Rev. Calvin Butts remembered, celebrated during homegoing ceremony

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Saturday, November 5, 2022
Dignitaries, worshippers honor late Rev. Calvin Butts
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The life of beloved Harlem Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts was celebrated Friday during a homegoing ceremony at Abyssinian Baptist Church. Naveen Dhaliwal has more.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- The life of beloved Harlem Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts was celebrated Friday during a homegoing ceremony at Abyssinian Baptist Church.

The community and parishioners packed the church -- all benefactors of the beloved pastor's guidance and wisdom.

The stirring riff of the grand piano and inspiring vocals that permeated the heart were all part of the homegoing ceremony that Butts envisioned for himself.

The sanctuary was adorned with white roses and white hats. White is considered a symbol of renewal and Friday's service signaled an emotional end to his 50 years of service at the church.

The list of dignitaries in attendance were indicative of Butts' activism and the influence he had on American politics.

Former President Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams all spoke at the service.

"Today we salute and show up, a man we love, a man we admire," Clinton said.

"We had this beautiful light, was an inspiration for people in this city, this community, in Harlem and across America," Hochul said.

But the palpable pain and the deeply unimaginable grief is that of his beloved wife of 51 years, his children and his church family with whom they shared their lives.

"He was able to be among us as the common man, but also able to be among the highest people in the country," said lifelong friend Ron West.

Butts served as the senior pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church for decades. But his influence extended far beyond Harlem.

The church announced his death late last week.

Vice President Kamala Harris was among the hundreds of mourners who paid their respects to the New York City icon of Civil Rights and community advocacy during a viewing Thursday.

At the pulpit in Harlem, he passed along endless pearls of wisdom, which is the reason why the line wrapped around the corner on Thursday and Friday.

In 1972, a then 22-year-old Butts joined the congregation as a youth minister. His passion for the ministry was evident.

Over the years, his reach was far. He was a civil rights leader and outspoken when it came to racism and police brutality. He expected other leaders to show up and stand up for what was right.

In the same sanctuary where Rev. Butts comforted others during their darkest hours, on Sunday his chair sat empty, his bible placed just right, his robe beautifully draped during the first Sunday service since his death.

In a poignant moment, a worshiper shared one of the pastor's final messages.

"Peace and love to my beloved family, thank you all for representing everything, and in all things, keep the faith," Butts' message said.

After the homegoing ceremony that lasted hours, the family will hold a private burial service Saturday to say their final goodbye in Harlem.

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