The idea to start Ghana Emmanuel Methodist church began with the Ababio family of Newark, New Jersey after they had visited the united Methodist Church in the Bronx, New York in April 1998. They happened to meet Rev. Ebenezer Aduku who was the organist of the Bronx Church and who also resided in New Jersey.
During their second visit to the Bronx church, on their way home with Rev. Ebenezer Aduku, the decision to start a new Methodist church in Newark, New Jersey began. With much excitement, the Ababio family and Rev. Ebenezer Aduku discussed the possibility of starting a new Methodist church in Newark, New Jersey. Initially, they agreed to hold prayer meetings out of which the church emerged. The Friday prayer meetings started on May 15th 1998. It is worth mentioning that the following members were present on that memorable day; Mrs. Elizabeth Ababio, Sis. Doris Ababio, Bro. Richmond Ababio, Sis. Evelyn Ababio, Bridget Ababio, and Rev. Ebenezer Aduku. Later on Sis. Kate Matilda Appiah joined the group. Rev. Ebenezer Aduku usually led the prayer meetings. They would sing hymns, study the bible and pray together. He would encourage them to fast on every Friday. At this stage, it is pertinent to mention that Brother Richmond Ababio made a firm commitment to play a major role during these prayer meetings. From that time he became one of the pillars of the church.
During this period, Rev. Jacob Osafo, the Minister in- charge of Bronx United Methodist church expressed his desire to work with Rev. Ebenezer Aduku to raise a church in Newark. However, due to some doctrinal differences, Rev. Jacob Osafo’s determination to help raise a church in Newark was not a reality. After the commencement of the prayer meetings, Nana Kyei Ababio, the head of the of the Ababio family returned from Ghana somewhere in August 1998. He naturally became the head of the group, because the groups used to meet at his premises. Later on, there was the attempt by the then Presiding Bishop of Methodist church, Ghana, Most Rev. Dr. Asante Antwi to appoint Rev. Osafo to take charge of this infant church. Nevertheless, the church had already arranged with Rev. John Ansah Arkorful to be in- charge.
Very Rev. John Ansah Arkorful, a graduate of Drew University, and an associate pastor of the Bronx church who had been signed on, lived in Hackensack, New Jersey. After some lengthy deliberations, Very Rev. Ansah Arkorful agreed to lead the group.
Unfortunately the Friday prayer meeting had ceased. Very Rev, Ansah Arkoful, held Saturday afternoon meetings with Nana Kyei Ababio and Rev. Aduku to discuss the growth of this group. On one of the visits of the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Dr. Asante Antwi, the group officially introduced Very Rev. John Ansah Arkoful to the Presiding bishop.
The decision to begin a Sunday divine service was made when the following members were returning from Bronx; Rev Ansah Arkorful, Sis. Doris Ababio, Bro. Richmond Ababio, Evelyn Ababio, Bridget Ababio and Rev. Aduku. They decided to organize the first divine service on November 29th 1998, at Nana Kyei Ababio’s house. The Sunday service was to start at 11:00am at the 440 Washington Street, APT #11J at Nana Kyei Ababio’s residence. On that day Nana Kyei had to drive all the way to Hackensack to drive Very Rev. John Ansah Arkoful to Newark. On that memorable day the following persons were present at the first divine service; Rev Ansah Arkoful, Nana Kyei Ababio, Rev. Ansah Arkorful, Mrs. Elizabeth Ababio, Mr. Joseph Brenya, Mrs. Agnes Brenya, Sis Comfort Dapaah, Sis Doris Ababio, Bro Richmond Ababio, Sis Evelyn Ababio, Bro Nat Boateng, Sis Regina Addai, and Bridget Ababio. On that day as Very Rev. Ansah Arkoful stood behind the improvised lectern while Rev. Aduku played the organ, it was obvious that by God’s grace a new church had been born. The service was so beautiful. The following Sunday, Mr. Brenya’s family joined the service. These were Heliter Brenyah, Belinda Brenya, Zara Brenya, and Bridget Brenya. Sister Comfort Dapaah was appointed that day as the first treasurer of the church. Later on Nana Kyei Ababio was appointed as the first lay leader and Mr. Brenya the first Steward of the church. Rev. Aduku eventually assisted Very Rev. John Ansah Arkorful in his pastoral duties. These, indeed are the people who started the church. Prayers, Bible studies and Tithing were the main essentials of their meetings. Leaders’ meetings were held at 4:00pm on Saturdays.
After the first and second Sunday divine services at the Ababio’s residence members decided to find a public place of worship instead of the home service. The church was moved into a recreational hall at the Washington Street. From there the church was moved again to the basement of the African Grove. The church worshiped at this place for about five Sundays. Along the line, it was decided that Ghana Emmanuel Methodist Church be affiliated with United Methodist Church, USA. The main aim was to obtain some assistance from them, at least a more decent place of worship. The church was offered a place at the St. Mathew’s United Methodist Church. They spent about two months at St. Mathew’s United Methodist church. However, they left the place when the arrangements were not favorable.
Rev. Ansah Arkorful sacrificed a lot for this church. He was given $25 each week as remuneration yet he did not, for once, ask for any salary increase. In spite of the sacrifice he made, the decision to find accommodation for Rev. Ansah Arkorful was seriously opposed by some of the church leaders. Eventually, he left the church due to the incessant opposition he faced from some of the leaders. This seriously affected the church. The church was moved again to Nana Ababio’s residence, before finally it settled at the 278 Washington Street where it remained for several years. New members joined the church every Sunday.
The church existed for over five months without a name. The name Ghana Evangelical Methodist church was suggested, but was rejected because of the word Evangelical. Members were preferred to be identified as Ghana Methodist. After much deliberation, Brother Richmond Ababio came up with the name Emmanuel. After much reflection, it was unanimously agreed by all members to use that name. The reason was that in spite of all the problems and hardships the Lord had been with his church. The church from that moment became known as Ghana Emmanuel Methodist church.
During the church’s registration three trustees were appointed for legal and administrative purposes. These were Rev. Aduku, Nana Kyei Ababio, and Mr. Joseph Brenyah. Some of the members, however, contributed in diverse ways to the growth of the church. Nana Kyei for instance donated the Public address system for service; Bro Nat Boateng conveyed members to church and Bro Richmond Ababio would arrange the chapel for service; while Sister Heliter Brenyah offered to assist with all the secretarial work of the church. Their devotion was amazing and very inspirational. The Brenyah family would provide meals for fellowship after service; Nat Boateng provided the church with the first set of drums and Mr. Nyantakyi freely supplied wood to renovate the new worship place at the 278 Washington Street Newark New Jersey. The Ababio family especially Nana Ababio, Bro Nat Boateng and Richmond Ababio spent much time to prepare the place for service. Another person who deserves to be remembered is Rev. Sorkodie. He used to travel all the way from the Brooklyn Ghana United Methodist church to Newark every Sunday to conduct the Sunday school service. This he graciously performed with much enthusiasm.
After parting with Very Rev. Ansah Arkorful, Nana Kyei Ababio took firm control of the leadership of the church. The church, at that time, was not under Ghana Conference or the United Methodist Church. The leadership contacted Rev. Helena Opoku Sarkodie who was in Canada, for assistance, who in turn suggested that permission be sought from the then Presiding Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Asante Antwi. The leadership of the church unanimously agreed to petition the Presiding Bishop. This time a firm decision to operate under Ghana conference had been certain. .
A letter was to be written to that effect. On that Sunday, Opanin Fosu had just come from Ghana. He asked to become a signatory to the letter. Opanin Fosu proved to be somebody endowed with grace and gifts of Ghana Methodism. He helped to unite all the members under the banner of Ghana Methodism and naturally became the caretaker of the church. As a carpenter by profession, he renovated and expanded the place of worship, and even created some offices for the administrative work. He also invited Rev. Dr. Acquah Arhin once again to visit the church at least once a month to administer the sacraments, which he willingly agreed.
Just about the time the request to Ghana Conference was granted for Reverend Helena Opoku Sarkodie to come down as the Minister in Charge, Reverend Nathan Addo- Nartey visited the church for the first time. He was introduced as a Methodist Minister who had come to worship with the church. His coming influenced the leadership to turn down their request for Rev. Opoku-Sarkodie. It was thought to be more prudent to sign him on than Rev. Helena Opoku Sarkodie, because he was already settled in New Jersey.
The reneging on the request for Reverend Opoku-Sarkodie, and going in for a Minister who was ,at the time, out of connexion did not go down well with the then Presiding Bishop, Most Reverend Samuel Asante Antwi. A series of correspondence between the Church and Conference did not resolve the issue. Consequently, Very Reverend Kofi Bart Martin was sent down to take over the church. Incidentally, that was the very day a contractual agreement had been signed between the church and Rev. Addo Nartey, and Very Rev Bart-Martin had to return to Maryland. From there, the bond between the Church and the Ghana Conference seemed to have been broken.
Shortly after his arrival, Reverend Nathan Addo-Nartey initiated attempts to affiliate with United Methodist Conference. After several calculated attempts, the whole idea was not successful. This did not sit well with a section of the congregation especially the founding members. Their initial objective was to establish a church that would be affiliated with the Methodist Church Ghana. When he was not getting the full cooperation of members, he announced that he would be leaving after the end of service on the last Sunday of September 2006. As a shock to some of the members, it was announced that a section of the members had started a new Church and would leave with the Minister. A series of meetings between both factions could not resolve issues. It became obvious that the split was inevitable.
On September 24, 2006 it was officially announced that some leaders and a section of the congregation with Rev. Addo-Nartey had formed a new church and would leave Ghana Emmanuel after that fateful Sunday. At a later meeting, both factions and the Minister agreed, and elected Brother Michael Gyamfi to be assisted by Brother Kwadwo Agyemang to take over and act as the agents of the Church. About two- thirds of the congregation left with Rev. Nathan Addo Nartey.
The way forward was murky, but those who remained believed more than ever in our motto “God is with us”. Just as Abraham said to Isaac, ‘the Lord will provide’ we went forward believing that indeed the Lord would provide. Contact was made with Rev Yaw Atta Adu Bekoe, a Presbyterian Minister who had occasionally come in as a guest preacher while Rev. Addo-Nartey in charge. He agreed to temporarily fill in the void. The Rev. Yaw Atta Adu Bekoe did not only minister to us but also introduced us to a colleague Methodist minister pursuing graduate studies at the Princeton Theological Seminary, by name Very Rev. Stephen Kwaku Owusu. Credit here should be given to this Presbyterian Minister who selflessly sustained the Church in her time of crises irrespective of denomination.
Opanin Kwadwo Fosu and Bro Michael Gyamfi quickly followed up to look for Very Reverend Stephen Kwaku Owusu and by God’s grace were able to contact him. He agreed to worship with us for the first time at the end of October 2006, the Sunday just after the split. Very Rev. Owusu agreed to be in charge as long as he remained in Princeton. However, he made it clear that he would go back to Ghana upon graduation. That declaration alone endeared him more to us. It played into the Society’s goal of establishing a system that will discourage Ministers from using the church to stay beyond the approved time. He advised that his acceptance would be contingent upon approval from Ghana Conference. The then Presiding Bishop, Most Reverend Dr. Robert Aboagye-Mensah appointed Very Reverend Owusu as the substantive Minister in Charge on condition that he would return to Ghana after his studies.
The appearance of the Very Rev. Stephen Kwaku Owusu on the scene changed the fate of the church dramatically. Morale picked up and the church started growing again. That which had been pronounced “dead” was very much “ALIVE” to the Glory of God. A few months with Osofo Owusu, as we affectionately call him, we got to know collectively that he was the right person at the right time to lead us through our difficulties. Some leaders started to explore how we could have him to stay with us to complete the rebuilding process he had started.
In 2007, Opanin Kwadwo Fosu, Bro Michael Gyamfi and Bro. Kwadwo Agyemang met with Rt. Rev. Kow Egyir, the then Administrative Bishop who was on vacation in New York. Among other discussions, they petitioned through him to Ghana Conference to permit Very Rev. Owusu to continue the good work he had started after his graduation and return to Ghana. Conference promised to consider our request. Very Rev. Owusu had to return to Ghana in May of 2007 in fulfillment of Conference decision. The Lord answered our prayers when we received information that upon his return home, the Conference had permitted him to take charge of Ghana Emmanuel Church. Very Rev. Owusu was to return as a full time minister for a 5-year term. Due to the urgency of the situation, Very Rev. Owusu had to leave his family behind to follow up later. In October of 2007, he returned to Newark to take up his position as minister in charge of Ghana Emmanuel Methodist Church.
Even though the search for a church building started before the split, he brought a new leadership and commitment to the search. After much prayer and consistent search, the Lord led us to 1177 Broad Street in Newark, where we are now. It is evident that the Lord had prepared this place for us. Within one month of signing the contract, we were able to move in on the first Sunday of June 2009. It is worth mentioning, at this point, the immeasurable and selfless effort made by all, especially Opanin Kwadwo Fosu, Brothres Baffour Akoto, Thomas Agyemang and George Boateng.
By the grace of God, we say Ebenezer, the stone of the help. Up to this point the Lord has helped us. This has been possible with the help and assistance of a lot of people the Lord has used, all of whom we cannot mention here. Nonetheless special mention should however be made of the help provided by our Sister church, Ghana Wesley Methodist, Brooklyn, and our dear Sister Rebecca Kumi and her wonderful husband. Emmanuel expresses her profound gratitude to you for your support without which we might be where we are. To God be the glory.
On this occasion of celebrating the10th anniversary and the dedication of this Chapel to the Glory of the Lord, let us be mindful of the vision of the founders. Apart from where we meet to serve and worship, we need to maintain an atmosphere within which we can confidently, without any restrictions, impart our cultural values onto our generations to come; an environment where we will be able, without looking over shoulders, tell our children that same sex marriage is sinful,where we shall be able to hold the dignity of parenting and where God will always be first in all things..
Having traveled through all these tumultuous paths, and with the Lord sustaining us through thick and thin, we can indeed with one accord say, “Emmanuel, the Lord with us.”