Youngstown church honors, carries on former pastor’s legacy

Lonnie Simon was not only the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, but also a local civil rights leader

It was a night of reflection and celebration Sunday when members of New Bethel Baptist Church gathered for their annual dinner. The Fellowship Dinner is a tradition that former pastor Lonnie Simon started 44 years ago. It now honors the legacy of the former local civil rights leader.


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It was a night of reflection and celebration Sunday when members of New Bethel Baptist Church gathered for their annual dinner.

The Fellowship Dinner is a tradition that former pastor Lonnie Simon started 44 years ago. It now honors the legacy of the former local civil rights leader.

“We come together and review what we’ve done, as far as our mission work and our service in the community,” said Juanita Davis of New Bethel Church.

Kenneth Simon is Lonnie Simon’s son.

He took over as New Bethel Church’s pastor in 1996. He said his dad was heavily involved in Civil Rights, both locally and nationwide.

“He believed in justice and he fought for justice for us all,” Kenneth Simon said. “My dad marched with [Martin Luther King Jr.]. He was a staunch supporter of the movement.”

Several people joined New Bethel Church after Reverend Lonnie Simon passed.

Even still, member Tracey Oates feels like she gets to know him even better with each dinner.

“He brought so much into the community that he brought to instill within us — of which we’re still absorbing,” Tracey Oats said.

Kenneth Simon said that in honoring his father’s accomplishments, the church community grows even stronger.

“We’re trying to carry out that legacy,” he said. “We’re trying to promote education with our children. We’re trying to be involved in the political because we know the political governs our community.”

Longtime members of the church said Lonnie Simon is looking down on them…and smiling.

“He would really be proud to see that we haven’t forgotten,” Davis said. “What he taught us many years ago.”

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