The Rev. Thomas W. Jay Sr., and his wife Earnestine –- respectfully known as “Lady Jay” –- happily prepared the Youth Valentine’s Christian Ball for the children of their South Side community church for the first time during this month’s special holiday.
Jay, pastor of the Payton Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ, wants to provide more events for boys and girls under his pastoral care that are memorable, unique and uplifting.
“We want to change attitudes,” the pastor said, while observing about 30 men and boys dressed in white and black pinstripe suits, and women and girls in pink and red dresses during the event held Friday, Feb. 12. “A lot of these kids have never been to anything like this. We want to draw them back into the church with activities that they can relate to, that they want to relate to,” Jay added.
“We have to change our agenda so we can keep them around,” he said.
The ball had live music from the Houston artist DJ Whiz. He provided a mix of contemporary hip-hop and rap songs, along with gospel greats such as Kirk Franklin, Kurt Carr and Donnie McClurkin. The children and adults grooved to the music the entire night with various spin moves, jumping and dancing.
Adult chaperones sat among the children, dispersed around 12 tables decorated with red balloons, tablecloths and rose petals. The dinner and dessert menu included breaded chicken wings, meatballs and sauce, chicken salad sandwiches, chicken tenders, pasta salad, a cheese plate, cupcakes and cake.
A professional photographer took photos of the children and adults in the back of Maydie Hall. Lights, flowers and balloons of all colors adorned the area.
The youth attending the dance started to pile into the dining room at about 7:15 p.m ., and they sat down and chatted among themselves until dinner was served. Lady Jay prepared the “Raspberry Delight” punch bowl, a mixture of ginger ale and raspberry iced tea.
Pastor Jay and the New Zion Church Family moved from Cortland a year ago, joining with Payton Memorial Temple. Pastor Jay said that the move back to the city was necessary because it was hard to transport members back and forth from Syracuse to Cortland every weekend, especially during Syracuse winters. Members love having their church closer to where they live, Jay said.
For the past 32 years, Jay has preached to state prison inmates between the ages of 18 to 27 about ways to live a better life and the importance of church and God in a person’s life. He preaches the same message to the youth at his church. Jay says his goal for his church is to reach out to the youth of the area and provide them with a family community that follows the lessons of God, so they don’t take the wrong paths in life.
Jay says a top priority is to connect college students from the area, particularly Syracuse University students, with the youth from his church in some form of a mentoring program. He would like youth from the South Side community to learn lessons from students about education and the importance of family and religion.
“Right now we’re growing,” Jay said. “We are very interested in working with those who don’t have anywhere to go on Sundays. And if we’ve got people over at Syracuse University who are church-minded, who want to reach out to my young people (the youth at Payton) and interact with them – that is excellent as far as I’m concerned.”