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By DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI
The Right Rev. Keith Kenney said he’s always had the desire to be a bishop, citing a verse from 1 Timothy 3 — “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.”
Kenney has been living that desire since June 8, when he assumed his new role as bishop of his congregation, Tabernacle of Life Ministries, Inc. in Montclair, following his consecration at Greater Bethel Church of Christ in Paterson.
The Tabernacle of Life Ministries is a nondenominational, multicultural gospel church that follows the New King James version of the Bible.
Kenney and his wife, the Rev. Julwel Kenney, are both pastors of the congregation, which relocated to Montclair in 2016 after renting space in a church for six years in Maywood, where the Kenneys reside.
The steps necessary for Kenney to become a bishop-elect, required two additional years of seminary study at Arise Church of Atlanta formerly, Pilgrim Cathedral of Atlanta, in Georgia, a series of tests, an evaluation by the College of Bishops organization and approval by his congregation.
While he was a deacon he served next to many apostles and bishops, including his recent training with the Bishop Kent Branch of Arise Church of Atlanta. Kenney trained for 18 years as an apostle’s, a bishop’s, and a pastor’s adjunct. “It was a hands-on experience on how to be a bishop,” he said.
Kenney also served as an apostle, who is not appointed but instead “called by God.” At that point, they do not belong to a house of worship and go from church to church preaching the gospel. Kenney said he always had the desire to be a bishop.
Kenney has plans to expand by adding more churches. He and his wife created the organization, Tabernacle of Life Assemblies, in 2010 and are now reaching out to other churches that need help to grow spiritually, religiously and professionally, to join with them.
“I’m now capable of creating an organization that other churches would come to me and […] become part of my organization,” Kenney said. “I’m at a level now that I can train other ministries and pastors and leaders to develop an effective ministry.”
Being able to train others matters, because eventually Kenney would like to be archbishop. An archbishop would preside over all the churches under him. Once Kenney has several churches in his organization with bishops heading their churches, he can continue the process to become an archbishop.
When he is not tending to his congregation, he can be found on the express bus for Coach USA where he is a full-time driver.
He also makes sure there is time for family and relaxation and takes a getaway vacation at least twice a year. He and his wife will have been married 33 years on Sept. 6.
The staff at Tabernacle of Life consists of Julwel Kenney, two deacons and two walking deacons. Walking deacons are those who are in the process of becoming deacons.
If not for his wife’s organizational and leadership skills, Kenney said, he would not be able to be where he is now. “It’s why I’m still vibrant and still smiling. Too many are stressed out and burnt out.”
It also helps that the congregation works together. “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ no stepping on toes, no fights, everyone works together in love,” Kenney said. “It comes straight from the pulpit from the pastor and the congregation sees love and spreads it.”
To keep the love strong, the church runs a monthly anti-bullying leadership program for the congregation’s youth, “Let’s Talk Real,” an empowerment rap session. The program helps build self-esteem and self-confidence, Kenney said. “Everyone is born with a purpose; a destiny for greatness.”
The church also holds a monthly Women Encouraging Women program, where women help one another grow spiritually.
Starting Sept. 3, the church’s Sunday worship services will be televised at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesdays on the national syndicated NOW Network.
Tabernacle of Life Ministries, Inc.
140 Bloomfield Ave.
Average Sunday attendance:
50 adults, 20 children
Sundays 11:30 a.m.
Sunday School, 10-11 a.m.
Fourth Sundays: Family and Friends Day
Fourth Fridays: Youth Empowerment Service, 8 p.m. Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: Spiritual and Personal Development Bible Study