For nearly a decade, Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts 3rd graced the pulpit at Union Chapel with his own inimitable style of preaching. His tall, imposing figure, often draped in a three-piece suit and doctoral robe, gave punctuation and impact to his sermons. Steeped in the Bible from his training at Union Seminary and later at Drew University, he believed that the scripture gave him a mandate not only to preach the gospel but to use it to improve the lives of those living in Harlem.

His vision of Black liberation theology caused him to establish the Abyssinian Development Corporation. It grew to attract some one billion dollars into residential and commercial projects in Harlem. His pulpit was a platform to improve the lives of those who were often overlooked and forgotten. His was a life of faith, prayer and political activism.

His visits to the Vineyard allowed him to relax and socialize with many from across the country and scores from his own church who came from New York city to see and hear him in Oak Bluffs. He often attended receptions the day before he preached at Union Chapel, and had brunch after his service.

But Rev. Butts’s presence on the Vineyard was also preceded by several other Harlem lions.

Mel Patrick lived on Nashawena Park and was a serial connector before Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase. He was at once a writer, publisher, political handler, publicist and an entrepreneur. Leveraging his relationships while serving as executive assistant to four Manhattan borough presidents, Mel gained access to large corporate sponsors and became the publisher of Delegate magazine. Many of these same corporations supported the Oak Bluffs Tennis Club where Mel provided trophies, refreshments and social entertainment for many years.

Cillian B. Powell was a Harlem physician turned businessman who lived on Tuckernuck across from Waban Park. He owned the Amsterdam News — for many years the largest Black newspaper in America — and a variety of insurance companies, an X-Ray laboratory and more. He also became the chairman of the New York State Boxing Commission.

No wonder that Mr. Powell and Mr. Patrick would spend hours on the porch of Villa Rose — just a few short steps from the Inkwell — with Joe Overton, a union leader, Harlem community organizer and political operative.

These three Harlem confrères were all preceded by Adam Clayton Powell Sr., who brought his son to stay at Shearer Cottage at a very early age to fish in Nantucket Sound and play with Dorothy West. His son’s love for the Island was so deep that Adam Clayton Powell Jr. would later bring his first bride Isabel Washington to Oak Bluffs in 1933. They purchased the Bunny Cottage in 1937.

Rev. Butts was a legendary successor to two other icons of the pulpit. Dr. Samuel Proctor and Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. all made Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church one of the most dynamic churches in America. Their leadership was bold, forward thinking and spiritual.

But the depth of his recognition and admiration extended well behind the Vineyard and the state of New York. His national brand was evident to the world in 2016 when he was selected to speak at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He was on the platform with President Obama and Michelle, former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, John Lewis and, of course, Lonnie Bunch.

Rev. Butts stated, “We made America great. We built the White House, we built the wall that protected the Dutch in New York City from the British. The blood, sweat and tears of generations is in this museum.”

Hundreds who crowded into Union Chapel and the surrounding lawn will miss the thundering voice of this erudite Morehouse College preacher in summers to come. But they are comforted knowing that God will receive him with praise and thanksgiving and say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Come now and sit at the right hand of the Father and enjoy the feast that I have prepared for you.”

The home-going celebration for Rev. Butts will be held on Friday, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. Viewing will take place all day Thursday, Nov. 3 and early on the morning of Nov. 4. The viewing and memorial service will all be held at Abyssinian Baptist Church.

We send prayers and blessings to his wife Patricia, his family and to the congregation of his historic church.

Paradise on earth is living the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting!