Transforming Faith into Action: Bishop Nelson’s Visionary Impact in Brooklyn

Transforming Faith into Action: Bishop Nelson’s Visionary Impact in Brooklyn

Photos courtesy: Bishop DR RC Nelson

By JR Holguin

Ebenezer Urban Ministry Center leads in community service, affordable housing, and educational initiatives.

BROOKLYN, NY: In an exclusive interview with The Immigrant’s Journal, Bishop R. C. Dr. Hugh Nelson of the Ebenezer Urban Ministry Center (EUMC), formerly known as the Church of God of East Flatbush, shared insights into his journey in ministry and the transformative role his faith-based organization plays in the Brooklyn community.

Born in Jamaica and raised in England, Nelson, the son of pastors, initially pursued psychology before returning to his ministry roots. “I felt that was a call God placed upon my life,” he reflected, emphasizing his deep-rooted connection to his faith.

Under his leadership, the Church, which began 53 years ago by 13 Jamaican immigrants, has evolved into a holistic urban ministry center, addressing the broader needs of the Brooklyn community. “What was needed was not just a congregation, but an urban ministry center,” Nelson explained.

A Vision for Community Enhancement

Two decades after Nelson assumed his pastoral role, his unique vision culminated in the official opening of EUMC, celebrated on September 16, 2023. Nelson’s vision led to a transformative shift from a traditional congregation to an urban ministry center, focusing on community service and meeting Brooklyn’s housing needs.

Under Nelson’s leadership, the Church embarked on a journey that involved acquiring two city blocks, an investment that has now borne fruit in the form of a 43,000-square-foot ministry space. The project, valued at $364 million, includes 530 affordable apartments, a modern sanctuary, and community service facilities. Already, 315 apartments are occupied, with an additional 220 set to be completed by spring 2024.

This development came to life following the Church’s purchase of Ebenezer Plaza in 2011 for $8.1 million, later seeing its value rise to $12.5 million after successful rezoning. The project, a collaboration with Brisa Builders, Evergreen City, and Procida Development Group, reflects the Church’s commitment to spiritual enrichment and urban revitalization.

“We wanted to make sure that local Brooklynites and local New Yorkers have an opportunity to stay in their community,” Bishop Nelson stated, emphasizing the center’s dedication to affordable housing. EUMC is a beacon of hope in Brooklyn, symbolizing a new comprehensive community service and support era.

Empowering Through Education and Services

The Ebenezer Urban Ministry Center has diverse programs targeting various community needs. These include specialized ministries for men and women, youth and children programs, and a strong focus on family stability. The Church also engages in local and international missions, extending its reach to Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Caribbean.

Looking ahead to 2024, the bishop emphasized the importance of education and community services. The Hope Center Development Corporation, an organization birthed from the Church, plays a pivotal role in this mission. It provides over 80,000 meals annually, offers GED classes, crisis counseling, and assistance with SNAP registration, among other services. “The whole idea of making disciples to impact the world,” he said, “means that the world has now become a global village.”

Addressing the Migrant Crisis

In response to New York’s ongoing migrant crisis, EUMC is collaborating with the mayor’s office to provide shelter and services to migrants, showcasing its commitment to being part of the solution to complex social issues. “We’re committed to being a part of the solution and not just complaining about the problem,” Nelson stated.

Per city reports, over fifty percent of New York City’s shelter population comprises migrants, and the total shelter population has increased twice since Adams assumed office in January 2022. New York City accommodates migrants in various locations, including hotels, previously empty office buildings, school gymnasiums, and emergency shelters on Randall’s Island.

An Invitation for Worship and Reflection

The bishop extends an open invitation to worship at EUMC, 660 Powell Street, Brooklyn, NY. Services are currently held on Sundays and via Zoom on Wednesdays, with plans to reintroduce Sunday evening services post-COVID.

As the holiday season unfolds, Nelson encourages a spirit of gratitude and recognition of blessings. He emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and thanking those who contribute to our lives, fostering a sense of community and mutual respect. “Count your blessings. Recognize how blessed you are, and never become too busy to show thanks,” he advised.

In a city like New York, where challenges abound, EUMC is a testament to the power of faith and community in creating meaningful change and offering hope to those in need. 

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