Jehu Smack, who served as pastor of Mount Hope Holiness Church in Middleford for more than 40 years, died in 1993. His wife, Georgianna, who was his assistant pastor, died in 1998.
But they are still very much a part of the ministry that their grandson started in 1998 and for which he completed a sanctuary this spring. Oversized photos of Jehu and Georgianna hang at the front of Agape Tabernacle Community Center near Middleford. When Apostle William Smack steps up to the pulpit to preach, it is as though his grandparents, who raised him, are watching over his every move.
“My grandparents took care of me, and I knew what it was to be loved,” William Smack said. “I didn’t always want to be loved. But they did it anyway. And when I was a child, they called me pastor, long before I knew that I was going to be a pastor. They both lived long enough to see me become what they knew I would be all along, a man of God.”
Smack said that he was called to start his ministry at the end of his 24-year membership in the Church of God. People with that church were urging him to go into training to be a minister. “But I prayed and talked with God about it, and he told me that I couldn’t go to seminary,” he said. “God wanted me to start a multi-cultural, nondenominational church where all people are welcome, not where people are divided,” he said.
The new Agape sanctuary, which Smack built with the help of family members and friends, had its first service on Easter Sunday of this year. (“Agape” stems from early Christian writings, which were in Greek. It refers to a universal, unconditional love, the love of God for man and of man for God.)
Average Sunday attendance at Agape is around 100, Smack said. People of all races go there.
“God is multicultural, and this church is what he wanted me to do,” said Smack. “He made us from the dust of the Earth. And if you look at the Earth’s dust, you will find every skin tone there, all mixed in together.”
Assistant pastor at the church is Smack’s wife of 46 years, Brendell. “She is as much a part of this as I am,” he said.
Smack said that the primary doctrine of his church is love. “We don’t beg, borrow or steal here. I give you the word of God, and then I love you. I just love everybody. It’s not what I say. It’s what I do.”
Smack grew up in Seaford and attended Seaford High School with the class of 1972. He left school a year before obtaining his degree. Despite that, he passed the entrance exam for the Bethel Bible Institute in Jamaica, N.Y., and graduated from that school with a master’s degree in theology.
Through his working life, Smack was an entrepreneur, starting and operating several companies. He also worked for Fluor Daniel, a maintenance company that had a contract with the DuPont Co. nylon plant in Seaford. It was while he was working for Fluor Daniel that God called him to the ministry.
Frederick Murray, Hurlock, Md., started attending Agape because his fiancée, Martina, (now wife) went there. “I was brought up in church,” Murray said. “I saw a lot of ministers who caused more hurt than they did good. But I certainly can’t say that about the Smacks. They both help so much and love so much. Pastor Smack is a model to me, a great model. What the Bible says, he lives by.”
The Smacks’ son, William Jr., also attends Agape. He is confident that his father’s plan for the church — to build a gym and an after-school center, to serve meals to the hungry and even to help struggling couples to build houses — will become a reality.
“My father’s vision for Agape is my vision,” said William Jr., who owns a barber shop on Middleford Road. “I am going to help him.”
It may also be that someday, he becomes a minister. “I’m where my father was when he was my age,” he said. “I’m doing what he did then, talking to a lot of kids. My parents were great examples for me. They didn’t say one thing in church, and then go out and do another. What they said in church was what we lived at home.”
Alex Fernandez is a native of Puerto Rico and recently moved to Seaford from Philadelphia. He attends a church other than Agape. But Smack “ministers to me every day,” he said. “On days that I don’t go to church, I get what I need from him.”
Fernandez said that when he moved to Seaford, he didn’t have any family who could help him adjust. He managed, though: “The Smacks became my family.”
For your information
Agape Tabernacle Community Center is located east of Middleford, at 22631 Coverdale Rd. Regular service is Sunday at 11 a.m. and Bible study is Wednesday at 7 p.m.