The Rev. Eleanor Louise Bryant, 57, founder of Agape Miracle Church

December 06, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Eleanor Louise Bryant, founder of Agape Miracle Church in Northwest Baltimore, died Monday of sarcoidosis at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Pikesville resident was 57.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Ms. Bryant was a 1962 graduate of Eastern High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1966, a master's in social work in 1968, and a master's in divinity in 1986 -- all from Howard University.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Ms. Bryant worked as a social worker at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, taught at the Center for Urban Studies at Morgan State University and was an administrator at the Waxter Center.

As a young child, she began attending Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, where her father and later a brother were pastors.

Ordained an itinerant elder in the AME Church in 1988, Ms. Bryant and 40 others established Agape Fellowship AME Church in Northwest Baltimore.

In 1991, she received a doctorate in ministry from Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions.

"While a student at Oral Roberts, Eleanor realized that God meant for her to raise up people through a teaching and discipleship ministry. They would hear the voice of God and follow him with committed hearts," said the Rev. Brenda D. White, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor and close friend.

In 1997, Ms. Bryant left Agape Fellowship to establish the nondenominational Agape Miracle Church in the 4600 block of Reisterstown Road.

She also was a founder of Pastors in Unity for Park Heights, which established the Agape Family Empowerment Center in 1995. The center offered Head Start, General Educational Development diploma classes and job training.

"Eleanor was a great visionary and a woman of faith in action. She was also a mother and a mother in her pastorate. She was all about pulling folks together for the Kingdom of God," said Bishop Kevia F. Elliott, pastor of The Lord's Church on Park Heights Avenue.

"She was truly committed and dedicated to serving the homeless, the disenfranchised and those of low self-esteem. She could touch a person's spirit and get them connected," said state Sen. Verna L. Jones, a Baltimore Democrat. "In her committee work, she could also bring people together and got them to check their egos at the door."

Jones described her as a "calming spirit" who gave those around her a sense of protection and peace. "She had a deep voice and believed in the laying on of hands. Her sermons were both poetic and evangelistic. She could talk to your soul."

Ms. Bryant also established partnerships with Central Presbyterian Church in Towson, Grace Fellowship Church in Timonium and the Family Worship Center in Salisbury.

Even struggling with illness in her final years, friends say she never wavered in her faith.

"Even in the midst of her illness, Eleanor still smiled. Even though she had an oxygen tank and a mask, she still smiled and continued to show great joy. She continued to have a strong faith and never doubted God because of her illness. She never stopped serving," said the Rev. Ann Lightner Fuller, pastor of Mount Calvary AME Church in Towson.

"She was never interested in pastoring a traditional church. She wanted to reach those who were deemed unreachable. She wanted to spend her time pulling them in. Hers really was a church without walls," Ms. Fuller said. "She'd go up and talk to those others passed by. She'd walk up and tell them, `Jesus loves you,' and then give them a warm smile."

Services were held Thursday.

Ms. Bryant is survived by two daughters, Chere Monique Brown and Kia Edith Heath, both of Baltimore; a brother, the Rev. John Richard Bryant of Los Angeles; a sister, Cynthia Bryant Pitts of Milwaukee; and three grandchildren. Her marriage to William Graham ended in divorce.

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