Graingers Celebrate 25 Years of Pastoral Ministry

Ed Laiscell | 1/16/2009, 7:49 a.m.

In 1983, Pastor Grainger Browing was appointed to pastor the 17-member Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington. Little did he know or anticipate he and his wife, Rev. Dr. Jo Ann, would still be pastoring the Prince George€s County church 25 years later.

€Normally in the AME Church, one is appointed each year by the Bishop. So normally if the church begins to grow, the Bishop will give you a promotion to another church. Very seldom, at the time we started, would persons stay in churches 25 years, but that has changed,€ Pastor Browning said.
In appreciation for their 25 years of service to the church, Ebenezer members and friends held a gala celebration at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor on Fri., Jan. 2.

Serving as master of ceremonies for the evening was gospel recording artist Smokie Norful, who shared in providing musical praise during the evening. Other artists ministering praise and worship were Byron Cage, worship leader at Ebenezer, and Pastor Donnie McClurkin.
When asked about the celebration, Pastor Browning said, €It was humbling because again God was receiving all the honor, praise and glory. It was humbling [as well] to see the outpouring of love and appreciation that persons showed on that night. €We are so appreciative of their patience and love through the years.€

When asked to explain the reason for the success of ministry at Ebenezer, Pastor Browning was quick to point to the presence and support of his wife, who serves as co-pastor.

€We have been blessed to have a unique team ministry,€ he said. €She provided me spiritual, administrative and counseling balance that was needed so the work and ministry of the church would continue.€

As far as sharing the ministry with her husband, Rev. Dr. Browning notes that she was an ordained Itinerant Deacon when they were arrived at Ebenezer.

€I was in ministry when we first came,€ she said. €Because I was in ministry, I was not only the first lady of the church, but I served in the pulpit with him every Sunday. When persons came into the church because I was serving in the pulpit it was something they saw immediately. Obviously it was something persons had to adjust to, and they did.€

Her role as co-pastor was an appointment made by Bishop Vinton Anderson in 1997.

€That was the first time we know of in the AME Church that a Bishop actually gave an appointment for someone to be a co-pastor. It was historic,€ Pastor Browning said.

Ebenezer AME has grown to a membership well over 20,000 and has more than 100 ministries since the Brownings arrived. While they are grateful for the growth, it is also challenging.

€Just trying to stay on top of the growth has been challenging,€ Pastor Browning said. €For about 20 years, 1,500 members were joining per year and just trying to make sure that persons were properly discipled and nurtured; it has been a challenge.€

As far as the future is concerned, the Brownings plan on remaining at Ebenezer and focusing on the needs of the congregation.

€We are in these tough economic times and I plan a major enhancement of our outreach ministry. As government cuts back, I think the church needs to step forward and provide outreach to persons,€ Pastor Browning said.

Ed Laiscell can be reached at elasicell@comcast.net.