Tomorrow Church of Our Savior will host its annual Black History Celebration. Every other year, we have recognized someone else: this year, we are celebrating the gift God has given to this parish in its unique multi-racial, multi-ethnic ministry. Note that this is not multi-ism for the sake of being multi-something; but rather the vision of heaven for all peoples, tongues, tribes and nations lived out in a small way right here in Palm Bay, Florida, where Jesus is worshipped as the Lamb of God.
Church of Our Savior: 50 Years of Bridging Barriers
Church of Our Savior started worshipping together on Sunday, July 23, 1961 with about 25 individuals. Palm Bay’s population was about 3,000. In late 1964 or early 1965 the Church welcomed her first African American members. Perry Hughes, who was traveling to Jacksonville once a month to make his communion, and Ossie Hill Jackson, who was driving to Miami for the same reason accepted the invitation to come to Our Savior. They were soon joined by others.
Sometime later, a group of protestors from the NAACP was apparently planning to march on Church of Our Savior. Perry Hughes and Ray Byrd prepared to meet them at the door and to welcome them into the Church. The news must have gotten out for the marchers never showed up. Thus began our long tradition of racial and ethnic diversity of which we are so proud of today.
The diversity of the parish bore fruit in the 1990’s. Fr. Benedict Vani, a refugee from the war in Liberia joined Our Savior as our first Black priest. He has since returned to Liberia and the parish supports him as a mission partner.
In 1992, Church of Our Savior hosted our first of twelve Caribbean Festivals. People who had not heard of the Church, soon began to know of Our Savior as the home of the Festival. The congregation welcomed many members from the West Indies and a few from Central America. For a time, services were said in Spanish, encouraged by Bishop Hugo Pina-Lopez.
Today, Church of Our Savior sees more than 175 persons, from more than 20 countries, Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian, worshipping together as One Body of Christ on Sunday mornings and serving together in ministry throughout the week.