Thousands of mourners filled the sanctuaries and designated overflow rooms of the Apostolic Church of God Thursday and Friday to say their final goodbyes to Bishop Arthur M. Brazier. The esteemed preacher, civil rights activist and community warrior died
Thousands of mourners filled the sanctuaries and designated overflow rooms of the Apostolic Church of God Thursday and Friday to say their final goodbyes to Bishop Arthur M. Brazier. The esteemed preacher, civil rights activist and community warrior died Oct. 22 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital following a five-year battle with prostate cancer.
On Thursday, a special service for the members of the church was held so that they could celebrate the life of the man they affectionately called ‘Bishop’ in their own, private way.
Then on Friday, a bevy of clergy, elected officials, civic leaders and others took part in a funeral service that celebrated the life of “a great man,” as he was regarded. A teary-eyed First Lady Michelle Obama attended the service, offering a comforting embrace to the late pastor emeritus’ widow, Ester Isabelle Brazier, and condolences to the family.
Brazier had been at the helm of the church for 48 years before he retired from the pastorate in 2008.
White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, who has deep corporate and civic roots in Chicago and was said to be an “adopted sister” to Bishop Brazier, gave remarks at the more than three hours-long service and told of “a great man, a good man … my friend.”
Preachers credited Brazier with having a lasting impact on them and their respective ministries.
Rev. Clay Evans, retired founding pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, said Bishop Brazier was “one of the greatest souls that I have ever, ever witnessed in my life. That was my friend.”
Over the course of his tenure as the spiritual leader of Apostolic, Bishop Brazier welcomed a number of aspiring preachers into his church’s pulpit, including Rev. Noel Jones. Now a nationally known preacher, Jones said Friday that Brazier was “irreplaceable.”
In a moving tribute to Brazier that had the fervor of a stirring Sunday morning sermon, Jones said, “some things cannot be imitated…some things can not be duplicated. And I will always think of him that way.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson said the bishop, who was as influential in the Woodlawn community encompassing the church as he was within the church, was “in heaven’s Hall of Fame” adding that Brazier possessed a “non-negotiable dignity.”
Politicians recalled how the straight-talking reverend counseled them in their aspirations.
Out-going Sen. Roland Burris vowed at the funeral service that the last thing he’d do before leaving office would be to stand on the U.S. Senate floor and pay tribute to Bishop Brazier.
There was “no corner of this community that did not bear his fingerprint,” Burris said of Brazier’s work in Woodlawn. The late diocesan started The Woodlawn Organization and served as its president for 10 years. He also rallied with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the vanguard for poor people’s plight.
The service, which included the church’s 250-voice sanctuary choir singing a few of Bishop Brazier’s favorite gospel songs and remarks from spiritual and political leaders as well as others, culminated with an emotional eulogy by Bishop Horace Smith, M.D., who called Brazier his “spiritual father.”
Smith is pastor of Apostolic Faith Church and presiding bishop of Pentacostal Assemblies of the World Inc., which Brazier’s church was once a member of.
Smith recalled some of the consternation Brazier endured as he sought to fight for fair housing and other rights for the poor people of the Woodlawn community. Smith recounted how the late bishop was often rebuffed in his efforts to bring economic revitalization and parity to the area saying Brazier was “not always appreciated” spiritually and civically.
But in his eulogy – that turned into a rousing gospel message that drew ovations and amens – Smith likened Brazier to Moses in the Bible.
“Look at what God did in the life of this man because he had favor with God,” a passionate Smith said, ending the eulogy abruptly as he was overcome with emotion. He said he had known Brazier for 30 years.
Brazier had being lying in repose for two days leading up to the service. As it ended, the bishop, who grew the church’s membership from 100 to over 20,000 and who built additions and amenities to the church building to accommodate the burgeoning congregation, was carried from Apostolic for the last time. His coffin was wheeled out of the sanctuary and loaded into a hearse as tears streamed from the eyes of onlooking members and friends.
Then a caravan of funeral cars – four of which only carried flowers %uFFFD%uFFFD– trailed the hearse with Brazier’s corps blocks away from the church to the Oak Woods Cemetery where he was interred.
Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender