The BISHOP BENJAMIN J. RAVENEL, SR. SCHOLARSHIP AND AWARDS COMMITTEE (originally named the May Festival and Awards Benefit Committee) has been in existence since May 1985. The late Bishop O. T. Jones, Jr. commissioned our work. The late Mother Irene A. Oakley was our founding director. These two individuals laid a solid foundation for our growth and success over these many years. Under the leadership of the late Bishop Benjamin J. Ravenel, Sr., the work of the committee continued to expand. Under the leadership of our current jurisdictional prelate, Bishop Guy L. Glimp, we envision on-going growth and expansion.
Since 1985, on the first Saturday in May, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (PCEJ) of the Church of God in Christ has celebrated the Annual Awards Benefit Dinner at a venue in eastern or central Pennsylvania. The jurisdiction represents more than 70 Church of God in Christ congregations in Eastern and South Central Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Altoona, and from the Poconos to Southern Chester County.
As believers in Christ, and as citizens of our great nation, we believe that it is important for us to participate fully in the growth and health of our neighborhoods and communities; and that we contribute in a tangible way to that growth and health. Our churches and our church leaders have direct, continuous contact and involvement with the underprivileged and hurting segments of our population, as well as with a population that is privileged and successful. They are all members of our churches. One of our aims is to effectively join together as “village” to rear our children, to provide models of good and productive citizenship, and to provide opportunities for their education and career development.
The annual dinner has enabled our jurisdiction to make available to many of our churches short term loans for church extensions and rehabilitation. The dinner has been the vehicle by which our jurisdictional leadership has honored those men and women who have worked among us and who have often gone unnoticed.
THE AWARD CATEGORIES
The Commonwealth Distinguished Award is given to a man or woman who has exemplified a life of holiness and integrity and who has been creative and innovative in serving our jurisdiction and his/her local church.
The Bishop O.T. Jones, Sr. Award is named in honor of our late jurisdictional bishop and is given to a senior statesman in our church who exemplifies the leadership qualities of Bishop Jones, Sr. recipient is a family man, a churchman, a man of prayer.
The Mother Neanza Z. Jones Award is named in honor of the late wife of Bishop Jones, Sr. This award is given to a woman who has exemplified the ideals of Christian womanhood and who is hospitable and warm, and who is like the woman described in Proverbs 31.
The Mother Irene A. Oakley Award is named after the founding director of the committee. She was a wife, a pastor; and was selfless, loyal and faithful as she served the leadership of our jurisdiction. It is given to a man or woman who demonstrates the selflessness, loyalty and faithfulness of the late Mother Oakley.
The Chaplain Elmer N. Hunter Award is named after the late Chaplain Hunter who assumed a strong leadership role in our jurisdiction for many years. The award recipient is a man or woman who has been faithful to our churches and who has distinguished him/herself as a civic and community leader.
The Dr. Lafayette Frank GoodingAward is named after the late Dr. Gooding who was a pastor, and for many years, the coordinator of our educational programs. The recipient exemplifies the spirit of this man who had many talents and was active in the community, and who had a passion for missions and education.
The Bishop O.T. Jones, Jr. Awards are named after the late Bishop Jones, Jr. who served for many years as the leader of the youth department of our national church. These awards are given to young people in our churches who are faithful and active in their local churches and their districts. They demonstrate, not just potential for leadership, but dynamic, active leadership qualities in their churches now.
One woman is chosen as the May Queen and is surprised at the annual dinner. She is chosen because she manifests the qualities of hospitality in a warm and tangible way.
The May King (initiated in 2012, and also a surprise to the recipient) is given to a gentleman among us who have demonstrated hospitality and warmth and a good sense of humor.
The Pastor of the Year is chosen by the Pastors’ and Elders’ Council of our jurisdiction, in recognition of his/her leadership and faithfulness to the vision of the jurisdiction.
The highlight of the annual dinner has been the awarding of Scholarships to those graduating high school seniors, who are active members of our jurisdictional churches, and who are going on to institutions of higher education. In the 15 years that he served as our jurisdictional leader, Bishop Benjamin Ravenel, Sr. placed special emphasis on providing substantial financial assistance to our young people. We have been able to present such assistance to more than 400 graduating seniors. We have awarded more than $350,000.00 in grants.
Under the guidance and leadership of Bishop Guy Glimp, we have expanded our ability to provide scholarship assistance to our students. The late Bishop Ravenel and his family have led the way with the establishment of the Bishop Benjamin J. Ravenel, Sr. Legacy Scholarship that is given to one of the outstanding students in our church. Other families have pledged annual legacy scholarship gifts that will provide the basis for an endowment fund that will eventually guarantee a perpetual gift for our young people. Those named legacy scholarships bear the names of Superintendent James and Hazel Glimp, Deacon Walter B. Jones, Mother Ruth White, and Mother Mamie Canty Garrison family. In addition to these named legacy gifts, there are many other generous donors. One of our most consistent donors has been Dr. Ahmed Whitt, a 2003 recipient of a scholarship. Dr. Whitt is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania; and is an assistant professor of Social Work at the University of Texas, at Austin.
We have initiated an Alumni Association, and have begun gathering a group of those young men and women who have benefited from the scholarship awards in the past. They are committed to assuring that this scholarship fund continues and grows, and supports those young people who follow them. We are excited as they look to build a legacy.
Bishop Glimp has given us a strong mandate to enhance the scholarship aspect of our work; to firmly establish the endowment fund, and to move into the future with vision and creativity, and sustainability.