St. Mark’s pastor to celebrate 20th anniversary

BY PUNEET SANDHU Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG —This Sun., June 14, marks the 20th year that Rev. Brian K. Brown has served as pastor of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, 1301 37th St. S.

To celebrate this joyous occasion, themed “A Pastor With a Heart to Serve,” Bishop Donald Franklin Browne, the senior pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Mississippi, will visit St. Mark to lead the Sunday service beginning at 10:45 a.m. Following the service, members of the church are invited to attend a dinner at the Frank Cubby Fellowship Center, located at 3444 5th Ave. S., St. Petersburg.

We’re looking for this to be a celebration that’s worthy of his 20 years,” Cheryl Holliday, President of the Pastor’s Aid Missionary at St. Mark, said. “He’s been such a great pastor to this church and to this community.”

Brown was introduced to St. Mark through his godmother recalled his mother, Mary Brown. He was active in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and his grandfather encouraged him to memorize Bible scriptures as a child.

“I had been a member [of St. Mark] since my early teens,” Brown said. “My initial sermon after acknowledging my call to the ministry…was June 3 of 1990.”

In 1995, while in his 20s, Brown accepted the call to become the pastor at St. Mark.

“[As pastor,] he oversees the church, each member of the church and all the programs,” St. Mark’s Lead Deacon John Washington said. “He implements different things to make the church grow by bringing in new members. He preaches and teaches, ministers to the sick, performs weddings, presides at funerals, visits each member and tries to meet our needs and bring us all together as a church.”

“I think he’s doing an excellent job,” Washington added. “He’s a young man and he’s very serious…and very biblical in what he does—anything he does, you can trace it to the Bible.”

According to Washington, it was Brown who came up with the church’s motto “Hope, help and healing.”

Cynthia Coney, who has been Brown’s secretary for nearly all his years as pastor, said Brown is active in the church and state conventions. He is the president and vice moderator of Congress 2 for the South Florida Progressive Baptist Association; chairman of the Convention Planning and Evaluation Committee for Progressive Missionary and Educational Baptist State Convention of FL, Inc. and chairman of the Social Justice and Community Commission for the National Baptist Convention.

Coney said that from his very first year as pastor, Brown helped to grow the church and its membership. Under his leadership, the church purchased a van and marquee for the building and in 2005 opened a new Education Wing with classrooms, a library and a computer lab.

“He’s added a lot of deacons and trustees to the staff to help manage the rapid growth of the church,” Coney said. “Within the first five years of his leadership, we’d taken in about 300 new members, so our congregation has really grown by leaps and bounds.”

Brown has also started a new campaign called Vision 2017, an effort to “burn [the church’s] mortgage by 2017 through tithes and offerings,” Coney said.

To increase youth involvement at the church, Brown said St. Mark hosts “Youth Explosion” every April for “the youth of our city and as far as Orlando to come in and…do worship that’s really geared toward … youth expression.”

Brown has sought creative ways to introduce the community to St. Mark. One such effort is Evangelizing Exercising, in which the church will provide individuals with pedometers to track their steps and health, while sharing information about ministering opportunities at the church.

St. Mark will also bring Vacation Bible School to the community by turning it from an event into a ministry. Another of Brown’s newest efforts is the Body Builders Ministry.

“We just launched it this year where we’re intentionally creating opportunities to build the body of Christ or to build the ministries,” Brown explained. “These are also opportunities for young people to have safe places to come and have fun and fellowship and to say to the community at large that just because you’re saved, don’t mean that you don’t have fun.”

One example of how Brown plans to bring fun activities to the church will take place June 26 when St. Mark will host a version of the game show “Family Feuds,” called Ministry Feuds.

Apart from growing St. Mark, Coney said one of Brown’s biggest efforts over the years has been community involvement. He has led the church’s annual back-to-school bashes, in which church members provide school supplies and backpacks for children, especially in the Child’s Park area where St. Mark is located.

Brown also started an event called Christmas with the Community, in which church members adopt families and provide toys for children while sharing the gospel.

“His big thing is finding out what the need is in the community and then being able to provide that need,” Coney said.

As for his services in the church, St. Mark members said that his sermons seem to speak directly to them.

“Most people love to hear him preach because he’s so thorough,” Coney said. “He’s very adamant and very clear and concise with the Bible. He teaches the word the way it is, he doesn’t throw in his own theories or anything like that. His knowledge of the Bible, the word of God, just kind of leaves you in awe.”

Christler Christie, who first attended St. Mark over 30 years ago, said, “I enjoy his sermons because when he preaches, he gives you three or four main points and he makes you understand what the Bible says. Every sermon that he does is great inspiration. I haven’t heard any bad sermons from him. I can even quote some.”

Christie has been so moved by Brown’s sermons that years ago, she began keeping a notebook to record them. She is among other St. Mark members who plan to attend Brown’s anniversary event.

Brown feels “privileged” to have been able to serve as pastor his home church.

“It’s been a great joy so far these 20 years to serve them and to collaborate with them to serve our city and our community as a whole,” Brown said. “We’ve accomplished many things together and as they hear me often say, I’m still yet believing and trusting that the best is yet to come.”

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