Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid has beaten New York football teams so many times that he said he knows many of the city’s football fans consider him an enemy. But Reid and a New York megachurch pastor found common ground Saturday night in their belief that helping others can unify people who otherwise might not work together.

Reid spoke about his Christian values and human connection in football at a fundraising banquet held by the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association after the association presented its Visionary Leadership Award to the Rev. A.R. Bernard Sr., the founder, CEO and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center, for his efforts to build bridges of interfaith cooperation.

The Rev. Bernard described being called by God to leave a 10-year banking career and launch a Protestant church of four members. Today, the church has more than 37,000 members and he is the chair of the executive committee of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s statewide interfaith advisory council.

“Over time, I’ve watched soil change right before my eyes, and whereas ecumenism and interfaith dialogue and interfaith collaboration and interfaith cooperation was resisted by the status quo, that’s changing,” he said. “All of a sudden we realize the need to find common ground to work together towards the common good. It’s that change, even in my own tradition, that allows for relationships like the one that we have and we share with (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).”

The Christian Cultural Center was feeding 25,000 hungry New Yorkers every year before the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis expanded the need, so the CCC partnered with New York Latter-day Saints to meet it. Today, the CCC feeds 135,000 people a year with the support of the Latter-day Saints.

Elder Quentin L. Cook, left, smiles at the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the Christian Cultural Center megachurch of New York.
Elder Quentin L. Cook, left, smiles at the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the Christian Cultural Center megachurch of New York, recipient of the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association Visionary Leadership Award at the Riverside Church in New York City on Saturday, June 8, 2024. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“The encounters that Jesus had, the story of the Good Samaritan, the healing of the centurion’s servant, his encounter with the woman at the well, these all reflect themes of love, compassion and outreach beyond one’s own religious context,” the Rev. Bernard said. “So, collaboration, partnership, cooperation outside of my own context, I think is consistent with the message of Jesus.”

The Rev. Bernard drew on the partnership again in 2022 after the Tops supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York. Ten were killed and others injured, and the market, the only grocery store in a food desert in the city, was shut. The governor asked Bernard for help and he reached out to the Latter-day Saint leader on New York’s Commission of Religious Leaders. Latter-day Saint leadership then dispatched a tractor-trailer of food that fed 2,000 families and supplied local food pantries for four months.

The Rev. Bernard exemplifies Christian leadership, said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who spoke Saturday night at the event.

“It’s a vision award,” the Latter-day Saint leader said. “It honors somebody who looks into the future, and relying on their faith and relying on the teachings of the Savior accomplishes a great deal. He’s done that.”

“Rev. Bernard’s exemplary service in building faith and reducing suffering needs to be celebrated,” Elder Cook said. “This marvelous Christian leader is fully deserving of the association’s Visionary Leadership Award. He not only addresses the spiritual needs of the members of his congregation but also in a Christ-like manner ministers to the temporal needs of members and non-members of his congregation and the community.”

He called the interfaith bridges nurtured by the Rev. Bernard a bright spot at a time many find depressing.

“I think it’s so important,” the Rev. Bernard responded, “at a time that our culture is so deeply divided and polarized along political lines, social lines and even religious lines to know that there’s a group who have different traditions and can sit down to the table, have civil discourse and find common ground towards common good and then engage it.”

Coach Reid, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the Kansas City Chiefs find the same value in encouraging players to work side by side for charity.

“We think it builds unity,” the three-time Super Bowl-winning coach told the Deseret News before the banquet. “We come from all different backgrounds, and so to be able to bring us all together and do that even makes us a greater team and stronger team.”

He says he tells players to push through any initial reluctance to sacrifice their time or discomfort.

“It’s a little bit like when they ask you to run wind sprints,” Reid said. “You hate it in the minute, but you love it when you’re done and you feel pretty good about yourself. So sometimes that happens with charity work: You’re a little leery going out, but once you do it, man, it feels great.”

Sports executive Dave Checketts and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid laugh during a banquet in New York City, June 8, 2024.
Sports executive Dave Checketts and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid laugh during the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association banquet at the Riverside Church in New York City on Saturday, June 8, 2024. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Team prayer also helps unify the Chiefs, he said.

“We have a bunch of different denominations that are involved with our team and team members, all different thought processes and theology that go with that, however, they come together as one,” Reid said. “We say a prayer before the game, and a prayer after the game, and everybody joins in. That’s one of the neater things that we (get to do).”

The coach said his faith in Jesus Christ has helped him build a foundation for the challenges presented by life and his football career.

“This is a crazy business,” he said. “I think it’s helped me with my marriage and understanding the importance of my relationship with Tammy. Balance is important. I think that’s the most important thing and helps you keep things in perspective. I think faith helps you do that, it keeps you grounded. You’ve got to have certain things that you believe in and you trust. That’s what faith is, you trust the things that you’ve been taught and the positions in which Heavenly Father has put you.”

Elder Cook said Latter-day Saint leaders are grateful for Reid.

“One of the things we’re very much aware of is that wherever he’s been, whether it’s Philadelphia, whether it’s Kansas City, he has always, he and his precious wife, Tammy, have always been so hospitable to mission presidents and missionaries and others who are striving to teach people the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Cook said. “He’s always welcomed that and tried to bless that effort. We’re grateful for that and we are so pleased.”

The banquet was held at the historic Riverside Church, a soaring landmark on the Upper West Side of Manhattan built by John D. Rockefeller. Elder Cook noted that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke several times at the Riverside Church and that the Rev. King called its founding pastor, Harry Emerson Fosdick, the greatest preacher he knew.

A docent shows "Christ and the Rich Young Man" by Heinrich Hoffman at the Riverside Church in New York City on Saturday, June 8, 2024.
A docent shows "Christ and the Rich Young Man" by Heinrich Hoffman at the Riverside Church in New York City on Saturday, June 8, 2024. John D. Rockefeller, who built the church, purchased the painting for the church. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Cook quoted a Fosdick saying from memory: “He who picks up one end of a stick picks up the other. He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.”

“I think we have two examples here,” Elder Cook said of Reid and the Rev. Bernard, “of people who have chosen good roads, righteous roads, and pursued them in different ways but have accomplished great good for enormous numbers of people. So to have these two tonight be the primary speaker and to give the Visionary Leadership Award to a great reverend who has just accomplished so much, A.R. Barnard, is just marvelous.”

Elder Cook also spoke at the New York association meeting two years ago when the Visionary Leadership Award was given to the late Sen. Joe Lieberman. Others who have been recognized include Hall of Fame New York Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera (2020), Rabbi Joseph Potasnik (2018) and Cardinal Timothy Dolan (2016).

The nave at the landmark Riverside Church in New York City is seen on Saturday, June 8, 2024.
The nave at the landmark Riverside Church in New York City is seen on Saturday, June 8, 2024, before the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association banquet. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

More than 400 people attended Saturday night’s sold-out dinner, including New York and New Jersey religious and government leaders. Those leaders included representatives of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, A.M.E., Greek Orthodox and other Christian denominational organizations.

“My plea this evening,” Elder Cook told them at the banquet’s conclusion, “is that all religions work together to defend faith and help bless all of God’s children.”

The New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association serves professionals in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and raises funds for needs-based scholarships for local college students, supplying aid to more than 400 students over the past 12 years.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Rev. A.R. Bernard receives a medal as a gift from President Russell M. Nelson and the First Presidency at the Church Administration Building on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The New York City Latter-day Saint Professional Association gave the Rev. Bernard its Visionary Leadership Award in New York on Saturday, June 8, 2024. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints