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Hudson Valley Press

June 19th, 2013

Life and legacy of Reverend Coleman Briggs

Rev. Nelson McAllister (with mic) offers remarks as Dr. Benilda Armstead-Jones, Bishop Jeffrey Woody, Rev. Dr. Coleman Briggs, Rev. Byron Williams and Rev. Willie Mays, Jr. listen at the 43rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Hudson Valley Press/CHUCK STEWART, JR.

NEW WINDSOR - Reverend Dr. Coleman Briggs has retired after 52 years of being the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church pastor. On Saturday April 7, 2012 the church and his loving family and friends celebrated his retirement of 52 years at Anthony’s Pier 9 in New Windsor, NY which was titled "The Life the Legacy and 52 years Of Distinguished Leadership". This marked a special time for many to express how Rev. Briggs took a major role in their life.

Briggs’ legacy can be traced back to when he was licensed as a minister in 1957 and then was ordained in 1958 as a pastor. He began his career as a pastor at the Progressive Baptist Church in Kingston, NY, and then the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie, NY. Briggs initiated his Newburgh legacy. This journey began at 24 Colden Street, where Briggs started up a church with only just three people in a store front. Since then the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church has moved twice to now its current location on 20 Mill Street. First, in 1964, it called South Water Street its home. Four years later, it was established at 20 Mill Street. In 1994 the church was renovated and expanded so that it can at least hold up to 200 more people. Those increases are a tangible testament to Briggs, whose mission has remained steadfast throughout his tenure.

"During the course of 52 years, there has been many challenges, such as death and marriage," recalled Briggs, who also said how he knew it was time to step down and had no regrets. "The commitment has stayed the same though, to be a pastor, like a shepherd and his sheep; it’s to feed, protect the people and make sure they get into the Kingdom of Heaven."

That end has been diligently pursued by an assortment of venues. Whether it was his active involvement in the prison ministry, the finding of the Newburgh Bible Institute in 1968, in August 2002, 20 mill street was renamed the Rev. Dr. Coleman Briggs Way, he biweekly visits to the sick at St. Luke’s Cornwall Campus and due to that St. Luke’s renamed the visitation program after him in his honor, or just his involvement in the pursuit of ending segregation in Newburgh. Briggs has unselfishly given to, guided and transformed those in his presence. That mentorship has extended to his colleagues. Amongst all those that had attended Saturday’s celebration was Reverend Dr. Jason Guice, who has known Briggs since 1965. Meeting as co-pastors at that time, the two developed a strong friendship of 50 years.

"He has been a model friend," said Guice, who made the trip from Newark, NJ to celebrate his friend’s retirement. "He is a ray of hope in the community he has served."

Another colleague on hand to salute Briggs was Byron Williams, Moderator for the Central Hudson Association Consortium of about 40 area churches.

"This is a very special but sad occasion," said Williams. "It is special because for someone to be a reverend at the same church for over 50 years has given hope to others churches as well as all of Newburgh." Williams added, "At the same time, it is sad because being a new pastor myself, I developed a strong relationship with Briggs, and I really hate to see him go; it seems like as soon as we developed a friendship relationship, he retires, but I hope he doesn’t just rush away, but continues to stay in touch."

For now, his plan for retirement includes spending time with his children and grandchildren. He also intends to fill his days with his life partner, wife Dollyann Newkirk-Briggs ("Lady Briggs"). The pair will celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary in July.

"It’s been an honor to be by his side, as I have always admired him as a great pastor, husband and friend," said Newkirk-Briggs. "He has compassion for people, has gone through a great deal with them, and has always been faithful to the church." She continued, "Now, we are looking forward to spending the Golden Years together, continuing to worship from a different perspective."

On December 31, 2012 Reverend Coleman Briggs gave his farewell sermon and admonished the church to always trust God.

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