By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Sep. 18, 2019: My job, in my mind the greatest gift, affords me distinct opportunities to meet people in the village whose paths I would never otherwise cross. One such individual is the pastor of the Golden Sword International Fellowship Church on Tanglewylde Avenue, Bishop Derek Owens.
Bishop Owens was born and raised in Mount Vernon and the recipient of many college scholarship offers thanks to his basketball prowess. When you see him in town at 6’ 3”, still lean and athletic, he appears to be able to step on the court yet again! He credits whatever success he may have to his family, neighbors, teachers, and police officers who sought to care for Mount Vernon youth as a community effort. In a wonderful anecdote, he recalls being all set for a summer of 5 Star basketball camp, only to be told by the cadre of caring folks around him that a summer of remedial chemistry would better suit him in the long run. To this day, he is grateful for the intercession. He recalls with great fondness the Friday night rec program at the high school, which provided a healthy and nurturing atmosphere that exuded care and concern. The high school so honored him this year by choosing him as the commencement speaker.
Chief Satriale and Bishop Derek Owens, Head of Golden Sword Church; photo by M. Marvin
Upon completion of his senior year at American International University, the bishop was offered an opportunity to play professional basketball in Ireland and a computer programmer job at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. But this was also the year of his great religious revelation during which he instead returned home for an entire year to study, pray, fast, and accept the Lord.
Bishop Derek subsequently married his wife, Sheila, now his partner of 32 years, and went on to have three sons and a daughter, now 25 to 34, as well as being a proud papa of one grandson.
It was actually 15 years ago this weekend that he founded his nondenominational church out of his home in Mount Vernon while working days for Worldwide Technologies as a computer network architect. The bishop talks fondly of his early congregants arriving at his home around 10:00 am often to stay past midnight if homework assignments were complicated or the football day ran long! It was a day of prayer, fellowship, fun, and community — just what he valued in his upbringing in Mount Vernon.
His congregation quickly grew so fast that venues were found at the Courtyard Marriott in New Rochelle followed by Pace University and then the Nepperhan Community Center in Yonkers. The final destination of Bronxville proved totally serendipitous as a congregant just happened to read the real estate page in the local paper. The attraction for Bronxville was its central location, as members come from all of New York City’s boroughs, New Jersey, Dutchess County, and even from the Albany area, making Bronxville a convenient hub both by car and rail.
Again, because of membership increase, new International Fellowships have been established in Albany and Memphis. On Sunday mornings, a typical church service lasts one to two hours, starting with praise and worship, followed by music, prayer for specific intentions, and a sermon. Approximately 150 congregants attend weekly. Though the church does not actively solicit new members, should you be interested in joining, there is a six-week orientation outlining both the benefits of church association and the expectations of members. Responsibilities are delineated quite clearly, as joining is considered a mutual commitment by church and member. Wednesday nights on Tanglewylde Avenue from 7:00 to 9:00 is home to a Bible study class and a prayer session. Saturday is practice for the church musicians, open to anyone interested in hearing the beautiful sounds emanating from the building.
Bishop Owens extends a welcome to residents of Bronxville to stop by during a service and experience their form of worship. He emphasized that a visit of any duration is so appreciated. When I asked him what surprised him most by his new Bronxville home, he responded by saying how incredibly nice the people have been and so welcoming to him and his congregation. His only contact with Bronxville prior to being pastor was playing basketball at our high school gym. He considers his church now housed in a “gem” of a community.
In a series of firsts, he is now the Bronxville Police Department's first chaplain and will also be joining the NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital team in a ministry role.
Going forward, his congregation’s community goal is to organize an event to thank all those in Bronxville who serve to keep the village running as an efficient, welcoming, and warm community.
Pictured here: Mary Marvin.
Photo by A. Warner
Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.