Our Search For a Pastor

This webpage has been prepared by the Pulpit Search Committee (“Committee”) to address frequently asked questions about the search process. We hope you find it useful. We will continue to update the congregation during the Sunday morning worship service as the search process proceeds.  In addition, if you have specific questions, please send them to us at pulpitsearch@abyssinian.org and we will either respond to you directly or post the question and the answer here.

When reviewing the questions and responses, keep in mind that unlike many other denominations, each Baptist church is autonomous and self-governing. We are guided by the By-Laws of The Abyssinian Baptist Church (“By-Laws”) which enable our church to maintain an orderly, efficient and clear church life that meets the needs of the members. If you would like to review the By-Laws, please contact the church office – 212-862-7474 ext 201.

We approach the search process with a spirit of humility, seeking God’s will in all that we do. In that spirit, we have included several passages for meditation throughout this document for your reference. Please pray for and continue to support our beloved church. Attend worship services, give cheerfully and consistently, volunteer where you can and build bonds of Christian fellowship with other members and those in our community.

Most importantly, keep the faith!


The Pulpit Search Committee
Dana J. Fleming, Chair
Tiffany N. Meriweather, Esq., Vice Chair
Susie L. Drayton, Secretary
Deacon I. Javette Hines, Esq., Chaplain

Meet the Committee


Dana J. Fleming


Dana J. Fleming is the Deputy Director of New Life of New York City, Inc., a nonprofit aiding New York City’s youth through diverse programs. A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native, she attended Marymount College and Howard University. As an Abyssinian member for 22 years, she values the community’s nurturing spirit. Dana’s hobbies include cooking, reading mystery novels, traveling, and spending quality time with loved ones.

Tiffany N. Meriweather, Esq.

Vice Chair

Tiffany N. Meriweather, Esq. serves as the Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary for a publicly traded technology company, overseeing global legal and compliance. From Atlanta, Georgia, she graduated from Columbia Law School and Emory University. With 14 years at Abyssinian, she has led the Young Adult Ministry and contributed to the Strategic Planning Committee. Tiffany cherishes Abyssinian’s rich legacy and envisions its continued evolution to serve Harlem and beyond.

Susie L. Drayton


Retired from the New York City School Construction Authority, Susie L. Drayton once held the Assistant Director of Administrative Services position. From Harlem, New York, she graduated from Brooklyn College. At Abyssinian for 34 years, she finds fulfillment in various ministries, especially valuing the church’s familial vibe.

Deacon I. Javette Hines, Esq.


Deacon I. Javette Hines heads Supply Chain Development, Inclusion, and Sustainability at Citi. From LaGrange, Georgia, she attended Clark College/Clark Atlanta University and Wake Forest University School of Law. A 22-year Abyssinian member, she admires the church’s sense of family and wishes for its continuous evolution in serving teens and leadership.


Deacon Gerald Barbour

Originally from Front Royal, Virginia, Deacon Gerald Barbour, currently retired, dedicated his professional career to the County of Westchester’s Department of Social Services, where he served as Director of Employment Services for the City of Yonkers. An alumnus of Virginia State University, his journey with Abyssinian spans 26 years. During this time, he has rendered 18 years of service as a deacon, including 15 years of service as chair of the diaconate. He also served as president of the scholarship ministry for 9 years. He is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and is active in his local chapter’s community service initiatives. Deacon Barbour hopes to see Abyssinian maintain its consistent dedication to community outreach.

Dr. Cynthia Barnes, MD

Dr. Cynthia Barnes is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. From Washington, D.C., she graduated from Howard University. An Abyssinian member for 30 years, she has passionately served at the Abyssinian Development Corporation. Dr. Barnes lauds the community’s dedication to social activism and hopes for its continued relevance.

Deacon Calvin O. Butts, IV

Calvin O. Butts, IV is a life-long member of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. He has served extensively in the music ministry of the church, having been a member of the Junior Church Choir, Chancel Choir, Inspirational Voices and the Luther Rucker Ensemble. He also served for many years with AbyTech. Prior to his service on the Pulpit Search Committee, Deacon Butts was appointed to the Strategic Planning Committee for the church and has served on the Board of Deacons since 2011. Outside of Abyssinian, Deacon Butts is a Creative Copywriter in the advertising industry, and currently works as an Associate Creative Director for Uniworld Group (UWG). He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Harlem Little League. Deacon Butts is married to Tiffany Butts, and they have two sons, Calvin O. Butts, V and Reed Harris Butts.

