The Rev. Dr. Renee F. Washington Gardner, Senior Pastor of
Harlem’s Memorial Baptist Church, is a woman of several firsts. She was the
first woman to succeed her husband as Pastor of an established Baptist Church
in Harlem. She is the first woman to serve as Pastor of Memorial. Upon marrying
Rev. Dr. Sean P. Gardner, Senior Pastor of East Ward Missionary Baptist Church,
she became the first woman to serve simultaneously as Pastor of one church and
Leading Lady of another. In 2013, she was the first woman to be named a
Moderator of the United Missionary Baptist Association in that body’s 60 year
Affectionately known as Pastor Renee, she is an anointed woman
of God. Empowered by the Holy Spirit,
she is called to preach, teach, counsel and utilize the gift of administration.
She is a most sought-after speaker in Harlem and across the country.
A Brooklyn native, Pastor Renee
was raised in the Holiness Church.
Committed women of God -- Evangelists, Pastors and Congregational Leaders
-- nurtured her in the faith and facilitated much of her spiritual growth. In later years, Pastor Renee joined the First
Baptist Church of Deer Park, NY. There
she accepted her call to the ministry and was licensed to preach the Gospel by
the Rev. John Mapleton and the church on August 31, 1986. Upon Rev. Mapleton’s
demise, Rev. Winfred Pippin appointed her Church Administrator. In 1995 Pastor Renee was ordained by the
Rev. Dr. Preston R. Washington, Sr., Senior Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church.
For nearly a decade, Pastor
Renee served Memorial as Executive Pastor. The late Bishop Preston R.
Washington Sr. and Pastor Renee, together in ministry worked diligently to increase
and maintain the church membership, organized three weekly worship services,
and developed a community revitalization project for homeless single parents
and their children, known as The House of Hope. Pastor Renee she served as
Moderator of the church’s Ministry Council; coordinated more than 25 church wide
ministry programs, with special emphasis on Women’s Ministry. She also served
as Project Director of the church’s “Welfare to Work” program and seminary interns.
An astute teacher and counselor, Pastor Renee specializes in catechismal
preparation for those seeking diaconal and ministerial ordination, and
facilitates marriage and bereavement counseling. She is a member of the Ordination Council of the United
Missionary Baptist Association.
During her tenure as Senior Pastor, she reorganized all the
ministries, instituted a finance committee, developed the MBC website, upgraded
the church’s sound system and renovated several areas of the church edifice
including the sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen and restrooms. In August
2008, the ribbon was cut for the Rev. Dr. Preston Robert Washington Sr.
Educational Wing, which consists of an executive conference room and will soon
feature a computer lab and educational resource center. In 2011, Pastor Renee developed Beyond Vision
2000 Ministries and instituted new ministries such as the marriage, singles and
seniors ministries, outreach ministry and missionary ministry.
Pastor Renee’s commitment to ministry and leadership
extends into the community via a diverse group of non-profit organizations. Her previous positions include; Second Vice
President, Council of Churches of Manhattan, board member, Harlem Interfaith
Counseling Service, Inc. (HICS), member of the Black Leadership Commission on
AIDS Women’s Group, board member of the Boy’s Choir of Harlem, Chairman of the
Board and Spiritual Leader of the Harlem Gospel Choir, board member at Pleasant Avenue Day Care Center.
Currently, she is the spiritual advisor for the Master
Mime Ministry and member of the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women.
In 2011, she was appointed to serve as Chaplain for the New York City Transit
Among her distinguished honors are
acknowledgement of distinguished service in ministry by the New Life Covenant Fellowship Conference;
the NAACP’s Women's
History Month Award for Outstanding Community Service through Ministry and Positive
Promotion of Christian Ethics; The National Action Network’s Women's
Auxiliary’s Women of Excellence Award
for being an outstanding example of Womanhood and for the tireless efforts
for peace and justice in the community; The
Spirit of Hope Award, representative of her support for a cancer
awareness and survivor organization; The Balm & Gilead Award for her leadership and contributions in addressing
HIV/AIDS within the African American community, and the Ringling Bros./Barnum
& Bailey Circus Community and
Business Leaders Appreciation Award.
As a preeminent ministry leader,
Pastor Renee has been recognized by local and national politicians, receiving citations
and proclamations from Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Former New
York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Congressman Charles Rangel, C. Virginia
Fields, former Borough President of Manhattan, and New York State Senator Bill
Pastor Renee is a graduate of the New
York Theological Seminary/Eastern Baptist Extension Program in Urban Ministry. She
is a respected cosmetologist and has extensive training and experience in
mortuary science, in addition to her ability to skillfully officiate at funerals.
In May 2007, the St. Thomas Christian College awarded her an honorary Doctor of
Divinity degree. Pastor Renee is currently enrolled in the Veterans
Administration CPE Chaplaincy Program, which follows her passion to provide
support for members of the armed forces formerly and currently in service to
Pastor Renee is the proud mother of five sons and grandmother
This year, Pastor Renee celebrates 15 years as Memorial's Senior Pastor, seeking to do the will of Jesus the Christ. Rev. Dr. Renee F.
Washington Gardner’s blessed assurance is heard frequently in her testimony and
preaching, “When I think of the goodness of Jesus and all He has done for me, my
soul cries out Hallelujah - I thank God for saving me”!