Garden of Prayer #7 raises the roof as the pastor steps down
by S. Rotan Hale
Bishop Shadrack Brown, Jr. pastor, of Garden of Prayer # 7 Vision of Faith Ministries, Inc in Northwest Roanoke sat in awe as songs were sung and speeches were made during a flood of praise in celebration of his 53 years of spiritual guidance.
Bishop Jamaal Jackson, pastor of Refreshing Church officiated the celebration held Saturday, March 25th at the church in Northwest Roanoke. And what a celebration it was as a host of pastors, dignitaries, and parishioners joined family and friends for the power-packed 3-hour service that truly lifted the roof.
Bishop Brown is a native of Chuckatuck, Va, born in 1930. He earned a BS degree in Elementary Education and an MA in Educational Supervision and Administration. Additionally, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1989. Ordained in 1960, he was pastor of Open Door Mission in Suffolk, VA., and was installed as pastor in 1970 at Garden of Prayer #7– located then at 804 Madison Ave. in NW. Roanoke.
Under Bishop Brown’s guidance his ministry grew and so did his following which led to the church’s relocation in 1986 after the construction of the new house of worship at 3101 Cove Road. In 2007 the facility underwent an expansion that transformed it into the palatial edifice that stands today and from certain angles, majestically overlooks portions of the city.
During his time as pastor, Bishop’s focus on youth led to the establishment of Children Learning the Prevention of Crime (CLIP), another organization Save the Generations, Inc. a statewide youth outreach campaign, Vision of Faith Bible College, and Great Beginning Academy Day Care.
Bishop Brown had the good fortune of a healthy and supportive family. He along with his wife of 52 years, Shirley G. Brown (deceased), and three children: Keith, Gail (deceased), and Marcus all joined in efforts to support and grow the church making it truly a family affair.
There was no shortage of praise throughout the ceremony as Bishop Jackson and others in the packed chapel approached the podium and lifted the bishop higher and higher. At one point Bishop Jackson presented a proclamation to Bishop Brown honoring his legacy as a teacher, preacher, counselor, and all-round “Apostolic Father,” as was noted.
“I am grateful to God that we are not just celebrating any pastor but a man that has been a trailblazer and carved out the way for many of us to be on the journey that we are on regarding community engagement,” exclaimed Bishop Jackson. “Many preachers are quiet in their pulpits and not active in their community but we are celebrating a man who is concerned about the City of Roanoke. Business owners, lawyers, and judges are members of this church. Bishop Brown has been able to inspire many men and women who are political figures and agents of change within this city because of the impact of this man.”
Among those who spoke at the celebration was attorney Arthur Strickland a personal and trusted friend of the honoree for forty years.
“Bishop Brown would send me clients and as we all know people have problems whether you’re rich or poor,” said Strickland. “I loved getting clients from Bishop Brown because I could work on their legal problems and he could work on their spiritual problems and sometimes things would overlap.”
Strickland went on to speak of Dr. Shirley Brown, her incredible influence, and her spirit. “When I entered the building this afternoon I felt Shirley’s presence,” he said. “Bishop, she was the wind beneath your wings and she still is.”
Another chosen to speak was Judge Onzlee Ware who said Bishop Brown was a fatherly figure to him. “Every time I had a conversation with Pastor Brown I felt like I had a conversation with my father,” said Judge Ware who continued to speak on Bishop’s integrity, his positive attitude, and his no-nonsense approach to running the church despite his sense of humor.
“The biggest thing I admire about Pastor Brown is he understands that for the community to survive we have got to go back to God, to the church, and back to basics with our children.”
At several points throughout the celebration, the elaborate display of praise touched many in the chapel moving them to reverent shouts and tears particularly when Bishop Brown himself spontaneously rose from his seat. Driven by the spirit of the moment he graciously expressed thanks repeatedly for the elaborate outpouring of love.
At 92 years old, with his voice weakened by the years, he sang lightly and spoke in tongues while delicately stepping to the rhythm of his soul. His expressions of supreme gratitude powerfully signaled all to their feet with hands in the air and the house feverishly erupted in group praise. It was truly a spiritual moment to behold!