Sheila Boston Robinson, Esq.

Sheila S. Boston, Esq., a litigation partner at Arnold & Porter, previously presided over the New York City Bar Association. She attended Columbia Law School and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Originally from Maryland, Sheila has been with Abyssinian for 30 years, presently serving as the Church Clerk.

Deacon Dr. Sydney Bush-McCurtis

Deacon Dr. Sydney Bush-McCurtis practices psychiatry privately in New York City. A lifelong New Yorker, she’s dedicated 33 years to Abyssinian. Valuing the church’s compassionate nature, she hopes for its continued prosperity as a beacon for the people.

Deacon Karyn Davenport

Deacon Karyn Davenport is associated with The Fortune Society. A Douglass College alumna, she has contributed 34 years to Abyssinian, serving in diverse roles, from ushering to chairing the Diaconate Board. She wishes for Abyssinian to expand its community outreach and youth programs.

Peggy Ifil

Peggy J. Evans-Ifil is a retired educator and is the property manager of Evans Agard-Ifil & Co. Born and raised in Harlem, New York, she graduated from Lehman College and East Stroudsburg University. Peggy J. Evans-Ifil has been a lifetime member of Abyssinian for over 80 years. She is one of 10 children born to her parents, the Late Rev. Henry J. Evans, Sr. and Mary Magdelene Evans. For almost 100 years, the family has served Abyssinian faithfully in many capacities. Peggy’s most meaningful ministry involvement include: ABC Federal Credit Union, Cathedral Choir, visiting the sick, and supporting the youth and young adult programs and events. Abyssinian’s commitment to helping those in need, within the church walls and throughout the broad community at large, is a quality she loves most about this church and hopes it will continue to expand. Her personal interests include spending time with her family and friends and doing what she can to help build communities.

Deacon Kenneth Jeffers

Deacon Kenneth Jeffers is an Audio/Video Editor at CMI/NYLA – MEDIA. From Yonkers, New York, he graduated from Brooklyn College. His journey with Abyssinian spans 28 years, with his most cherished ministry work being in serving communion and visiting the sick. Deacon Jeffers appreciates Abyssinian’s welcoming spirit, where every individual is embraced as a Child of God. He aspires for Abyssinian to harness technology and streaming to expand its evangelism and outreach. Outside work and church, he enjoys playing golf and traveling internationally.

Trustee Stephen Ross Johnson

Trustee Stephen Ross Johnson works in luxury automotive sales for Lexus of Manhattan. A New York City native, he graduated from Morehouse College and Indiana University’s Graduate School of Business. Involved with Abyssinian for 26 years, he treasures the community’s unity and aims to support it through transitions.

Trustee Lillie May

Trustee Lillie May is affiliated with the US Department of Treasury. From Brooksville, Mississippi, she graduated from New York University. At Abyssinian for 21 years, she cherishes its prophetic endeavors and envisions its continued service as stated in Matthew 25:35-37.

Deacon Dr. Henry L. McCurtis

Deacon Dr. Henry L. McCurtis, a psychiatrist in private practice, hails from Paris, Texas, and graduated from Texas Southern University. At Abyssinian for 33 years, he is involved in various ministries and is passionate about the community’s commitment to social justice.

Deacon James McShay

Deacon James T. McShay hails from Lakeland, Florida, and is an alumnus of Baruch College and City College of New York. His extensive 76-year association with Abyssinian has witnessed him serving as an ordained deacon since 1959 and the Treasurer of the ABC Credit Union for over half a century. Having been influenced by the leadership of three pastors — Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Samuel D. Proctor, and Calvin O. Butts III — he has grown deeply fond of Abyssinian’s profound history and its inspiring music ministry. Deacon McShay envisions Abyssinian continuously building upon its legacy in New York City. Outside church, he cherishes moments with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, enjoys bowling, and is a sports TV enthusiast.

Elsie Mitchell

Elsie Mitchell, retired, is from New York City and attended Marymount Manhattan College. An Abyssinian member for over 25 years, she enjoys the Scholarship Ministry and values the church’s inclusivity.

