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City, neighbors honor Bishop Mays
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City, neighbors honor Bishop Mays

Thursday, July 05, 2007

At the Lafayette Gardens Public Housing Development, where the late Bishop Henry D. Mays Sr. rose through the ranks from groundskeeper to senior manager over a six-year period in the 1990s, the tenants called him "the Mayor" and "the Doctor."

"Is the doctor in?" the tenants would ask, as they lined up to get leads on jobs, tips on money management, advice about raising their kids, or help resolving marital disputes, according to Mays's longtime friends and family members.

"That's where it all started," said the Rev. Jacqueline Mays, seated in a back corner of the sanctuary of Mt. Sinai Full Gospel Church, which she co-pastored with her husband of 46 years until he died after a heart attack in December at age 64.

Mays was born in Glen Ridge but was raised in Jersey City's Booker T. Washington public housing complex, his wife said.

"He grew up in the Booker T. houses. He saw the needs. He realized you can't talk to man spiritually if his stomach is growling."

It's been the season for bestowing accolades on Mays. Just over a week ago, a block party was held in front the church on Prescott Street in his honor.

Last week, the City Council honored Mays with a resolution read into the record with his wife and 20 other church members present.

And next week, on Tuesday at noon, the local governmental honors will be capped with the official renaming of Prescott Street between Grand and Park streets in Mays's honor.

"He was a man among men," said Ward F Councilwoman Viola Richardson, who pushed for and read the resolution into the record.

"He was man of God who recognized that his mission was to go into the street and work at saving those who were lost, homeless, lonely . His congregation extended well beyond its walls."

Opened July 16, 1988, with 100 people at the Lafayette Gardens community center, Mt. Sinai moved into its current $1.5 million facility in December 1999 and now has roughly 600 members - and a host of ministries.

There is a prison ministry, a "Watchcare" ministry for visiting shut-ins, a "Covered Wounds Don't Heal" ministry to help individuals overcome trauma or abuse.

The church's misnamed "soup kitchen" feeds seven-course meals to 300 to 400 people two Tuesdays a month.

Jacqueline Mays recalled a homeless man who walked several miles to the church a couple of months ago. He walked out not just with a full stomach, but also wearing a donated coat and shoes and with a haircut courtesy of a church member.

And how would Bishop Mays handle receiving all these honors?

"Not very well," laughed Jacqueline Mays.

"He wasn't good at receiving. He was good at giving," she said. "And that was his entire life."

Posted on: 2007/7/5 13:47

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