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Janes Memorial United Methodist Church formally welcomed the Rev. Gregory Holston as its new pastor at a special service on Sept. 17.

Church members and supporters, including clergy, elected officials and Holston’s social justice colleagues, attended the service to offer encouragement for his newest role.

“I love all the congregations I’ve served,” said Holston. “I certainly love…the opportunity to come to this great, historic church — this leader in the African-American community and the city as a whole. It’s a great privilege.”

As the executive director of the advocacy organization Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild and the president of Opportunities Industrialization Center of America, Holston brings a social justice background that he plans to meld with Janes’ longstanding activism.

Having begun serving Janes in July, he said the vision is to minister to people in a way that they are prepared to make disciples.

“We want to continue to build a spirit of worship here,” said Holston. “Worship is the center of our strength, the center of our power. So we want to be able to openly and freely praise and worship God so that it strengthens us. From that worship, we will go out to serve in mission and social justice and continue to make us a better city, a better state and a better country.”

Several Janes’ members said they were anticipating growth under Holston’s leadership.

“I’m very excited,” said Chantay Love, a lay leader who has been a member for 18 months. “Janes has always been a community based church that [addresses] the issues of our community and serving our neighbors. Him being executive director of POWER is a perfect fit for a church like us who looks at our work through a different lens.”

Love added that Janes offers youth outreach programs, gives clothes to people in transition through the Christian closet and houses the victim support group Every Murder is Real as well as AA and NA meetings.

“We’re anticipating looking at issues like wages, racism and to do a body of work that impacts change,” said Love. “[Holston] being here is important because we believe in that.”

Medford Pinkett, a member for 49 years, said he also wanted to see church membership grow.

“I’ve only know [Holston] since he’s been here. I find he’s a very dynamic speaker and more or less a mover and shaker,” said Pinkett. “I’m anticipating church growth and very dynamic worship services. He has very good ideas. It’s up to us as members to implement them.”

In the sermon that he delivered at the welcome service, the Rev. Jay Broadnax of Mount Pisgah AME Church encouraged Holston and the congregation to stay in line with God’s work.

“God wants to move this congregation to something greater. If you take care of God’s business, God will take care of your business,” he said during the service. “Lift up your voice and be heard. Lift up your voice and speak truth to power.”

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