Members of the Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church filled the old, historic building with music, prayer, and laughter on Sunday morning as they welcomed the newly appointed Bishop of the Florida Conference of United Methodist Churches.
“Mt. Pleasant UMC is an important place in the Florida conference because it is one of our historical, primarily African-American, black congregations,” Bishop Tom Berlin said in an interview. “Those congregations are leaders, leaders in our community. This church has a historical role in helping the Methodist think about issues pertinent to African American citizens in the context of church.”
Pastor Michael A. Frazier Sr. led the service, while Berlin delivered the Spoken Word for the morning message.
“We made it a priority to come today because of its significance, and it to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and everything he did for the civil rights movement,” Berlin said.
Multiple presentations occurred during the morning service by numerous state, city, and district including Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward Jr., city commissioners Dr. Cynthia Chestnut and Desmond Duncan-Walker, state Rep. Yvonne Haynes-Hinson (D-District 20), and Leadership Council Chairperson Regina Lovings Morse.
Ward, Chestnut, and Duncan-Walker presented Berlin with a plaque stating that Jan. 15th is officially Bishop Thomas Berlin Day in the city of Gainesville.
“He is a new bishop and is actively visiting churches in the area,” Chestnut said. “I think given our church is 156 years old, the bishop wanted to start here. We were so honored to have him here, and we really wanted to roll out the red carpet and show him how much it meant to us.”
Along with the plaque, Berlin received an official mounted photo of the Sunday service’s program, baskets filled with treats, and an open invitation to partake in Mt. Pleasant UMC service whenever he may choose.
After the two-hour service, members of Mt. Pleasant UMC hosted a small brunch in the Fellowship Hall, which featured free drinks and food for the church community.
Berlin sat and ate at the head table with other church leaders. When the meal finished, Bishop Berlin was eager to take the time to meet and converse with the church community.
The bishop has spent 11 days in Gainesville and explained that he and his wife, Karen, are more than excited about moving from Virginia to Florida, which they will soon call home.
“People in Gainesville have been very hospitable and welcoming and have strongly encouraged me to say, ‘Go Gators,’” Berlin said.