Syracuse's Plymouth Congregational Church Welcomes First African American Pastor

Dec 16, 2019

Rev. Eric Jackson and his wife, Darnisa Amante-Jackson.
Credit provided photo / Mack Richardson

A progressive Downtown Syracuse Church established by a group of Christian abolitionists in the 1850's has its first African American Pastor.  Plymouth Congregational Church has a nearly 170 year history  of fighting against slavery, poverty, and war.   

Reverend Eric Jackson says it’s essential that he builds upon its rich legacy of welcoming everyone.

"I'm an African American pastor in a predominantly white denomination.  To have a congregation like Plymouth that's so intentional about that committment is something that's deeply important to me, and  it's a value that I can help to deeply enhance."

Mack Richardson was on the search committee for the new pastor.

Rev. Jackson greets Leslie Smith.
Credit provided photo / Mack Richardson

"We wanted someone we knew was interested in our personal lives and our together lives as part of the church membership who would be able to care for us individually and collectively."

Reverend Jackson brings 12 years of ministry experience after serving in New Hampshire and New York City. The Pastor says he appreciates Plymouth’s commitment to inclusion.

"We are a truly welcoming congregation.  To know that at Plymouth, those barriers people might have experienced at other congregations such as exclusion, such as experiencing a place where they did not feel like they belong, it's our hope that they can find belonging here at Plymouth."

Mack Richardson says the church is a sanctuary and embraces immigrants.  

"To me, as a 70-year-old who grew up in the south, I saw the opposite.  It's what Jesus told us to do.  People who would deny minorities and immigrants rights are reading their bibles incorrectly, or not at all," Richardson said.

In the Plymouth Church pulpit.
Credit provided photo / Mack Richardson

"We realize there is such a thing as white privilege," he continued.  "That's not why we asked a black minister to come in.  But obviously, understanding that, eventually when we get to know each other and trust each other completely, we can start attacking some pretty serious things."

Reverend Jackson says the goal is to bring people together for worship, energize and transform lives.

 "Churches have to think about what is it that makes us come alive, what is our deep sense of purpose.  Sometimes that can get lost in the institutionalism."

In the past, Plymouth donated money to help the Rescue Mission build a home for the LBGTQ Youth. Mack Richardson says those are the social justice matters that churches need to work on, with Reverend Jackson leading the way. 

Rev. Jackson with David Palladino-Cowdery during Passing of the Peace.
Credit provided photo / Mack Richardson