The 10,000-seat sanctuary on Resurrection Sunday wasn’t filled anywhere close to capacity. The main floor was full, and there was a smattering of congregants seated in the lower balcony. But the upper tiers were empty and cordoned off behind heavy blue drapes. Both inside and outside the church, uniformed security was conspicuously present among the attendees.

In the pulpit stood the slender Senior Pastor-Select Dr. Jasmin “Jazz” Sculark in a stunning red suit delivering her inaugural sermon at Jericho City of Praise. By the time she had kicked off her red-soled Christian Louboutin pumps, it was clear that “the Daughter of Thunder” was letting everyone know that the behemoth Jericho was stepping finally into its new season, and she was the woman who would lead it there.

Both spectators and church members were on their feet and reaching upwards during an organ crescendo as Rev. Jazz proclaimed in her lilting Caribbean dialect that ” Jericho City of Praise is back.”

“God sent me to Jericho to let you know that the obstacle is rolled away. On Resurrection Sunday, every obstacle is rolled away.”

Apostle Betty Peebles, the spiritual leader of what was once one of the largest mega churches in America, died in 2010. Her son and surviving heir, Bishop Joel R. Peebles, who served more than 20 years as associate pastor, was cast out by Jericho’s board of trustees in 2012 amid allegations of financial impropriety and a heartbreaking crisis over the future leadership of the church.

When Bishop Peebles left, thousands of followers left with him, devastating the church membership roll that had once claimed as many as 19,000.

Although the deposed Bishop has vowed that the legal battle is not yet over, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Judge Dwight Jackson, recently ruled in February that the multimillion-dollar empire in Landover — which includes a 78-acre campus, a $52 million retirement community, a school, parking for Fed-Ex field, and a business center — is rightfully controlled by the board of directors.

“When you step into your season, you don’t have to be mean and nasty, the stone will be rolled away.” said Dr. Jazz, who was appointed on April 1 and will be formally installed in the fall.

The battle to rebuild Jericho’s flagging membership and restore its reputation will be waged by the senior pastor from the pulpit, on Facebook, on Twitter and Instagram and streamed live on the Internet.

Dr. Jazz told the Church Lady Blog recently that “God miraculously dropped me into the heart of Jericho and I am grateful. I am going to build on the legacy of Apostle Betty Peebles. I am not coming to lay a foundation. I am coming to build upon a foundation that has already been laid. I am excited about what God wants me to do with Jericho City of Praise.”

The author of Dancing with Broken Bones, she is a native of the Island of Trinidad and Tobago, and the founder and president of Dr. Jazz Ministries. She is known nationally and internationally as a pastor, teacher, author and evangelist.

Dr. Jazz’s life goal and mission is to encourage, equip and empower the world through the written and spoken Word. True to her name, “Daughter of Thunder,” Dr. Jazz’s preaching and teaching ministry makes a thunderous sound in the earth and in the mind and hearts of those who come in contact with her ministry.

On March 31, her new broadcast, “This is your best day yet” was launched on The Word Network.

Roz Hamlett

Special to the AFRO