Pastor Brenda J. Ray
PHOTO COURTESY OF EVERETT HAMILTON
By DAPHNE TAYLOR
Special to South Florida Times
Truly it was an amazing night at the elegant Riviera Beach Marina Event Center on November 17 and one that was certainly fit for royalty.
Hundreds packed the beautifully decorated ballroom, coming from near and far to celebrate the life and legacy of Pastor Brenda J. Ray of Redemptive Life Fellowship in West Palm Beach as she celebrated a huge milestone of 70 years young and 30 years in ministry.
Her husband of 33 years, Bishop Harold Calvin Ray, founder of the ministry, surprised her by bringing in top recording artist Micah Stampley, who blew the roof off the affair with his amazing renditions of classics and hymns such as “How Great Thou Art, ” Great is Thy Faithfulness, “To God be the Glory” and “Total Praise,” in addition to his own music.
It was a night of honor and appreciation for Ray, known as a lady of class and distinction. She was hailed for her extraordinary gift of giving to others, her fierce loyalty and dedication as a prayer warrior and prophet.
Ministry heavyweights such as Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Neil C. Ellis, Carlton Pearson, Bishop Henry Fernandez and others were among those who videotaped well wishes to Ray, acknowledging her gracious service around the world.
Among those who traveled across the states to be there in person were her best friend and ministry colleague, Pastor Brenda Timberlake of Christian Faith Church of North Carolina and Elder Steven Sledge from the Potter’s House in Dallas. Both Timberlake and Sledge said they’ve known Ray for over 25 years and she has been relentless in pouring into their lives.
Many other pastors and ministers from all over the state were in attendance and some gave greetings and remarks. Bishop A.J. Wright, of Shiloh Family Worship Center in West Palm Beach, gave the invocation, while Rev. A.C. Evans, retired pastor (after 52 years)
of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Riviera Beach gave the benediction.
Mayor Thomas Masters of Riviera Beach sent a proclamation naming Friday, November 17, 2017 as a day set aside in Ray’s honor.
Prominent attorney and founding member of Redemptive Life, Elaine James, read the proclamation.
Other dignitaries in the audience included a stalwart known for her work fighting for equal rights, Maude Ford Lee, Palm Beach County’s first black county commissioner. Lee said The Rays are special to her and she wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Ray has had a stellar career in ministry alongside her husband, but she is also the author of numerous books and has made her mark in the marketplace as a leading entrepreneur.
She opened the first black owned store, a clothing boutique, in the then premier Palm Beach Mall located on West Palm Beach’s main thoroughfare, Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. The Palm Beach Mall is now closed, but the new Palm Beach Outlets sits at its location.
Her annual “Give a Gift, Save a Life” has benefited hundreds of families with essential items and more to help them make it through life more easily.
Ray has also put thousands of dollars in the hands of students over the years through scholarships for college by way of another of her business endeavors, BJ’s Jewelry and Fashions.
Many at the event repeatedly shared how Ray would give anyone the clothes off her back and anything else she could to enrich the lives of others.
The Rays’ two adult children said their mother is one of a kind. Her son Christopher said he has never witnessed anyone who gives as much as his mother.
“She’s the biggest giver I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” he said. His sister, The Rays’
daughter, Whitney, said she quickly calls on her mom when she needs prayer.
“He’ll answer you quicker than He’ll answer me,” she said, clearly in awe of her mother’s gifting.
Throughout the night, Ray’s family, including grandkids, were featured on screen in interviews speaking candidly about why Ray has made such a mark with so many.
The lady of honor also spoke candidly on video, providing an inside glimpse into how she sums up her life to this point.
She pointed out that life hasn’t always been easy. At the tender age of 20 she faced cancer head on and was given six months to live. She said she now understands it was for a purpose – and having reached 70, obviously cancer couldn’t keep her down.
“God had other plans for my life … No matter what diagnosis you receive from the doctors, don’t let your dreams die,” Ray encouraged audience members. “You can always get back up and keep going.”
Ray also said in retrospect she’s learned to always walk in forgiveness.
“You’ve got to learn to love yourself, even when you’ve made mistakes,” she shared.
When speaking about her husband of 33 years, Ray said he is the love of her life, with both stating they are a match made in heaven.
“You adapt to that person,” Ray said, speaking from experience. She said she married a lawyer, who suddenly gave up a highly successful law career to go into full time ministry in the midst of their union.
Clearly, she adapted, as they’ve been effective in ministry ever since, though she admits the shift was unforeseen.
As for her giving spirit, Ray said she received that gift from her grandparents.
“That gift of mercy came from my grandparents. It brings me joy to bless others … because I’ve been so blessed. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”
She also paid homage to her parents, siblings and family, including her sister Elder Fern Miles, who works beside her in the ministry. She has other family back in her home state of Texas.
Bishop Ray, who has made his mark in ministry and law across the world, said he deliberately took a backseat at the event to honor his deserving wife. He told the audience that without a doubt the two of them were made for each other. She thanked him for making the event and her life a true treasure.
“This will be a birthday we’ll never forget! I’m honored tonight,” she said as the night drew to a close.
The Rays thanked chairwoman Tari Boldin profusely for pulling off such a grand affair. Boldin said it was an easy feat because Ray is so giving and humbled and never expected the incredible showing of love and appreciation towards her.
“It was exciting to see her so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love towards her,” said Boldin. “I was honored to be selected as chairwoman of such an esteemed affair in her honor. To see it all unveiled in such an amazing night was just a blessing. She deserves that and even more. It was sincerely my honor and privilege to chair such an affair for her.”
After the affair, well-wishers graced the dance floor in celebration. The appreciation continued Sunday in church as others presented Ray with gifts in her honor.
Her best friend, Pastor Timberlake, delivered the message, encouraging members to value connection and to not take their world-renowned pastors for granted.