Javon Phillips

Javon Phillips, an athlete agent at Excel Sports Management, is from Harlem, New York, and graduated from Morehouse College. At Abyssinian for 35 years, he celebrates the community’s supportiveness and envisions its legacy continuing with Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III’s inspiration.

Deacon Trustee Patricia L. Proctor

Patricia L. Proctor serves as both a deacon and a trustee of Abyssinian Baptist Church and was a founding board member and Treasurer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation.  Her career experience encompasses real estate and banking.  She is currently affiliated with Weichert Realtors in Morristown, New Jersey, and she previously held managerial positions at Wachovia/Wells Fargo Bank in Union, New Jersey and First Union National Bank in Linden, New Jersey.  She holds a BS in Organizational Management, with Honors, from Nyack College.

Deacon Herbert S. Proctor

Herbert S. Proctor has a lifelong commitment to social work, education, and the arts.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Fayetteville State University and a Masters’s Degree in Social Work from Rutger’s University’s Graduate School of Social Work. From 1986 to 2012, he played an integral role as a School Social Worker for the Board of Education in Orange, New Jersey, influencing many young lives. In addition to his professional and academic pursuits, Herbert’s passion for music is evident through his longstanding membership with the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club since 1984, where he contributes his vocal talents, leadership and camaraderie.

G. Edwin Robinson

G. Edwin Robinson, a performing artist and theater teacher at Boys and Girls High School, is from St. Albans, New York. A graduate of Howard University, Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts with a B.F.A. in Theatre Education, New York University, M.A. in Educational Theatre with additional graduate studies in theatre at The University College London, London, England and Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland. He has contributed 37 years to Abyssinian, valuing its longstanding global Christian mission.

Trustee Alexis Thomas

Trustee Alexis Thomas serves as the President and CEO of Preston Hollow Consultants. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, her educational journey led her through Morgan State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. A devoted member of Abyssinian for 44 years, Alexis has found significant purpose in her roles as the Chair of the Board of Trustees, a member of Diaconate, and in fundraising efforts. She cherishes the warmth exuded by Abyssinian’s members and looks forward to the completion of the Rev Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III Educational Center in the next phase of the church’s development. Beyond her professional and church-related duties, Alexis enjoys tennis, golf, gardening, and walking.

Demetria L. Thomas, Ed.D.

Demetria L. Thomas, Ed. D. is a teacher in the New York City Public Schools. Known as “Dee Dee,” she is from New York City and boasts a rich educational background. She is an Undergraduate alumna of North Carolina A & T State University (B.S. in Biology), Masters in Elementary Education from Mercy College, and her Doctorate in Education from Walden University. Born into Abyssinian, her family lineage at the church spans five generations. Throughout the years, she has been engaged in diverse ministries including, Inspirational Voices, New Life Ushers, Scholarship, Welcome & Hospitality and Chairman of the Women’s Ministry. She most treasures Abyssinian’s familial bonds.

Deacon Earnestine Wallace-Adams

Deacon Earnestine Wallace-Adams, retired CFO of The Abyssinian Baptist Church, is from Memphis, Tennessee. An alumna of Knox College and Columbia University, she has devoted 47 years to Abyssinian, serving in various capacities. She hopes for Abyssinian to uphold its legacy while innovating for the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

During the last several months we have received numerous questions about the search process. We have provided answers to the most frequently asked questions here. If you have additional questions, please contact the Committee at pulpitsearch@abyssinian.org.

How was the Committee selected?

Our late pastor, Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III selected twenty-seven (27) individuals to serve on the Committee after announcing his plans to retire at the Annual Church Meeting in February 2022. He chaired the committee until his untimely death on October 28, 2022. Following his death, the Committee met and selected the leaders who are in place currently. The authority for the Committee comes from Article VII, Section 7 the By-Laws, which state that whenever the office of Pastor becomes vacant, a committee of not more than seventeen (17) Members in Good Standing of the Church shall be appointed by the Diaconate at a duly called Church Meeting. The Diaconate formally ratified the appointment of the Committee composed of the 27 Members selected by Rev. Butts at the annual Church Meeting on February 12, 2023, following the Church congregation’s approval to waive the requirement that the Committee be not more than seventeen (17) Members.

