It was Friday, October 25th, 2019 at approximately 9:00pm! It was the 78th Session of the West Coast Annual Conference during the last series of Annual Conferences under the episcopal leadership team of Bishop Adam J. Richardson, the Senior Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Mrs. Connie Speight Richardson, our queenly Episcopal Supervisor! As goes the tradition of our church, the closing session of the Annual Conference includes itinerant clergy from throughout the conference standing together singing "Go Preach My Gospel" as lay members from various churches wonder "Which one of them is going to be our new pastor?" It is a moment filled with tension, anxiety, uncertainty and sweat! There was no "blessed assurance" about what appointment you might be granted because..., well,...there just isn't any!
As soon as I "got wind" of the possibility that I'd be appointed to serve as the pastor of New Saint Paul, I immediately began to pray!
There are always interesting conversations happening during Annual Conference. One of those conversation experiences happened with Bro. Pete Edwards! After a brief general discussion, he shared some things with me that made me say "Hmmm..."! Shortly afterward, it happened! As soon as I "got wind" of the possibility that I'd be appointed to serve as the pastor of New Saint Paul, I immediately began to pray! Quite frankly, I prayed hard for the rest of the week! Then it happened...Bishop Richardson passed me the appointment...we bumped fists...New Saint Paul it was!
What does it mean to be the "new" pastor of a "New" Saint Paul with 150 years of legacy? It meant that I had to get it together real quick. The current state of the church had to be assessed, vision had to be communicated, a course of speed and direction had to be set...and it needed to be done like yesterday!
In less than four weeks, God has done something marvelous before our eyes! We have grown in leaps and bounds! We've overcome a strong financial deficit, organized our church for the 2019-2020 Conference Year, and have "Stepped Into the New"! Some of our tangible accomplishments include establishing a new website, facebook, instagram and twitter accounts! Our new facebook page even has over 300 likes in just three weeks! On Sunday, November 17th we went "LIVE" on Facebook to stream our entire service for the first time. 148 views later and mobile donations collected via CashApp let us know that "This is the Lord's doing, and it's marvelous in our eyes!"
After researching the history and legacy of Saint Paul, Gregg's Temple and finally, New Saint Paul, it is evident that this is truly a "new season" for our congregation and ministry. In order to truly appreciate this new season, I needed to familiarize myself about where we'd come from. In doing so, I discovered that the church was founded on June 10, 1870! This means that the 150th Church Anniversary Celebration will happen in 2020! Immediately I was excited and overwhelmed all at the same time!
It is my desire that this season in the life of our church provides us with an opportunity to find resolution and reconciliation for the struggles of our past and new life and potential for the future that lies ahead. This year, we will focus on the rich legacy that was left for us to enjoy! But we won't stop there! We'll endeavor to take our church and ministries to a height we've never experienced before.
Won't you join us? We're inviting you to celebrate the new season with us! The entire Tampa Bay business, civic and faith communities have been invited to enjoy the Welcome Celebration experience! The past pastors of the New Saint Paul Legacy will be present to participate in the celebration as they pass the torch to the next generation. I am honored to be the pastor of this historic church. Our best days are ahead of us for the best is yet to come!
Please join us Saturday, December 7th at 4pm for "Passing the Mantle" the Pastoral Welcome Celebration. We look forward to seeing you there!
Come see for yourself..."Step Into the New!!!