A black minister finds his place as a pastor of a white congregation

Every pastor probably remembers his first pulpit.

Reverend Stanley “Stan” Williams’ debut was probably more memorable than most.

In July 2017, while acting serving and speaking at various churches, Williams received an invitation from the First Church of God of New Philadelphia.

“It was kind of a trial,” he laughed.

After:“We wanted Limaville to be our home. The church buys the old community center of the village

After:“We are in the people business.” True Light Christian Ministries Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Before he and his wife Donna could even leave the church visit, Williams was offered the job.

What makes this memorable is that the Williams are black. Their congregation is white.

“They’re a loving bunch of people and we love them,” Williams said. “I believe it was ordained by God. There was never any hesitation or worry. They were very responsive to us.”

His wife, Donna, agrees.

“The acceptance of us by them, and them by us, we were really grateful for,” she said. “We feel truly blessed and grateful for that.”

The weekly trek takes approximately 45 minutes from their home in North Township to First Church’s location at 824 Tuscarawas Ave. NW. Williams said the number of members is around 40, not counting those attending via Facebook Live. The church is affiliated with the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana.

Stan and Donna Williams: ‘They’re lovely people’

Williams was invited to speak at the First Church of God by longtime member Bonnie Grove.

At the time, they were looking for a pastor.

“The Church of God occasionally puts out a list of pastors and people available to talk to, so since he was right there in Canton, the closest to us, I thought I’d give him a call,” he said. she declared. . “And he was happy to accept.”

Grove said the members accepted the couple with open arms.

“Everyone loves him and his wife, Donna,” she said. “They are very pious people. The first time he came, nobody seemed to think about it. There is absolutely no problem. They are just lovely people. We really appreciated everything they did .”

Williams said the congregation carries out community projects, including a distribution of school supplies for children attending the nearby elementary school, outreach to the area’s burgeoning Guatemalan population, and a popular community fair.

Like many congregations, the church closed in March 2020 due to COVID, reopened in May 2021, then closed again after a brief scare, forcing members to resort to Facebook Live. They have since returned to worship in person.

Reverend Stan and Donna Williams

Williams noted that the worship experience in New Philadelphia is different from that of many black churches, where congregants engage in “call and response,” that is, giving vocal feedback to a pastor.

“The worship experience is different primarily in the music,” he said. “There’s more ad-libbing in black churches.”

Williams said unlike some pastors, he hasn’t encountered any issues with members openly espousing their politics or citing conspiracy theories from sources such as QAnon.

After:Stark County pastor featured in ’60 Minutes’ QAnon segment

In 2020, Christianity Today reported that QAnon, which makes outlandish claims such as secret cabals, pedophile rings and devil worship operating within government boundaries, has spread rapidly among white evangelicals nationwide, primarily through through social media.

“God is inclusive”

Williams said he gave sermons with information about Black History Month and Juneteenth, and addressed inclusivity.

“I certainly rely on God’s guidance as to what to share,” he said. “Everything was received under an umbrella of love.”

Donna Williams, who started an online Bible study when the pandemic hit, said she could see the hand of God in their ministry.

“It’s been a real privilege and a pleasure,” she said. “They are different from us in many ways, in their backgrounds and lifestyles, but we have developed a love for each other. None of that matters. God’s love can help you transcend yourself.”

Stan Williams, a Canton native, grew up in southeast Canton where he attended the Cherry Avenue Church of God across from his home.

Williams and his wife have known each other since they were in college. They reconnected when Williams was hired at Timken Co. at age 17. He worked there for 32 years.

Williams currently works as a career specialist at Stark State College. He previously worked for Canton City Schools Adult Career Technical Program and for Time Warner Cable.

Williams said he experienced setbacks and unexpected job losses, issues that helped him in his ministry.

“It gave me a testimony,” he said. “My trial sermon was titled ‘The Storms of Life.’

A former associate pastor of Sherrick Road Church of God in Canton, Williams was officially ordained in 2020 after two years of study.

Williams said he plans to retire from active ministry and from Stark State in August.

“Even though we retire, we will always stay connected,” said Donna Williams.

Her husband laughed that he would probably continue to minister “over the phone.”

“The love we received meant a lot,” he said. “We have felt God’s leading. When you can obey his leading, you are happy to be able to serve.”

Contact Charita at 330-580-8313 or [email protected]

On Twitter: @cgoshayREP

Comments are closed.