The “Bishop of the Bronx” Receives a Double Honor
Bronx, NY —
By Rev. Frank Williams
On July 2, 2018 a double street naming ceremony was held for the Late Reverend Dr. Samuel G. Simpson. The Jamaican born pastor, and community leader migrated to the United States in 1960 and shortly thereafter became a church planter in the Bronx, NY, and would eventually plant four churches and establish two other churches as Church Planting Director for his denomination. In 1966 Dr. Simpson became involved with the Twin Parks Urban Renewal and worked to establish over 3000 units of affordable housing on empty lots in the Bronx, and later was a founding member of the Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corp., that built or renovated over 21 properties as affordable housing over its 38-year history. Between his church planting efforts and his community development work, Dr. Simpson became known as the "Bishop of the Bronx." It was only fitting that a street should be named after this shepherd of the community
A pre-street naming service was held on Sunday, July 1, 2018 at 4:30pm at the Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church (Wake-Eden), founded by Dr. Simpson in 1972 and where Dr. Simpson served as pastor for 39 years before his retirement in 2011. This service of thanksgiving opened with a welcome by Rev. Norman McCulloch, Sr., Dr. Simpson’s god-son and an Associate Minister at Wake-Eden. Accomplished musician and conductor, Minister Roy Jennings and Cecilia Broomfield provided all music for the occasion. There were reflections from his long-time friends and colleagues, Mr. Samuel Granby, founder of Granby's Funeral Service; Mr. Ted Jefferson, former CEO of the Bronx Shepherds Restoration, Corp.; and Reverend Dr. John Scott, co-founder of the Clergy Coalition of the 47th Precinct.
Denominational representatives also offered reflections. Both the Reverend Steve Sallis, of the Baptist Convention of New York, and the Reverend George Russ, of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, spoke of their long and fruitful history with Dr. Simpson. George Russ spoke of how appropriate it was for the naming to be call "Reverend Dr. Samuel G. Simpson Way", and not road, or street. He explained that the term "way" speaks to how Dr. Simpson did ministry. His "way" with people. His "way" of lovingly yet honestly speaking truth to power. His "way" of seamlessly connecting the social and the spiritual. The Dr. Simpson “way” of ministry always included the total person.
The Honorable Vivienne Uruakpa, a long-time member of the Bronx Baptist Church – the first church founded by Dr. Simpson in 1966 and where he would serve as pastor for 45 years before retiring in 2011 – reflected on how important educating the next generation was to Dr. Simpson and how this led to the establishing of the Bronx Baptist Day Care and Learning Center. Mrs. Pansy Skyers, long-time member of Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church, echoed the same as she spoke about the establishing of the Wake-Eden Christian Academy in 1976. Both communicated the visionary prowess of Dr. Simpson, who made it a ministry priority to address dropout rates among blacks and Hispanics by providing a solid, academically strong early childhood education in two Bronx communities where such programs were either non-existent or scarce at that time. Both institutions continue to thrive to this day.
Prayer at the service was offered by Reverend Cephas Agbesi, pastor of Honeywell Baptist Church, a ministry founded by Dr. Simpson in the mid-1970’s. Scholar and pastor of Grace Baptist Chapel in the Bronx, The Reverend Dr. Delroy Reid-Salmon, captured Dr. Simpson’s legacy by focusing his reflection in three areas – the social context of the 1960’s when Dr. Simpson started his ministry in the Bronx, his larger impact as a Caribbean Diasporan minister within the Southern Baptist Convention denomination, and his model of ministry as a community leader that bridged the gap between the secular and the sacred. The service was attended by parishioners, community leaders, and other churches and pastors.
The following morning (July 2, 2018) nearly 200 people would gather across the two locations – 187th Street and Tiebout in front of Bronx Baptist Church and at Strang Ave and Murdock Ave in front of Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church – to participate in the Street Naming Ceremonies led by Council Member Andy King and Reverend Frank Williams, Dr. Simpson’s protégé and current Pastor of Bronx Baptist Church and Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church. Councilman King spoke highly of Dr. Simpson and emphasized his commitment to quality of life issues in the Bronx. Congressman Eliot Engel and State Speaker Carl Heastie spoke respectively of how they came to know Dr. Simpson as a community minded pastor and eventually as a friend. Speaker Heastie spoke movingly as he reminisced about Dr. Simpson as his neighbor on Hill Avenue in the Bronx, where they lived across from each other. State Senator Jamaal Bailey and the Reverend Lamont Granby also shared their thoughts and words of appreciation for the life of Dr. Simpson with all who gathered for this auspicious occasion.
The children from both church schools sang at their respective locations. All three of Dr. Simpson’s children participated in the double naming ceremony, with Stephen Simpson (at Bronx Baptist location) and Kim Simpson-Turnbull (at Wake-Eden location) speaking passionately about their father’s legacy. Erica Simpson sang her heart out and raised an atmosphere of worship as she led in the hymn, “My Tribute” (To God be the Glory). The occasion was further blessed by the music ministry of gospel artist Minister Patrick Tyson, and singer and Bronx Baptist member, Sasha Thompson. Lady Lola Simpson, Dr. Simpson’s wife of nearly 52 years, expressed her gratitude on behalf of the family for the honor of the naming of two streets after her late husband. Lady Simpson spoke of the relationships that have been built over the years as represented by those present and emphasized Dr. Simpson as a pastor with a heart for people. She also affirmed the words of her son Stephen, who spoke earlier in the day, about the dream Dr. Simpson had to establish an active bible study and prayer ministry in every zip code of the borough. A dream that is yet to be fulfilled. She then challenged the churches and leadership to make this dream a vision for the ministry.
After the proclamation from the City Council was read and presented to the family by Councilman Andy King, the entire Simpson family and extended family that were present gathered around as his wife and children uncovered the newly erected sign – “Reverend Dr Samuel G Simpson Way.” To God be the glory. The event was covered by Bronx New 12 and 1010 Wins.