PITTSTON — Rev. James H. Breese is love – love for Jesus, love for family and love for his church. Members of the First Baptist Church in Pittston love him even more.
Breese, 53, took over the church 10 years ago with just 12 members and, through his ministry, the church on the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Water Street is thriving again.
The church celebrated 240 years of existence and Breese’s 10-year anniversary as pastor on Sept. 25, with over 250 family, friends, church members, clergy and area dignitaries in attendance.
The church atmosphere was electrifying and music, led by Minister of Music Jay Anderson and organist Dorothy Klaproth, filled the air.
Musician Michael Pryor was on hand, leading a special horn ensemble with Chuck Smith, Jack Martin and Dan Coyle.
The sermon was given by Breese’s mentor, confidant and friend, Bishop Wallace E. Smith from the New Covenant Christian Fellowship Church in Wilkes-Barre. Over the years, Smith and Breese have developed a great family-like friendship. Smith presided over Breese’s installation 10 years ago at the First Baptist Church.
“He took me to school real quick,” said Breese, speaking on Smith’s mentoring. “I feel so blessed to have him as my mentor.”
Breese had his wife Sherrell by his side at the altar, along with his son Vincent, whose mother is the late Brenda Breese, as well as Sherrell’s two sons, Fred and Avery.
Also present was Breese’s older brother, Rev. Ronald J. Breese, who has a ministry outside of Philadelphia.
Building a church
Breese said it was important to focus on young people in the community when he first took the reins.
“I knew I wanted to work with the youth because, when you have no youth in the church, the church starts to die,” he said about his initial goal.
In the beginning of his ministry, not many members of the First Baptist Church had seen the likes of Rev. Breese or his style of preaching.
“I was reminded by one of our younger members, Amanda. She said, ‘Remember when you ask for someone to say Amen and we all looked at each other and nobody knew what to do?’” Breese laughed. “So the next week, when I said, ‘Could I have an Amen?’ they finally caught on to the calling.”
Over time, Breese created public outreach programs, including Hot Dog Sunday, to bring awareness to the church.
Today, the church supports 150 members, with numbers steadily climbing.
“We are so blessed because we are not in a residential section of Pittston and being where we are, it hasn’t been easy,” said Breese. “We have folks coming from Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas that now attend our church.”
Breese and his first wife had heavy hearts throughout life with the loss of their first son, Sydney. Brenda then became ill and passed away in 2013. Breese lost his father James, his uncle Tyrone Edmunds and his aunt Beverly Breese. He underwent hip replacement surgery and is facing another surgery to replace the other hip in the near future.
But, he believes his personal tragedies, along with triumphs, have made him a better minister.
“A lot of those things you build off because you use the Scriptures to deliver a sermon, deliver a message, but then you also take those things that God has brought you through and share those moments and how I’ve been blessed to get out your message,” Breese said.
Sherrell Breese, whom Breese married in 2015, is very active with the church, in particular with the children.
Looking to the future
Breese hopes to to expand the church’s annual Thanksgiving meal give-away. Last year, 1,400 meals were distributed through take-out, pick-up and dining room seating.
He would like to incorporate community activities such as blood pressure clinics as well and also have the church get involved with redevelopment of the City of Pittston.
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