Passages for meditation: Jeremiah 3:15, Acts 20:28; Romans 10:14 and Ephesians 4:11-13

Are there guidelines for the selection process?

In the Baptist tradition, congregations are self-governing, so each search process is handled differently. There are no guidelines for the process specified in the church’s By-Laws or required by our denomination.

Passages for meditation:  Jeremiah 3:15; I Timothy 5:17 and II Timothy 4:2.

Are there marital, gender or age requirements?

Marital status, age and gender are not considerations in the selection process. Article VII, Section 1 of the By-Laws of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York (the “By-Laws”) requires that the Pastor be a member of good standing in the Baptist faith, of good reputation and qualified, spiritually, educationally, morally and physically to serve the Membership.

Passages for meditation:  Romans 16: 1-7 and Joel 2:28.

Did former ministerial staff receive priority?

No. However, several “sons and daughters” of the church applied and are under consideration.

How was the job description created and shared?

When Rev. Butts mobilized the search committee last summer, he asked members of the Committee for input on the ideal characteristics of a new Pastor. We had a lengthy, detailed discussion and he then drafted the position description based on our input. We reviewed the draft as a group, revised it, and Rev. Butts then announced the pulpit vacancy through relevant organizations and on social media.

When will a candidate be available for voting?

The Committee’s goal is to have a candidate upon whom to vote before the end of the year. The ultimate timeline will depend on how the candidate selection process progresses over the next several months.

How many candidates will the congregation vote on?

We plan to present one candidate to the congregation for a vote, consistent with Article VII, Section 7 of the By-Laws of the Church. In addition, our advisors Rev. Dudley and Rev. Griffin have underscored the importance of this approach to avoid division in the church and to protect the privacy of candidates who are not selected.

Must the congregation agree with the committee’s choice?

No, the Pastor is called by the majority vote of the Members in Good Standing who are eligible to vote. If the congregation rejects the recommendation of the Committee, the Committee will nominate another candidate until one is elected by the Church Members in Good Standing.

Why were the listening sessions held after eliminating most applicants?

The initial screening of the resumes was designed to identify those individuals who most closely met the characteristics of an ideal candidate for the position set forth in the posted job description. Many of the applicants did not. When the search committee was originally mobilized, listening sessions were not a defined step in the process. The sessions were organized by the Committee in recognition of the unique and difficult circumstances of the pulpit vacancy and the need to hear from the congregation directly.

What roles do Rev. Dudley and Rev. Griffin play in the search?

Rev. Dudley and Rev. Griffin are advisors to the Pulpit Search Committee. They have been involved since the search process began in June 2022 under the leadership of our late Pastor Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III.  Rev. Dr. Cheryl F. Dudley is the Regional Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York. Dr. Dudley has been involved in pastoral, community, as well as global and philanthropic ministries for many years and has assisted other Baptist congregations in managing transitions in pastoral leadership. Rev. Dr. D. Darrell Griffin is the Senior Pastor of the Oakdale Covenant Church of Chicago, Illinois. He is also a transition expert, organizational coach, certified Spiritual Director and a certified Enneagram Trainer specializing in team-building and organizational transition.

Can qualifications or processes be changed?

The Committee has no plans to reopen the application process at this time. Following the untimely death of Rev. Butts, we discussed this issue at length and decided against it. We believe we have a very strong pool of candidates. We also want to be fair to those individuals who submitted their materials prior to the deadline.

Will current Church staff remain post the selection of a new Pastor?

We deeply appreciate the dedication and service of the ministerial and administrative staff who have served Abyssinian for the last several years, particularly during this difficult time of transition. The new Pastor will determine staffing decisions at the appropriate time, and any continued employment will need to be mutually agreed by the Pastor and the relevant staff. Article VII, Section 10 of the By-Laws stipulate that the Pastor has the power to hire and discharge all of the Pastor’s Associate and Assistant Ministers, and other employed religious and professional staff including the Minister of Music, the Organist and Church staff.

How can congregation members support the Pulpit Search Committee?

Your participation in the congregational survey and listening sessions has been extremely helpful and will guide our priorities as we assess the candidates under consideration. If you have additional questions, please email the Committee at pulpitsearch@abyssinian.org.