Alphonso R. Bernard, Sr. (born August 10, 1953) is the pastor of the Christian Cultural Center Megachurch in Brooklyn, New York. In November 1979, A. R. Bernard, Sr. left a 10-year career with a major New York banking institution and together with his wife, Karen, went into full-time ministry. What started as a small storefront church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has blossomed into a 37,000+ member church that sits on an eleven and a half acre campus in Brooklyn, New York. He is founder and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center.
He has served as the President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York representing 1.5 million Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox Christians. Rev. Bernard recently founded the Christian Community Relations Council (CCRC) which is a NY based not-for-profit that will serve as a central resource and coordinating body for congregations and community organizations. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the Commission of Religious Leaders (CORL).
Rev. Bernard sat on the NYC Economic Development Corporation Board for current Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; NYC School Chancellor’s Advisory Cabinet and served on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2001 Transition Team and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2014 Transition Team.
Recently, Rev. Bernard welcomed President Reuven Rivlin of the State of Israel to Christian Cultural Center where New York Congressional members and elected officials greeted him on his first visit to the United States.
Founder of the Cultural Arts Academy Charter School established in February 2010. A comprehensive educational alternative designed to meet the needs of children for the 21st century; Bernard and his wife also founded the Brooklyn Preparatory School, specializing in early childhood education in 1993.
Recognized as a New Influential – 25 Leaders Reshaping New York (Crain’s New York Business, September 2008); Most Influential NY Clergyman (NY Daily News, February 2008); Most Influential African American New Yorker (NY Post, February 2008); New York’s Most Influential (NY Magazine, 2006); Bernard was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Consulate General of Israel in NY in conjunction with the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish National Fund. He has been personally cited in the Congressional Records.
Rev. Bernard has a Master of Urban Studies and a Master of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary. He has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Wagner College and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Nyack College/Alliance Theological Seminary.
Bernard married his wife Karen in 1972. They have 7 sons and several grandchildren together. His eldest son, Alphonso R. Bernard, Jr., died on February 4, 2015 at the age of 39.
Bernard was born in Panama, the son of a black Panamanian mother and a father who was a Castilian Spaniard. His father disowned him and in 1957, he and his mother moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. As part of the 1960s desegregation movement in the public school system, he was bused to school in Ridgewood, Queens and then attended Grover Cleveland High School. Bernard worked after school in the garment district pushing racks for $2.00 per hour to assist his mother in their single parent household. He landed a clerk position with Bankers Trust Company during his senior year of high school. Bernard earned a number of promotions leading to a position as Operations Specialist in the Consumer Lending Division.
Prior to becoming a Born Again Christian in January 1975, Bernard was a part of the Muslim American movement. In 1978 he and his wife, Karen started a Bible Study in the kitchen of their Brooklyn railroad apartment. Bernard left his 10-year banking career in 1979 to go into ministry full-time. As the bible study group grew, so did the need for a facility. The Bernards took their savings and rented a small storefront in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Later that year Household of Faith Ministries was incorporated. In 1988, Household of Faith purchased and renovated an abandoned Brooklyn supermarket into a 1000-seat sanctuary, complete with administrative offices and a bookstore. Household of Faith was renamed Christian Life Center and formally moved into its property in June 1989 with a membership of 625.
As Christian Life Center began experiencing exponential growth – four Sunday services, lines forming at 4:00am, and overflow rooms filled to capacity, the ministry was quickly outgrowing its home on Linden Boulevard. The need for a larger facility was evident and in 1995 a vacant lot adjacent to Starrett City was purchased and construction followed immediately. On December 31, 2000, under the leadership of Bernard, Christian Cultural Center took its new name and moved into its new home. The 6.5-acre (26,000 m2) sanctuary and conference center also includes a chapel, bookstore, television production facilities and state of the art youth center. Christian Cultural Center, one of the largest independent churches in the United States, exemplifies a new paradigm in the worship experience. Bernard remains a highly sought after speaker, teacher and community leader. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and internationally addressing religious organizations, businessmen and political dignitaries. Future expansion and development is anticipated on a 4.5-acre (18,000 m2) of land adjacent to the current CCC campus.
Photo: City News