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Richmond church celebrates history of service

on October 31, 2011

For a church that has been at the forefront of community services for 45 years, Sunday’s anniversary at Independent Community Church was just another reason to stay active.

“Let’s go out into the hedges and the highways and the trenches and serve our community,” Daryl Jenkins, a church elder, thundered from the pew. “That’s what we do, amen.”

During services in the morning and the afternoon Sunday, more than 200 worshippers and leaders celebrated the 45th anniversary of a south Richmond institution that has earned a reputation for outreach and inclusiveness.

During the evening service, members enjoyed a typical Independent Community Church gathering, replete with rhythmic sermons and soaring vocal performances over a dense live band sound featuring guitars, keyboards, drums and a saxophone.

A video montage played Sunday evening depicted a legacy of worship and service infused with artistic expression.

The scenes featured spastic dances and ebullient singing performances. The images and sounds were similar to those that occur at the church today, but with the unmistakable, grainy details of hair and clothing styles of a different era.

“We have been blessed to be a blessing,” said Pastor Raymond Landry. “On the south side, this is one of the best churches you can find. We are a helpful people.”

tommie bradford, richmond

Independent Community Church founder Tommie Bradford. (photo by: Robert Rogers)

Founded in 1966 by Pastor Tommie Bradford and Jimmy Randolph, Independent Community Church has a reputation for outreach ministry and community services. In an area of south and central Richmond dense with worship centers, the church has managed to forge a distinct reputation.

“This church has been the pillar in Richmond,” Jenkins said. “Other churches are bigger, but with our outreach in the streets, I think we have as big an impact as any other (church).”

The church grew out of a 1960s Bible study group that met in private homes before getting its own building on South 16th Street in 1976.

Bradford and his wife, Juanita, made community involvement and outreach a priority from the start, including a Sunday school lunch program and services such as counseling, prison ministries, hospital visitations and emergency food, clothing and shelter.

In recent years, Landry, who took over for Bradford in 2010, has been a fixture at community events from council meetings to peace marches.

An electrical fire gutted the church’s facility in 2003. A long rebuilding effort followed – during which time the congregation met at temporary sites and continued community services – and the church reopened in 2009.

During Sunday’s celebration, Landry publicly thanked more than a dozen church members who had donated more than $5,000 each to the church in recent years.

Jackie Thompson, a church member and Councilman Corky Booze’s chief of staff, presented the church with a certificate of congratulations from Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

Church leaders expressed their thanks that community support has kept their church open in south Richmond.

“Churches are closing down, but we are still here, praise God,” said Tina Landry.

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