There are no limits to Reverend Robin Moore's service to Detroit

There are no limits to Reverend Robin Moore’s service to Detroit

Reverend Dr. Robin Diane Moore is the first female pastor of the 106-year-old Historic First Baptist Church.

Reverend Dr. Robin de Moore, the first woman to lead the First Institutional Baptist Church, is a well-known pioneer as she begins Seniors Day at her church Wednesday, October 19, 2022. Moore, with the help of Forgotten Harvest, is distributing food for seniors with the help of volunteers.
Mandy Wright, Detroit Free Press

When Reverend Moore speaks, her voice can take on an authoritative tone, as it is her way of providing the rationale for her actions and a thorough explanation of how to carry out the activities, which she often does in a quick fashion. It’s not easy to forget her words, but this week, Moore didn’t feel like talking about being the first woman to lead her church at 17101 West Seven Mile Road, in the College Park neighborhood.

“I never talk about it,” said the 59-year-old Moore, who became the pastor of the First Baptist Church in 2019. “I am a pastor who happens to be a female. And my faith tells me that I’m supposed to reach out outside church doors to do things that will help our community.”

On Wednesday morning, Moore worked on her faith by providing food for the community at her church. The long line of cars winding around the stretches of Gilchrist Street, 7 Mile Road, and Biltmore Street long before 9 a.m. indicates that the food being distributed was meeting a dire need. However, despite the cold weather, the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers accompanying Moore seemed to indicate that a two-way exchange was already taking place.

Cars gather around the building at First Baptist Church in Detroit Wednesday, October 19, 2022 during the first day established by Reverend Dr. Robin De Moore, the first woman to lead the First Baptist Church.  Senior Day allows seniors to receive free food items from the church twice a month in partnership with Forgotten Harvest.
Cars gather around the building at First Baptist Church in Detroit Wednesday, October 19, 2022 during the first day established by Reverend Dr. Robin De Moore, the first woman to lead the First Baptist Church. Senior Day allows seniors to receive free food items from the church twice a month in partnership with Forgotten Harvest.
Mandy Wright, Detroit Free Press

“Being here in this cold, that’s an obligation,” said 72-year-old Mamie Patty, who sat at a table in front of the 7-mile-facing church, near the corner of Biltmore, and recorded information from people who came for the vehicle-free food.

Patty, a 44-year-old member of the First Baptist Church, joined in February 1978, when she and her husband, Ron, a treasurer of the church’s Board of Trustees, were expecting their son, Marlon Cedric Patty, who would become a NASA aerospace engineer. At NASA, Marlon Batty worked on projects with names such as the “CEV Intelligent Jupiter Team,” the “CEV Launch Cancellation System,” and the “NESC ALAS Study” before his death in 2007 at the age of 28.

“(Marlon) was our only son and we’ve never had closure (regarding his death), but I’m still committed to being at First Baptist because that’s my family,” said Mamie Patti. “One of the things I feel God has given me is hospitality and the ability to do things for others that they couldn’t do for themselves. We feel so lucky to have a very dedicated young patroness, and we appreciate her trying to do for others through her reach.”

Like Mamie Patty, Janelle Cocolo couldn’t hide the fact that she was also cool. But she had many warm words to share about her pastor and the mission of her community church.

A volunteer hugs Janelle Kuklow, 67, of Detroit who has been working at the church during a big day at First Baptist Church in Detroit Wednesday, October 19, 2022. Senior Day was created by Reverend Dr. Robin de Moore who partnered with Forgotten Harvest to distribute food to seniors Age with the help of volunteers.
A volunteer hugs Janelle Kuklow, 67, of Detroit who has been working at the church during a big day at First Baptist Church in Detroit Wednesday, October 19, 2022. Senior Day was created by Reverend Dr. Robin de Moore who partnered with Forgotten Harvest to distribute food to seniors Age with the help of volunteers.
Mandy Wright, Detroit Free Press

Koklo, who joined the church in 2020 right before the pandemic, said after telling the pastor at her former church 15 years ago that she was “lifted” and should respectfully move forward. “Pastor Moore is very committed and caring, not only to her parishioners, but to the community at large. She has us walking the streets, handing out flyers to let people know about our services and to let them know that we will help them meet their needs in whatever way we can.”

One volunteer who didn’t seem cold on Wednesday morning was Phyllis Reynolds, and that may have had something to do with the black hat she wore with the phrase “Athena of Greece”—a reminder of summer vacation. Between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., Reynolds was in constant motion. Besides working on her arms and legs, the conversation with the people she serves seems to never stop: “The cabbage for you today?” Do you like skim milk? “An apple?” “you are good?”

At one point, when Reynolds finally slowed down, she made it clear that her personal approach was too intentional.

“That’s just me. I’ve trained as a registered nurse,” said 71-year-old Reynolds, who was baptized into First Baptist Church at age eight when the church was located in Hamtramck in Mitchell. Beyond the four walls of the church this is the vision of Reverend Moore. Just like what we do today, we are here on the first and third Wednesday of every month serving food. This is our first year of doing this in partnership with Forgotten Harvest and that was Reverend Moore’s vision. It’s a lot of work for us to do that, but when you come home, you just have an enormous sense of satisfaction knowing you’ve made such a small difference in someone’s life.”

In fact, if the nearly two-hour Wednesday morning food distribution had ended the church’s community outreach for the day, most people would consider it a “fun” day to give. But in fact, community service was in its infancy. No longer came that day inside the church, free for neighborhood seniors and outside, were fitness classes and access to exercise equipment monitored by a professional coach; “Doc Talk,” a doctor-led nutrition seminar where participants were able to prepare homemade chili; Bible study, introductory computer lessons. All activities were part of the first “Super Wednesday,” which will be a weekly show presented by the First Institutional Baptist Church in partnership with a specialist medical center.

Reverend Dr.  Robin de Moore, first woman to lead First Baptist Church on the left, hands over a bottle of Gatorade for boarding Kirk Nichols, 63, of Detroit.  Reverend Moore is known as a pioneer when she begins Seniors Day at her church Wednesday, October 19, 2022. Moore, with the help of Forgotten Harvest, distributes food to seniors with the help of volunteers.
Reverend Dr. Robin de Moore, first woman to lead First Baptist Church on the left, hands over a bottle of Gatorade for boarding Kirk Nichols, 63, of Detroit. Reverend Moore is known as a pioneer when she begins Seniors Day at her church Wednesday, October 19, 2022. Moore, with the help of Forgotten Harvest, distributes food to seniors with the help of volunteers.
Mandy Wright, Detroit Free Press

On Wednesday, when asked why she cares so much about the local elderly, Moore’s face had a smile and her voice took on a soft, gentle tone. She later explained that the wisdom provided by the elderly is very useful to her while she is doing her work in the community.

“There is so much to be gained through the wisdom of our seniors,” said Moore, a proud culprit of Cody High School (class of 1981). “We can only learn so much through stories. How did they get through the Black Bottom? How did they come about during the days when the church was in Hamtramck? How did they come about through the Civil Rights Movement? I spoke to some seniors who know Rosa Parks personally, so we We need to be in touch with our seniors. Our first Wednesday was a very exciting day for us in a very attractive environment looking forward to growing.”

Moore’s statement, speaking Thursday, was a reminder of what 78-year-old Marvin Burton had said of her the day before when he was distributing food to those in need: “She (Reverend Moore) has a heart as big as a lion; thoughts that flow like a river, and she Strong as an ox,” declared Burton, who joined the church in 2002. “She’s a very devoted servant of the Lord.”

On Sunday, the Dedicated Maid, the entirety of congregants, and guests will have a chance to reflect during a special service to celebrate the 106th anniversary of the historic First Institutional Baptist Church. Reverend Harold Caldwell, of the nearby Transformation Christian Center, will be the guest speaker. After the 10 a.m. service, there will be a pancake lunch with live music and a photo show chronicling the history of the church. And while all of the church’s rich history is celebrated, Moore hinted Thursday that at some point her mind might come back to something that happened Wednesday during an introductory computer class she taught seniors.

Moore, who is also a mother of three (Alison Hemet, 30, Dean Moore II, 28, and Alexis Moore, 26) and grandmother of three (Jace, Mica and Alia Hemet), explained. “One time, I was walking around the class on Google and explaining how to close the page by clicking on the ‘x’, and he said he didn’t know it yet. My heart sank, because we just opened up to him a new world. And I said this is the message I want to pass on to the community : “No matter where you are, come as you are, and we can take you where you want to be at your comfort level.”

A native of Detroit, Scott Tully is a proud product of Detroit Public Schools and has lived a life of Detroit culture in all its diverse forms. On his second tour with Free Press, which he grew up reading as a child, he is passionate and humbled about covering the city’s neighborhoods and the many interesting people that define its different communities. Contact him at: stalley@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @STalleyfreep. Read more of Scott’s stories at www.freep.com/mosaic/detroit-is/.

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