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The Church Honors New York’s Rev. A.R. Bernard for His Visionary Leadership

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Friends and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York gathered Saturday night, June 8, 2024, to honor a religious giant in their community.

The New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association (NYLDSPA) gave its annual visionary leadership award to Reverend A. R. Bernard. He is the founder, CEO and pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn.

“I have enjoyed my association with Reverend A. R. Bernard Sr.,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “His exemplary service in building faith and reducing suffering needs to be celebrated. He not only addresses the spiritual needs of the members of his congregation but also, in a Christlike manner, administers to the temporal needs of members and nonmembers of his congregation and the community.”

Among the guests being recognized and as well as honoring Rev. Bernard Saturday was Andy Reid, head coach of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, and his wife, Tammy. Coach Reid thanked the Rev. Bernard and those in attendance for being leaders in their communities. With his warmth and humor he connected with all in attendance. He gave several examples of overcoming challenges in the football world applicable to everyone.

“I think it is tremendous when people come together with one plan in mind — and that’s to make others better. And whatever situation you’re in, we’re going to be there to help you and support you,” said Reid.

Elder Cook expressed his deep appreciation for Andy and Tammy Reid’s “marvelous example and their participation.” This leadership award is given during the annual scholarship banquet hosted by NYLDSPA. The group raises funds to assist New York area youth in attending college and creates an annual evening of interfaith friendship — a theme Rev. Bernard shared during his remarks.

“When we think about Jesus’s conversation with the woman at the well, His healing of the centurion’s servant, His story of the Good Samaritan, we understand that He was trying to tell us that His message of love, faith, compassion and outreach goes beyond our little tribe, our little group, our little tradition,” Rev. Bernard said.

He continued, “It’s open to a universal embrace and inclusiveness that forces us to work together, to collaborate together, to network our resources, to build bridges, to respond to the needs that we can indeed exemplify what it means to be a person of faith working towards the common good.”

Elder David L. Buckner, a recently called General Authority Seventy who served as an Area Seventy in New York for the past seven years, had the privilege of working with Rev. Bernard on New York City’s Commission of Religious Leaders. Buckner witnessed years of Rev. Bernard being a leader in his community. 

“Rev. Bernard has characterized his pattern of answering calls to serve, calls to bless, calls to lead with two simple words: I’m here,” Elder Buckner said. “Rev. Bernard has repeatedly said, ‘I’m here’ when asked to serve his city and state. Rev. Bernard promptly says, ‘I’m here’ when asked to serve and build bridges with those of different backgrounds and beliefs. 

“He willingly and welcomingly extended a hand of friendship to leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, graciously inviting the Church to partner with him in efforts to feed the hungry and help lift communities,” Elder Buckner said. 

 The relationship between the two organizations was strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many more people needed supplies from the Christian Cultural Center’s food pantry, and the Church offered to help meet the increased need. 

“We really came into a strong working relationship during COVID,” the Rev. Bernard said. “We were at that time feeding some 25,000 persons per year in our food pantry. And of course, with COVID the need expanded. In order to meet that need, we had to partner. And that’s where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came into play. And that partnership took us from reaching 25,000 people to 135,000 people.” 

Elder Allen D. Haynie, President of the Church’s North America Northeast Area, said he has seen the reach the Rev. Bernard has in New York. 

“You can find his fingerprints everywhere in New York,” Elder Haynie said. “It’s like whenever there’s a challenging situation, he’s somebody that so many people trust. He’s involved.” 

Elder Vaiangina Sikahema, also of the North America Northeast Area Presidency, said he knows working with other religious leaders and groups improves the process. 

“[These people] lead their congregations and do great work,” Elder Sikahema said. “So, why not partner with them and help them do what they’ve already been doing … well.” 

Elder Cook concluded by thanking those gathered for their help with the Light the World kickoff in Times Square in late November 2023. He also expressed gratitude for their work to bless New York children’s lives through service in December. 

 The Apostle of Jesus Christ invited all present to “work together to defend faith and help bless all of God’s children.” 

Previous honorees of NYLDSPA’s leadership award include New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano RiveraRabbi Joseph Potasnik and former United States Senator Joseph Lieberman

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