Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. preached at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco on Sunday in a service that honored the Rev. Cecil Williams' 45 years of ministry at the church. Williams transferred to Glide from Kansas City, Missouri in 1964 and has remained active there since his 2000 retirement. Bishop Brown praised his dynamic leadership and presented Rev. Williams with a certificate of recognition from the Council of Bishops, honoring him for leadership and pioneering "radical inclusivity."
Bishop Brown, who is Bishop of the San Francisco Area of The United Methodist Church and Resident Bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference (region), was warmly welcomed by Glide's pastors, the Revs. Donald Guest and Karen Oliveto, and the entire Glide family.
The bishop told the congregation that Glide has effectively modeled the Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church by practicing "radical hospitality," working with the poor and on health issues, and developing leaders. And he invited Glide to help the Conference learn how to authentically "be church" to all people.
Glide began a meals program in the 1960s and in 1980, the program was expanded to serve three free meals a day to the homeless and poor. The church launched an addiction recovery program, "Generations," in the mid-1980s; created the Glide-Goodlett HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and counseling program in 1989; and in 1997 opened a free health clinic. Two new buildings - the Cecil Williams GLIDE Community House and the Janice Mirikitani GLIDE Family, Youth, and Childcare Center - were opened in 1999 to meet what the church says was a growing need for housing and childcare.
Known as "a home for political, as well as spiritual, change," Glide has a history of activism and has been visited by numerous luminaries from the worlds of politics and entertainment. The 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith, tells the real-life story of Chris Gardner, who was cared for by the Glide community during a period of homelessness. Cecil Williams and his wife, Janice Mirikitani (Founding President of the Glide Foundation), appear briefly in the film, along with a number of homeless people who were employed as extras.
Glide's Annual Holiday Festival at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House tonight, a benefit for Mo's Kitchen and other Glide programs, also will focus on Williams' ministry. Dr. Maya Angelou and Senator Dianne Feinstein will serve as honorary co-chairs of the event.
For a fascinating journey through the past 45 years, peppered with celebrity appearances and featuring the famed Glide Ensemble and Change Band, watch the short video, From the 'Hood to the House, featured on the Home Page of the Glide website.