More than 1,000 people filled Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro , Maryland to celebrate the life of Bishop John L. Meares, the founder and “spiritual father,” of an African American congregation who over five decades broke with tradition, built bridges across racial lines, and launched the careers of many pastors whose ministries are thriving today.
Long before he became a televangelist and best selling author, Bishop T.D. Jakes said he was embraced by Meares. “I would drive from Charleston WV, stay in a cheap hotel and scribble copious notes during the national pastors conference. He allowed me to preach the 11 am service just in case I messed up.”
Rev. Corinthia Boone, pastor of Together in Ministry DC, said Meares wasn’t afraid to ordain women or give women in his church a chance. “He would take me to meetings and it would be all white men and he would say, I can’t stay, she will represent me.”
From Meares’ very first tent crusade in 1955, where more than 1500 were baptized in a Northeast Washington field, to the annual holiday shows with dancing laser beams and a $100,000 sound stage, Bishop Don Meares (junior) said whatever his father did, it was all due the passion he had for his flock.
“He gave his entire life to you. He loved you,” the younger Meares told mourners during the three hour service that was filled with music and pastoral tributes. “God called him to you. You were the apple of his eye. You were the light of his life. You were his heart and soul.”