Redeemed Christian in Albany celebrates magnificent new shrine

Married pastors Abiola and Lanre Peters celebrated last Saturday the move of their rapidly growing congregation of 250 to a beautiful historic church in Albany – a gift from their mother church in Lagos, Nigeria.

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

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

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is a denomination that started in the capital of Nigeria with nine worshipers who met in each other’s homes in 1952. It now claims 2,000 parishes across Nigeria as well as churches in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Gambia, Cameroon, South Africa, England, Germany and France. The Peters became members and redeemed pastors in New York. In 2003, they were asked to create a church in Albany in a long, narrow building on Lexington Avenue that looked like an old retail or storage space.

Abiola Peters says the new church 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. The negotiations lasted over a year. The congregation considers their new home across from Washington Park to be 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.

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

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

“When we arrived in Albany, a lot of people from Africa knew Redeemed Christian and joined him. But we also have Caucasian and Latino members and young people of all races and ethnicities who may have been drawn to our music first. She laughs and adds, “We sing hymns and the gospel people can dance in their aisles, move their bodies. People can lose weight after attending any of our services.

Redeemed Christian ministries include a community pantry, school supplies and backpacks for children in need, and scholarship funds for high school students wishing to continue their education. The church offers a “welfare and hospitality department” focused on students who may need financial crisis help or counseling. The Peters also manage to spend some family time with their two student daughters and their 11-year-old son.

As their congregation grows into its new space, the Mother Church in Nigeria also has plans for expansion in the form of the RCCG Coastline Worship Center, which is envisioned as a 17-story tower with multi-level parking, a pier that can moor 16 boats, a helipad, a medical center, banking outposts and a shopping arcade.

It may sound dramatically ambitious, but as the BBC observed last year, the Pentecostal denomination has seen explosive growth across the African continent with mega-churches. A few even offer medical services to the faithful who cannot afford health care.

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