WATCH: Homegoing Celebration for Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church’s Bishop Alexis Thomas Draws 6,000 to Phoenix Convention Center. See Full Service Here.

Several thousand people attend “A Celebration of Life and Legacy” for Bishop Alexis A. Thomas at the Phoenix Convention Center, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Thomas was the senior pastor at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church for 33 years. Tom Tingle/The Republic

More than 6,000 people packed the Phoenix Convention Center on Monday to pay final respects to Bishop Alexis Thomas, who over his lifetime built one of the largest African-American congregations in the Southwest.

Thomas was 50 years old when he died Jan. 18, leaving behind his wife, Michele, and five sons.

Considered a child prodigy of ministry, Thomas gave his first sermon at 7 and, by age 16, was named senior pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. The church grew from several hundred to more than 4,000 people under his leadership.

Family members, colleagues, city officials and members of the ecumenical community were among the dozens of speakers who gave tribute to Thomas in a ceremony more fitting of a church service than funeral. Spiritual music, gospel performances and dancers took the stage in between.

It was, after all, a homegoing celebration.

Unscheduled speakers included Thomas’ sons, who briefly took the stage to thank everyone for their support. One referred to his father as “the Michael Jordan of preaching,” while another said, “I’m now able to hear him everywhere I go.”

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SOURCE: The Arizona Republic – Gabrielle Olivera§ion=home

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton were just two of the numerous speakers at the memorial.

Thousands of people came to pay tribute to Bishop Alexis Thomas who died unexpectedly a week ago.

Thomas, who founded and preached at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, was ordained at age 7 and became a minister at age 16.

What started as a handful of parishioners, Pilgrim Rest now has thousands of members.

“He represented not only Phoenix, but he represented the common man,” Leonard Wright said outside the memorial at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“They lost somebody really great,” Joseph Kensey said.

Police Chief Jeri Williams and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton were just two of the numerous speakers at the memorial. Williams said she made her executive staff attend services at Pilgrim Rest to better understand the community.

“The bishop understood the need to bring faith, community and law enforcement together,” Williams said.

Former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson came to know Thomas when Johnson played for the Phoenix Suns.

“I came here today to say goodbye to my friend…for now,” Johnson said. “Ain’t no doubt we’re going to see each other on the other side.”

SOURCE: KPNX 12News – William Pitts


The life, legacy and impact of Bishop Alexis Andrew Thomas, the 33-year pastor of the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, is celebrated at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona, eulogized by his grace Presiding Bishop Neil Clarence Ellis of the Global United Fellowship on 1/29/2018.