Baltimore’s Grace Presbyterian held a joyous celebration on June 9 to honor the installation of the Rev. Tanya S. Wade as pastor.
The congregation voted Wade into office on Apr. 28, and on May 9 she officially became the first woman to lead the church in its 133-year existence.
Roughly 150 people gathered from several different Presbyterian ministries at 4 p.m. for the ceremony to celebrate the transition in leadership and the new beginning.
“It’s a relief because it’s been a long journey for me,” Wade told the AFRO shortly after the installation service as the festivities moved to the dining hall for an open dinner. “I’ve been seeking a permanent home for many years and I am so excited!”
She was raised in Baltimore and is the product of Baltimore’s public schools. She earned a Master of Divinity degree, with a concentration in pastoral care, from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Ga.,
She earned an undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, after graduating from Western Senior High School.
Wade is only the eighth pastor to direct the church, located near Greenspring Avenue, and she follows behind Rev. Arthur Reynolds, who led the congregation for 25 years.
But this isn’t her first time making history. She became the first African American woman to be ordained as a clergy member in the Presbytery of Baltimore on July 21, 1991.
Wade said that she has longed to have her own church since that time, but the accomplishments and triumphs didn’t stop.
By 1999 she became the first Presbyterian clergy member to cross over the denomination lines and serve in a Lutheran Church teaching Lutheran doctrine. Wade said that her time as a mission developer and associate pastor for the Maryland Delaware Synod of the ECLA brought her even closer to her Presbyterian roots with a Baptist Church influence.
“We serve the same God. Wherever he sends me I have to go,” she said, adding that she believes the “written Lutheran doctrine is the most beautiful doctrine ever seen–a love letter to God.”
She is currently the Moderator of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic region.
“I’ve seen her grow,” said Rev. Lonnie J. Oliver, of Associate African American Congregational Support Office in Louisville, Ky. “Within ten years, I see Grace making a paradigm shift because they will be more biblically based, spiritually awake, and trying some new things because of it.”
“They have the person that is going to lead them in the right direction and she has the patience not to initiate change too rapidly but to be steady and consistent,” said Oliver, who delivered the Sunday afternoon sermon for the service that included liturgical dance and vocal selections.
Brothers Willie Alston, 69, and Lawrence Alston, 61, were both on hand help minister through song and attest to how Wade impacted communities surrounding their church with her way of getting outside of the church walls.
“She’s a community person and believes in going around the community and doing whatever she can,” said the elder Alston.
“We went out to other churches, such as Christ our King in Bel Air, Md. and got more involved in giving Thanksgiving baskets- we were already giving them but with the help of the church in Bel Air we were able to reach one thousand.”
Wade served Knox Presbyterian Church for three years as interim pastor, according to the Alstons.
“We learned to love her and of course we liked her,” said Willie Alston. “She was always there and always had a caring ear. She knew the right things to say and do.”
Wade said she plans to continue growing the Grace Presbyterian Church through community outreach and strong leadership that includes not only her, but members of the congregation.
One of the first things she wants to do is reinvigorate the church pantry, which she believes, with the help of area churches, could become a weekly initiative.