By Ayana Jones
PHILADELPHIA — Throughout the years, the Rev. Alyn E. Waller’s reach has extended well beyond Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church and into the community.
Elected officials, clergy leaders and members of Enon turned out on a chilly, overcast, late December morning for a street renaming ceremony held in his honor. The 200 block of West Coulter Street in Philadelphia’s Germantown section is now named Rev. Alyn E. Waller Way.
The street renaming was spearheaded by City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who noted that the project was supported by every council member.
“Dr. Waller is a true visionary of church and community who serves humanity far beyond the restraints of traditionalism,” she said, reading from a city resolution.
State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, presented the pastor with a citation. He credited Waller with being instrumental in bringing people to together to addresses issues such as violence and unemployment in the community.
“He has always been there for his Enon family, but it is understood that his calling goes beyond the walls of the church and extends to the entire human family that God created,” Street said.
“As a consequence, people throughout the city of Philadelphia, the region and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have benefited from his great work and he serves as an example that if God touches you, and has a calling upon you, it doesn’t matter what office he puts you in, or no office at all, that if you follow what God has set forth for you, you can accomplish many things.”
Waller, 55, has served as Enon’s senior pastor since 1994. The church has grown throughout the years to its current size of 15,000 members.
Waller spoke about Enon’s future as gentrification impacts Philly’s Germantown neighborhood, as he addressed the crowd that gathered for the street renaming.
“I am humbled and honored to be in this season of the life of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church,” said Waller, a native of Cleveland, Ohio. “I believe the God has given us an opportunity to think about what the future looks like because this name is sitting here now.
“We know that this is a community that is changing and the question is: Can we be a church that does something different than white churches 50 years ago and Black churches within the last five years?”
Fifty years ago, Black people moved into the neighborhood, while white churches moved out, he said.
“Now that there is a transition and white people are moving in, we are watching in South Philly and other parts where Black churches are moving out,” Waller said. “Maybe God has given us this moment to be more than just a symbol. Maybe God has said that in this opportunity as the community changes, nobody has to leave — but that God is going to do something very powerful — where Black and white and Latino and Asian and all of us can walk together.”
Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.