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Former Ebenezer pastor to preach at Albany church

Rev. Joseph Roberts

Rev. Joseph Roberts

ALBANY -- First Presbyterian Church Pastor Garrett Andrew will never forget the first time he met Joseph Roberts.

Roberts, the former pastor of Atlanta's famed Ebenezer Baptist Church and an associate of both the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was conducting a conference in Decatur last year when the two men were introduced.

"We were shaking hands and he (Roberts) glanced at my name tag," Andrew recalled. "He looked at me shook his head and said, 'I see you're from Albany. We didn't do to well the last time we were there.'"

Roberts was referring to the summer of 1962 when King Jr. became involved in the Albany Movement. King was jailed twice, not much changed and he vowed never to return to the city. Many regard MLK's Albany effort as one of the few failures of his career.

Roberts served as the senior pastor of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church for 30 years. He was hand-picked by King Sr. when he retired.

Roberts will preach from the pulpit at First Presbyterian on Sunday as the church winds down its annual Mission Week.

"It really blows my mind when I think about it," Andrew said. "To have a person of his stature and all that he represents here is very exciting. The fact that he would come before a historically white church in Albany, Georgia, going to a town that MLK said he would never come back to, is a real gift."

Andrew thinks the visit carries more than one connotation.

"I think it is a symbol of racial healing, of reconciliation," Andrew said. "God giving everyone a chance to come together proves healing and wholeness is possible.

"Think of what this might mean for our community. I'm beside myself and I can't wait to hear what he has to say."

Roberts is a native of Chicago, where he received his formative education in the public school system. He graduated Cum Laude from Knoxville College. His Master of Divinity degree was received from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and his Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.

Before going to Ebenezer, he worked in various administrative positions in the Presbyterian Church, U.S., and was Pastor of Weequahic Presbyterian Church and Elmwood United Presbyterian Church in New Jersey. He is the recipient of numerous honors from civic, social, and religious organizations. He has been listed in Ebony Magazine as an outstanding clergy person.

Roberts is also is the recipient of five honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees. He was the 2004 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Awards of both of his graduate schools; Union Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary.

He serves on several board and committees on both local and national levels.