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Participating in the Abyssinian Baptist Church’s Inaugural HBCU Event Inspires Students, Faculty

“Education and Faith are the Tigris and Euphrates of our liberation: Twin rivers at the source of our redemption.” These are the words of the late Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, an American academic administrator and a senior pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. He also served as a distinguished visiting professor in the Fordham Graduate School of Education’s Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy Division (ELAP) Ph.D. program in Administration and Supervision, Church and Non-Public School Leadership.

On Sunday, February 26, 2023, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem celebrated its inaugural Historically Black Colleges and Universities Worship Service focused on Black History Sunday with an emphasis on faith and education, and honored the legacy of Reverend Butts, III (1949 -2022). Twelve students from the ELAP doctoral program, along with assistant professor Phillip A. Smith, Ph.D., and professor Lori Wolff, Ph.D., attended the service to represent the Fordham Graduate School of Education. Additionally, Jane Bolgatz, Ph.D., as well as other members of the Fordham community, including current students and alum, were in attendance.

“Sunday was a most auspicious celebration for the Abyssinian Baptist Church community. It was great to see Fordham represented in such a large way,” said Smith, who is also a member of the church.

The worship service was led by the Rev. S. Raschaad Hoggard, Ph.D., Graduate School of Education (GSE) ’22 and associate minister at Abyssinian. David K. Wilson, Ed.D., president of Morgan State University, was the guest speaker; and also included remarks from David Banks, NYC Schools Chancellor, and other distinguished guests.

The impact on the students in Administration and Supervision, Church and Non-Public School Leadership program was heartfelt. A few of the program’s doctoral students shared their sentiments:

“The services on the 26th were special in several ways,” shared Raffaele Corso. “I was blessed to be a part of Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III’s Social Theories class in Spring of 2022. It was extremely evident that Reverend Butts valued the importance of education and on Sunday, the Abyssinian community shared that passion. We were all dressed in our collegiate apparel and I was able to meet several alumni from Fordham who were extremely welcoming. The entire Abyssinian community was warm and gracious, and the services were lively and spectacular. It was also a joy to see Dr. Reverend Hoggard, a graduate of this program, lead the congregation.”

“I was inspired to pursue a doctoral degree, which is grounded in the works of influential civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III,” emphasized Dorlene Curwen. “It was a privilege to be present at the Abyssinian Baptist Church to honor Reverend Butts and experience the legacy of someone who embodied excellent leadership in education and pastoral ministry. The GSE program at Fordham offers me a unique learning experience on matters of social justice and educational reform. At Fordham, I am being equipped to be a transformational leader in my community and in the realm of Church and Non-Public School Leadership.”

“Reflecting on our visit to Abyssinian Baptist Church, especially on their inaugural Sunday celebrating HBCUs, one word comes to mind: Gift,” said Fr. Christopher Ford. “As both a faith leader and an educator, I am in this program because I believe that education and faith together have the power not only to form and inform, but to transform. There is perhaps no better witness to that fact than HBCUs, and there was no better advocate for that message than Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III. It was a privilege to join the Abyssinian community to worship together and celebrate the great legacy – and future – of HBCUs. I pray my classmates and I are able to bring that legacy into our lives and the lives of those we serve.”

“My visit to the Abyssinian Baptist Church made me feel as though I was at home,” stated Melissa Orekoya. “While there I enjoyed seeing first-hand the impact and legacy of Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III and the marriage of faith and education. His influence ripples throughout the church, Fordham, and our community at large. I was so impressed and humbled to see and be in the presence of so many prominent Black educators and figures who are impacting not only this generation, but generations to come. It validated my desire to obtain my Ph.D. at Fordham and fueled my hunger to educate and positively influence the Black and Brown students that I currently work with to continue to create equity in educational spaces.”


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