THE FIRST WOMAN CALLED TO PASTOR AN ESTABLISHED BAPTIST CHURCH IN HARLEM.
THE FIRST WOMAN IN HARLEM TO SERVE SIMULTANEOUSLY AS PASTOR OF ONE CHURCH
AND LEADING LADY OF ANOTHER
THE FIRST WOMAN TO BE NAMED A MODERATOR IN THE UNITED MISSIONARY BAPTIST ASSOCIATION
The Reverend Dr. Renee Frances Washington Gardner, affectionately known as "Rev. Renee," is an anointed woman of God. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, she is called to preach, teach, counsel and administer. Senior Pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church, she is a most sought-after speaker in Harlem and across the country.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Renee was raised in the Holiness Church. Her committed matriarchs served as evangelists, pastors and congregational leaders. They nurtured her in the faith and facilitated much of her spiritual growth. In later years, Rev. Renee joined the First Baptist Church of Deer Park. It was there she accepted her call to the ministry. She was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Rev. John Mapleton and the First Baptist Church of Deer Park on August 31, 1986. Upon Rev. Mappleton’s demise, Rev. Winfred Pippin appointed her Church Administrator. And, in 1995, Reverend Renee was ordained by the Rev. Dr. Preston R. Washington, Sr., Senior Pastor and the Memorial Baptist Church. Rev. Renee is a mother to 5 sons and has eight grand children.
For nearly a decade, Rev. Renee served as Memorial’s Executive Pastor, to the late Bishop Preston R. Washington, Sr. The fruits of their labor together in ministry gave birth to a membership of over 1,500 disciples, the organization of three weekly worship services, and the development of a community revitalization project for homeless single parents and their children, known as “The House of Hope.” Rev. Renee’s Pastoral leadership abilities were challenged as she began to walk in her giftings, serving as Moderator of the church’s Ministry Council; coordinator of more than 25 church wide ministry programs, with special emphasis on Women’s Ministry; and Project Director of the church’s “Welfare to Work” and Seminary Internship Projects. An astute teacher, Rev. Renee specializes in catechismal preparation for those seeking diaconal and ministerial ordination, and also does marriage counseling. Her passion and love for children speak forth through her community outreach and mission programs, including the management of the Thelma Hughes Scholarship Fund, named in honor of her late mother.
Installed as Senior Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, Vision Ministries, in October 2004 made her a woman of many “first’s.” She was the first woman locally to succeed her husband as a pastor; the first woman to be elected as senior pastor of an established Baptist church in Harlem, and the first woman pastor of Memorial Baptist Church. On July 7, 2006, she married the Rev. Dr. Sean P. Gardner, Sr., Senior Pastor of the East Ward Missionary Baptist Church, then becoming the first woman to serve, simultaneously, as senior pastor of one congregation and First Lady of another. In October 2006, she celebrated 20 years in the Gospel Ministry; two decades of seeking to do the will of Jesus the Christ. During Rev. Renee tenure as Senior Pastor, she has reorganized all the ministries, instituted a finance committee, developed the MBC website, and upgraded the church’s sound system. In August 2008, the ribbon was cut for the Rev. Dr. Preston Robert Washington Sr. Educational Wing, which consists of a computer lab and an executive conference room.
Rev. Renee’s commitment to minister extends into the community. She has served as 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, and a board member of the Boy’s Choir of Harlem. Currently, she is a cabinet member of the United Missionary Baptist Association, where she holds the position of the Program Chair Person; Chairman of the Board and Spiritual Leader of the Harlem Gospel Choir, and member of the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Among her distinguished honors are 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 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,” just to name a few.
Rev. Renee’s ministry also reaches into the political climate as noted through her receiving citations and proclamations from Senator Hilary Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Congressman Charles Rangel, C. Virginia Fields, former Borough President of Manhattan, and former Councilman Bill Perkins.
She is a graduate of the New York Theological Seminary/Eastern Baptist Extension Program in Urban Ministry. Rev. Renee is a respected cosmetologist and has extensive training and experience in mortuary science. Her pastoral training and giftings grant her the ability to specialize in bereavement counseling, as well as skillfully officiate at funerals. In May 2007, the St. Thomas Christian College awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree.
Rev. Dr. Renee’s blessed assurance is heard frequently in her testimony, “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!”