BY HELEN LYONS  — Hyattsville’s own First United Methodist Church will host the installation of Bishop Latrelle Easterling on Oct. 1. This will be the first time the church has ever hosted a bishop’s installation.

Photo courtesy of Tony Richards Photography
Photo courtesy of Tony Richards Photography

“It’s an honor for the church to be chosen,” said Donnalee Sanderson, the church’s secretary and a parishioner. “It is a big thing to me, because this has been my church for most of my life and it’s the first time we’ve been selected. Very often it goes to one of the large churches in the District.”

The installation is a historic occasion for two reasons. Besides being the first installation in Hyattsville, Bishop Easterling is the first woman to head the 233-year-old Baltimore-Washington Conference, and the second of two African-American women to be elected at the Northeastern Conference. The first was the Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, also elected to the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

“We’re a large church, a large congregation,” said Ann Morgan, who serves as the administrative assistant for the church. “It’s going to be a large event because of the number of dignitaries coming.”

Bishop Easterling’s office has sent invitations to Secretary Clinton, Gov. Hogan, Mayor Hollingsworth, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who has already confirmed his attendance.

In addition to providing the venue for the momentous occasion, Hyattsville’s First United Methodist Church’s chantal choir (along with anyone from the gospel choir who would like to participate) will also be performing, something that isn’t an automatic guarantee when a church is chosen as the site of a bishop’s installation.

“They have asked us to sing … It’s going to be a mass choir from the church so we’ve been rehearsing that,” said Sanderson. “Its an exciting opportunity.”

Pastor Wallace-Penn said that she is “on top of the world” as they prepare for the celebration.

“This is such a blessing for First Church,” she said. “God has ordained us for this time and I am honored to be the lead pastor at First Church for a female bishop. And to be installed at First Church, there is a special anointing on her life and there is a special anointing on this place.”

But Pastor Wallace Penn feels that the effects of hosting such a historic event extend beyond just the church and its parishioners.

“It’s a big deal for Hyattsville. All of us are involved, the university is involved, the entire town is involved, the entire community is involved. It’s such an honor to be the pastor of this wonderful church and to get the opportunity to work for Bishop Easterling. I feel so honored and so blessed. This is a big deal for women.”

Bishop Easterling will preside over the Baltimore-Washington Conference, an area that covers the majority of the state of Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia and a small portion of West Virginia. Each conference is governed by a bishop, with other reverends, administrators, and mission strategists serving specific, smaller areas under the guidance of the bishop.

Bishop Marcus Matthews formerly headed the Baltimore-Washington Conference, but retired on Aug. 31. Bishop Easterling began working on Sept. 1, but her installation ceremony was scheduled for a later date due to a number of other bishops being installed in different conferences.

“They try not to schedule them all at once,” explained Sanderson.

The installation ceremony will be held Oct. 1 and is open to the public.