By Journalist Ms. Jones
POUGHKEEPSIE – On Sunday, October 23rd Reverend Dr. Jesse Voyd Bottoms, Jr. celebrated his pastoral anniversary finale at Beulah Baptist Church. He has been pastoring Beulah for 45 years! The theme was “Thanks Man of God For Telling Us Our Way.” Rev. Bottoms accepted the call to pastor Beulah in 1977. He was part of a nationwide search to find a pastor.
“I was living in Louisville, Kentucky and the church had been vacant for five years… I [was] in Pennsylvania on vacation…They invited me to come over and preach… So, I came here and preached to the congregation, and they invited me back again. And then they extended the call to come. And that was 45 years ago… It was the hand of God that brought me here and it’s been a good ride for 45 years,” said Rev. Bottoms.
The celebration included singing by the Mass Choir. There was a special video presentation of members who live out of state. There were various speakers who gave words of admiration.
“Jesse’s road to success… was not easy… The road was not straight… There was a loop called confusion. There were speed bumps called friends… There were red lights called enemies. There were caution lights called family… Thank God, thank God… he had an agent called perseverance. He had insurance called faith and [he] had a driver called Jesus to get to a place called success. Life will have its ups and downs. Life will have its curves. It will have its speed bumps. But this man of God has brought [Beulah] a mighty long way,” said Dr. John Young, Jr. who was a 26-year-old principal next door at Morse Elementary School when Rev. Bottoms began preaching at Beulah.
Rev. Bottoms’ journey has been filled with many ups and down. One significant milestone was getting the street in front of the church named Rev. Dr. Jesse V. Bottoms Jr., Way. However, there have been hard times along the way as well.
“Being able to impact the lives of people, to see people grow up… dedicate the babies, baptize them, mentor them… marry them… Unfortunately, you might even bury some. So, [I have been] able to be with families, throughout every phase of their lives, minister to families, and help them to celebrate their victories and to make it through the challenges,” said Rev. Bottoms.
Dr. James C. Blackburn, Jr., Pastor of the Greater Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Buffalo, NY, was scheduled to preach, but hurt his leg.Rev. Leonard D. Comithier, Rev. Bottoms’ longtime friend, filled in at the last minute.
“Rev. Bottoms is my friend and so it wasn’t a heavy lift. I’m accustomed to being a ‘ram in the bush,’ especially with Rev. Bottoms… I know him, and he’s been consistent over the years. The fact that he could pick up the phone and call me and say, ‘Dr. Blackburn is sick. Can you come?’ I said, ‘What do you want me to do?’” said Rev. Comithier who is author of the book “About More Than Sunday Morning.”
Ministers, family, and friends came from Kentucky, Ohio, Albany, and Washington, DC to participate in the service. Ralph Coates came all the way from Atlanta.
“I grew up at Beulah. My grandparents raised me… They did a great job raising me. But, then I thank God for my spiritual father who picked up things when my grandfather went on to be with the Lord,” said Coates, who calls Rev. Bottoms “Dad,” and says he is a better man because of him.
Rev. Bottoms has been a father figure to many of the young men from his congregation. Bishop James Hassell is one of them.
“A few months ago, I buried my mom here and when I finished preaching I walked around the choir stand and sat next to my father [Rev. Bottoms] and leaned my head on his shoulder and my church was here, the daughter church of Beulah… They watched him “Father me” and they understood the relationship that we have,” said Bishop Hassell who came to Beulah as a teenager. “I didn’t know what manhood was about. I didn’t know what ministry was about… When I was growing up I had a picture of a father from Archie Bunker. He had a chair… That’s what a father is. He has a seat… The best fathers are the ones you can always find in their seat. Kids, they go and do what they do. They destabilize their life and then they come back and Dad is still there. Beulah has been given a father. [For] 45 years he sat in this seat. He did what dads do… When you needed him, he was in his seat.”
The church has been celebrating for two months. They started on August 28th with a cookout at Greenvale Park, a Sons/Daughters & Friends Celebration on September 30th, a Leading Lady Salute on October 8th, and a Clergy Association Salute on October 14th.