BAYONNE — Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo, the top minister of a global, Philippines-based Christian denomination called the Church of Christ, spoke at a dedication service for the newly renovated Bayonne chapter of the church this morning.
The service at 280 Ave. E drew hundreds of people from the region, with hundreds more filling three overflow sites in the city. The service was also broadcast live to congregations in Elizabeth; Rochester, N.Y.; and Windham, Conn., according to a church spokeswoman.
Known in Tagalog as “Iglesia Ni Cristo,” the Church of Christ comprises “more than 5,500 local congregations in over 100 countries and territories worldwide, with membership of at least 110 nationalities,” the church has said.
For about an hour this morning, Manalo preached to church members in Tagalog about having strength and courage in the face of adversity, said Bob Pellien, operations director of Iglesia Ni Cristo Media Services.
“His message today was a reminder to members of the Church of Christ — who are maybe having personal challenges, personal difficulties or living in places with calamities or having sicknesses, and things like that — not to lose hope. It’s a message of hope,” Pellien said.
When the main sanctuary and basement of 280 Ave. E filled up, church members went to an overflow tent located nearby, where they watched Manalo preach on two large television screens.
Before being allowed to set foot on the property, attendees were patted down by security. Police officers and police K-9 units were also stationed at the church.
Shortly after the dedication service ended, Manalo, accompanied by bodyguards, greeted an excited crowd waiting for him behind barricades. As he approached his admirers and shook their hands, loud cheers went up for him.
A member of the Bayonne church’s choir, who declined to be named, said she felt “extremely grateful and truly blessed that we as a locale were remembered by our Executive Minister.”
“I’m extremely grateful for everything that happened today,” the 18-year-old Bayonne woman said.
Many church members held big balloons reading “We Love EVM” (referring to Eduardo V. Manalo’s initials), “Uphold Our Spiritual Fervor” and “We Are ONE With EVM,” as well as signs thanking Manalo for visiting Bayonne.
At one point, an airplane circled above the church with a banner reading “We Love You…Ka Eduardo From NESB,” with “Ka” meaning “Brother” in Tagalog and NESB standing for the church’s Northeastern Seaboard district.
Manalo visited the Bayonne chapter of the church today as part of an ongoing trip to several congregations in the United States and Canada, a church spokeswoman said. He has also attended dedication services at churches in Bakersfield, Calif., Jacksonville, Fla. and Lubbock, Texas.