Hartford pastor ardent about his community

Apostle Bradford Howard Jr./ContributedHARTFORD – On his 62nd birthday, Apostle Bradford Howard Jr. did exactly what he wanted – he handed out Thanksgiving turkeys to those who couldn’t afford to buy one.

And this Christmas season, he’ll again reach out to his Hartford community by recognizing exceptional area youth who are making a difference.

The program is part of the Live in Peace Youth Project, which is sponsored by Restoration Temple Deliverance Mission – a church now pastored by his daughter, Leslie Howard McCarter.

On Dec. 18 and 7 p.m., the youth – the students of Mary M. Hooker Environmental Studies Magnet School and four students from Restoration Temple – will be honored with a musical award ceremony. The event is also a fundraiser for the church and prizes will be given out to those in attendance.

Programs like this are what Howard thrives on. He’s fervent about the city’s south end and works with his church and other organizations to meet the needs of his neighbors, providing coats in the winter, school supplies in the fall and handing out cans of food whenever he can.

If he’s driving his black Murano slowly through town, it’s likely that it’s filled with boxes of cereal or bottles of water. Howard knows that some of the city’s homeless don’t go to shelters, so he goes to them. In the winter he brings them gloves, socks and scarves.

“We have to be able to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “Christ isn’t just in the big buildings.”

Howard, a Catholic turned Pentecostal, co-founded Restoration Temple with his wife, Carol, 10 years ago. He has an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate of ministry from North Carolina College of Theology.

He describes himself as a quiet little country pastor from the ghetto because he doesn’t like boasting about his accomplishments – like the fact that he is the 2008 Capital Area Substance Abuse Council Treatment Award recipient, or that he’s authored Don’t be Proud, Be Blessed, which was designed to help people deal with stressful times.

He said street ministry has been his focus ever since he was a pre-teen, noting that he was sick of being helpless about the sadness he saw in society.

“I saw a lot of stuff I didn’t like,” he said. “I wanted to better my neighborhood.”

Bishop Christopher McCarter, Howard’s son-in-law (though the family avoids such a term) has helped Howard with his street ministry for about a decade and said he’s learned a lot about caring for people.

“He’s helped me transition from the traditional church,” he said, adding that ministry means thinking outside the box. “You’ve got to go beyond the norm of a clergyman and start mixing in (with the community).”

Marcus Jarvis, co-founder of FrontStage Productions, met Howard this fall and said it feels like he’s known the pastor all his life.

“I would say he is a rare breed nowadays. He reminds me of our elders of the old days who took time out for young people to give back,” he said. “He’s of the philosophy that a rising tide raises all ships.”

Music is the common bond between Marcus and Howard. Never too Busy to Serve You Lord is a tune Howard wrote that will soon be released on an album.

The song just might be performed at the youth awards show. For information on the program, call (860) 992-5535.

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