Jackson to honor Rivers' first year

Jesse Jackson

Much has been accomplished during the pastorship of the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III at Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston.

And it's only been one year.

To celebrate Rivers' first anniversary as pastor of Charity, the Rev. Jesse Jackson will offer an honorary sermon at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the church, followed by a reception up the street at Park Circle. Jackson, the high-profile and outspoken civil rights leader and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, was invited by Rivers, a longtime friend and colleague.

Rivers assumed the post at Charity last September after a successful career in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He began as a local organizer, became president of the North Charleston branch in 1980, assumed the helm of the state conference four years later, then became Southeast regional director. Eventually, he would be appointed national chief of field operations and then chief operating officer. He was a candidate for NAACP president in 2006 and 2008.

During his NAACP career, Rivers was an effective organizer and inspiring speaker. Under his leadership, membership in the state conference increased dramatically, from about 8,000 to 22,000, he said. To correct racial imbalances in the Legislature, he fought hard for single-member voting districts, and was among the few who spearheaded the 2000 rally in Columbia protesting the flying of the Confederate battle flag atop the Statehouse.

At a recent church service, Rivers encouraged the congregation to come early to the Jackson event and secure a seat. He warned Charity members not to expect politics, only praise and worship.

"Jesse Jackson will not be the most famous present," he said. "He is coming to preach and teach in the name of Jesus Christ," Rivers said.

Jackson's visit to the Lowcountry follows on the heels of an appearance by another famous black leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who came to Charity on Aug. 1 to help Rivers celebrate 95 years of the church during a special gala and banquet.

During his first year, Rivers and the congregation started health, economic empowerment, marriage and communications ministries at the East Montague Avenue church, fixed the outdoor sign, renovated the kitchen and bathrooms and devised plans for a children's church and family life center. He said he hopes to break ground on the center next year.

When Rivers appeared at the pulpit of the church for the first time, during the election process, and preached his first sermon, the congregation was electrified, according to Rossilind Daniels, minister of music and a member of Charity since her childhood.

"It was like the Lord heard us," she said. "He came with a vision not to be like everybody else but to build up the people."