means a multi-cultural church. Jesus said ‘who so ever will come’. It is a vision of mine that the church is filled to the rafters with every race, every class cause that’s the kind of person Jesus was. Jesus included everyone his concern was where they were going not where they came from. And that’s what this church is all about.”