Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bishop Ernestine Reems Happy Birthday

81 years on the planet is quite a feat, so when I had the opportunity to interview Bishop Ernestine Reems on the occasion of her solar return, I was so pleased she fit me into her busy schedule. She was featured guest on Wanda's Picks this morning (

I was even happier to be able to be in the house at the celebration! There are some events one doesn't want to miss and this by far, was one of them, but the felicities continue through Sunday, July 11, so if one missed opening night (smile), you can catch other moments in a series of Happy Birthdays to Bishop Reems.

As Vickie Winans said this evening about Bishop Reems's age: she never spoke of it...through the fifties, sixties, so 81 was quite the shocker, especially when you look at the woman and wonder how she can look so good and have the longevity she has.

Vickie was beyond funny...she had folks falling over each other in the pews. She had people pass out tissue the laughter so filled the sanctuary--what a switch right? As she warmed up, part of the clearing was to dismiss the righteous holier than thou pretenders, so the rest of us could feel free.

When the saint called the perfect folks out, no one stood for the roll call. Talking and singing, smiling and laughing so hard at herself, on several occasions, Vickie had to bend over and pause.

The consummate public person, celebrity--Vickie spoke of her loving mother and father and kidded us all with stories of growing up in such a large household. She and Bishop Reems go back to the singer's childhood and Vickie's recollections of the impression Dr. Reems had on her were poignant and funny--one really had to be there.

Vickie's testimony about how Bishop's words touched and changed her heart, if not permanently, they certainly gave the teen pause, as she took in the leader's powerful presence.

She imitated Bishop's preaching voice to the delight of the audience who love this wonderful woman, her selflessness and dedication of her service and life to the community, this at a time when 40 years ago, women were not preaching. Despite this male dominated and male centered arena or stage, Winans continued, Bishop was both feminine, beautiful and determined.

"Look at this. She built this church. She didn't have to do this," Vickie stated. "With her looks and beauty, Bishop could have been at the disco."

Seated in a place of honor, just below where I was seated, I kept having to look over the railing to see Bishop Ernestine's response.

It was certainly the African American tradition, with guests from around the country present to celebrate their friend and colleague. The audience was invited to participate, to "'Shake Loose' every worry, those things that bind you. Your situation may seem hopeless...shake loose." There was even, by the time we got to the finale, choreography (smile).

Vickie encouraged those in attendance to shout and dance, however more importantly, we were encouraged to throw away the baggage some of us carry even after we have arrived at the station, departed or changed cars along the path to our destinations (read destiny). Vickie spoke about how one needed to stop caring about what other people thought of us, that no one had the right to judge anyone else, as once again she told all the fakers to leave.

Between the wisdom talks the beautiful woman, dressed in an elegant sparkling two piece black suit, long skirt and heels accentuating her slender build-- told jokes...more jokes than songs.

Insider jokes about black hair and pride. It was cool to see how each personal story connected to a larger lesson about life and spiritual well-being. She played characters well, one a friend from childhood who had a lisp and lied.

Yes, she was good!

Vickie was like a motivational speaker...her wisdom provided at great personal loss and trial by fire lessons so those who haven't... don't. An entrepreneur, she spoke about having her own businesses, managing her career, using pro tools to mix her latest album. She even said she checks her email and responses much of the time.

She spoke about losing her mother four years ago this December, and how her parents were her best friends and then sang a song her mother, Mattie A. Bowman, sang, one I have on a Mahalia Jackson compilation: "How I Got Over (The Remix)." Visit There one can hear the remix featuring Vickie's nephew, Timmy- he scats. It is quite hip!

This was the finale...and the church was on its feet before she invited us. In the song, she sings: "Where are my 'Overcomers?' Get your hands in the air. Get on your feet and dance'" as her son Mario plays on bass. It's really nice.

I am going to try to get back by the church for the Women's Power Breakfast on Saturday and perhaps for the early service on Sunday before the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo.

81st Birthday Celebration July 7 through July 11, 2010 at the Center of Hope Community Church 8411 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Hosts are Pastors Brondon and Maria Reems.

Guests: Dr. Wanda Turner, Pastor Donnie McClurkin, Vickie Winans

Wednesday, July 7th
7:00 p.m. - Vickie Winans in Concert

Friday, July 9th
7:00 p.m. - "Celebration Service - Dr. Wanda Turner"

Saturday, July 10th
10:00 a.m. - "Prayer Breakfast - An Appointment With God" (Women Only)
Dr. Wanda Turner"

Sunday, July 11th
11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. - Pastor Donnie McClurkin

Celebration Concert:
July 7th at 7:00 pm. - Vickie Winans
July 9th at 7:00 PM & July 10th at 10:00 am - Dr. Wanda Turner
July 11th - 11:00 am and 6:00 pm - Pastor Donnie McClurkin

For ticket information and service times, please contact Center of Hope Business Office at (510) 633-5133


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