2007-11-16 / Community

Reverend is a 'Beacon Of Hope'For Far Rockaway

By Nicholas Briano

Reverend Duane M. Sleet Sr. Reverend Duane M. Sleet Sr. Several years ago, while preaching to a crowd in St. Louis, Missouri, Reverend Duane M. Sleet Sr. would never have imagined that in 2007 he would be here in New York City to lift the spirits and hopes of a small community in Far Rockaway.

However, that is where he is now and that is what he plans on doing, when he is officially installed this week as the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Far Rockaway. First Baptist will be his fourth parish and he has never been more excited about the type of potential and opportunities that lie in making the community a better place to live and grow.

"I want to work on developing a community center and programs for the elderly and youth," Sleet said. "The goal is to create a beacon of hope for our community."

Reverend Sleet, 43, comes here with an impressive list of credentials that will help bring to life what he envisions Far Rockaway to become. In 1986 he received his B.S. from the Missouri Baptist University and preached in the state of Illinois before landing in St. Louis, where he began to make his mark when he was appointed as Deputy Director of Human Services for St. Louis. Sleet believes that position made him comfortable in creating sustainable human and community oriented bonds.

"I am a people person," he said. "I have worked closely with government agencies and community development organizations in the past."

Sleet says he is here to serve the community and work as part of it. That includes working interdependently with other religious groups in an effort to create a unified community that will not only serve First Baptist, but all of Far Rockaway.

"I plan on working with other community groups to communicate and coordinate plans; interdependence along with trust from the people is the key to achieving goals," he said.

According to Reverend Sleet, he found out about the 91-year-old church from another New York pastor. First Baptist Church is located at 15-10 Redfern Avenue in Far Rockaway, and Sleet says there is a 30 percent increase in attendance with over 500 current members, and he feels things will only continue to get better.

"I felt a connection when I came here to preach for the first time," he said. "I believe positive things are going to happen here by giving the people a sense of hope and faith within their community."

Sleet has been here since September preparing for his installation into the church. The event began last week and will conclude on Saturday with the Installation Banquet at the JFK Airport Holiday Inn, to celebrate and officially welcome Reverend Sleet to Rockaway.

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