Service for Upton to draw overflow crowd

Published 10:32 pm Friday, May 14, 2010

A packed house is expected at Tabernacle Christian Church today for the affirmation and investiture service of the Rev. Dr. Carlton Upton as bishop.

At least 1,000 guests from the church, local government and nearby churches — including nearly 20 bishops — will attend the service, where Upton will be elevated from the title of overseer to bishop. It has been a long journey for Upton, who was born into church life but did not accept the call to ministry until a life-threatening accident got his attention.

“My grandfather was a pastor,” Upton said. “I ran from it, and did not want to be in ministry. I was in church, but I wasn’t of the church.”

Upton grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, and became an apprentice at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 1967. However, an accident on a nuclear sub landed him in the hospital with a lifetime dosage of radiation. The time spent in his hospital bed gave him plenty of time to think.

“It was during that time I really accepted my call,” Upton said.

He then became licensed to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal church on June 5, 1982, and was ordained a deacon in the ministry in 1984. He is the former pastor at Zion Hill AME Church, Newsom, Va., and New Hope UCC, Norfolk, before he began his work at Tabernacle on Nov. 4, 1989. He has led the church for 21 years, including the construction of and move to a new building four years ago.

Upton graduated from Norfolk State University in 1987, along with his daughter, and received his Master of Divinity in 1992. He received his Doctorate of Ministry in 1999. He is married to Constance Upton, and the couple has two children and five grandchildren.

Upton will be elevated to the title of bishop during Saturday’s service, which entitles him to wear several ceremonial garments and pieces of jewelry in the pulpit.

“It’s a big day,” he said. “It’s going to be a tremendous program and service.”

The service begins at noon at the church, 2500 E. Washington St., followed by a banquet. For more information, call 539-7257.