Redeemed Christian in Albany celebrates beautiful new sanctuary

Abiola and Lanre Peters, pastors who are married to each other, celebrated last Saturday moving their rapidly growing congregation of 250 into a beautiful, historic Albany church building – a gift from their mother church in Lagos, Nigeria.

Abiola Peters said the brick and stone building at 475 State St. is more than 150 years old with a sanctuary lined with richly colored stained glass windows and a soaring arched ceiling.

“We started with three members in 2003 and now we have 250,” she said. “We never asked our congregation for funds to buy the building because the pandemic made life so difficult financially for so many. Our mother church in Nigeria and its churches all over Africa and the world contributed to help us buy a building because we’re still growing here in Albany.”

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is a denomination that began in Nigeria’s capital city with nine worshippers who met in each other’s houses in 1952. It now claims 2,000 parishes across Nigeria as well as churches in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Gambia, Cameroon, South Africa, England, Germany, and France. The Peterses became Redeemed members and pastors in New York City. In 2003, they were asked to start an Albany church in a long, narrow Lexington Avenue building that resembled a former retail or storage space.

Abiola Peters says the church’s new home became available when a Lutheran church decided to move to another location. She recalls that at one point there were five other bidders for the property. Negotiations took more than a year. The congregation sees its new home, across from Washington Park, as worth the wait. Lanterns illuminate the sanctuary. Blue sky and water blaze in one stained glass window of Christ’s baptism and pale honey-hued flowers sparkle under a huge golden sun in another.

“This will be a wonderful venue for weddings,” she said. “And our building has a commercial kitchen for anyone who wants to host a banquet or fundraising dinner here.”

The diversity of her congregation is what really inspires her pride.

“When we came to Albany, a lot of folks who came here from Africa were familiar with Redeemed Christian and joined. But we also have Caucasian and Latino members and young people of all races and ethnicities who may have first been attracted to our music.” She laughs and adds, “We sing hymns and gospel people can dance to in their aisles, move their bodies to. People may lose weight after they attend one of our services.”

Redeemed Christian’s ministries include a community food pantry and school supplies and backpack giveaways for children in need and scholarship funds for high school students wanting to further their education. The church offers a “welfare and hospitality department” focused on college students who may need help in a financial crunch or counseling. The Peterses also manage to enjoy family time with their two college student daughters and 11-year-old son.

While their congregation grows in its new space, the mother church in Nigeria also has expansion plans in the form of The RCCG Coastline Worship Centre, which is envisioned as a 17-floor tower with mutilevel car parking, a jetty that can dock 16 boats, a helipad, a medical center, bank outposts and a shopping arcade.

It may sound dramatically ambitious but as the BBC observed last year, the Pentecostal denomination has enjoyed explosive growth across the African continent with megachurches. A few even offer medical services for congregants who can’t afford health care.

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