Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bishop Kenneth Moales dies at 65

BRIDGEPORT -- Even at a young age, Kenneth Moales had something special.

The Bridgeport native, who went on to found the Prayer Tabernacle Church of Love (now the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit), died Monday evening of a heart attack. On Tuesday, which would have been his 65 birthday, friends and colleagues remembered Moales as someone whose spirituality and leadership were visible to the world almost immediately.

"His life was a shining example to the young people on this side of town," said the Rev. Aaron Sneed, administrative pastor at the cathedral.

In addition to his work at the cathedral, Moales was a national figure in the Pentecostal church. In 1995, he was installed as presiding prelate of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ, and he served on the executive board of the Joint College of African American Pentecostal Bishops. Moales also was a giant in the field of gospel music. In 1993, he was named president of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. He was also inducted into International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum for his many years of work in the field.

Sneed met Moales when they were kids, both singing in a community choir. Moales began singing at the age of 7, and "used to be known as the boy wonder of Bridgeport," Sneed said.

Moales founded Prayer Tabernacle Church in 1969, when he was only 21 years old. At the time, it was just a storefront ministry on Stratford Avenue, a place where children from the area could attend Sunday school. "He didn't even have enough money to turn the lights on," said Sneed, who was 16 at the time. "He had to hold classes during the day."

Yet despite the challenges he faced -- and his own relative youth -- Moales was committed to ministering to the youth of Bridgeport. Sneed said Moales offered hope and guidance to many children and adolescents, including himself. "We are who we are today because he ministered to us," Sneed said.

Over the past 42 years, the church has grown and moved to various locations along Stratford Avenue. According to its website, the church serves roughly 1,000 worshippers a week. It's also added a variety of ministries and programs since Moales first opened it, including Love Christian Academy, an elementary school that opened to 2003.

Mark Brevard, headmaster of Love Christian Academy, said Moales' death is a huge blow to everyone affiliated with the church. "Everyone has been very sad," Brevard said. "A lot of us have also been in shock. We're praying to get through this."

Parishoners also mourned Moales, including Neal McGee, owner of Kingdom Cutters barber shop on Stratford Avenue. "He just had such an impact on my life," McGee said. "He was the only pastor I ever had."

McGee actually cut Moales' hair on Saturday, the day of Moales' 65th birthday party. It was the last time McGee saw him. "(Moales) was a spiritual father, not just to me, but to everyone in this city," McGee said.

Another longtime parishoner, Wilhelmina Jackson, of Bridgeport, called Moales a "man of integrity." Even as he gained prominence on a national level, Jackson said, he always had time for his flock at home. "His door was always open and the community always knew that and respected him for it," said Jackson, a midwife at Bridgeport Hospital.

Various community leaders were also devastated by Moales' passing, including Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch who was at Moales' 65th birthday party. As a party favor, Moales handed out mix CDs to his guests.

"This morning, I got in my car, and just as I put in his CD, I got a call from (Councilwoman Sue) Brannelly telling me the news. Really shocking," Finch said.

Brian Bodt, president and chief executive officer of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, was also stunned by the announcement. Moales' church was a member of the council, and Bodt said he met Moales on several occasions. "He was a significant leader in the community and very well-respected," Bodt said. "I liked him a lot. It will be a big loss."

Funeral arrangements hadn't been finalized for Moales as of Tuesday afternoon, but Sneed said he expects a large turnout. "They're going to come into Bridgeport in throngs over the next few days," he said.

Moales is survived by his wife of 43 years, Peggy Ann Moales. He also leaves three children, 12 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Staff writer John Burgeson contributed to this report. Conneticut Post

In my opinion Bishop Moales was one of the General's in the Kingdom.  He was not only the Bishop in Conneticut but he was the Bishop to many across the globe, such as Bishop Hezekiah Walker and the Kingdom Churches, Bishop Walter Hawkins and many others.  He gave us a 'war cry' and told us to 'dance now and talk about it later'.  Whenever he was in my city I would make my way to hear him.  Whenever I needed to celebrate and be reminded that I had the victory I would watch this video.  He will be greatly missed.  

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