By Mikala McCurry
Aldersgate United Methodist Church has emerged with its first African American pastor in 90 years: Reverend Richard Williams. In his role as the Associate Pastor, Williams is striving to “debunk” the assumptions and stereotypes about black pastors and ministers.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF. I was born and raised in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. I attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated with a degree in Psychology. After graduating, I completed seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A PASTOR? When my mother passed from cancer in 2009, I felt a sense of calling to want to be with people in the best and worst times of their lives. I’ve always had a strong spiritual background, and I wanted to serve people in their spiritual life.
HOW IS THIS EXPERIENCE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CHURCHES IN YOUR PASTORAL EXPERIENCE? I was the Senior Pastor at St. Mark AME in Thomasville, GA, and at St. Peters AME in Camilla, GA. The biggest difference is the size. Aldersgate is a larger ministry, and I believe that my two previous churches gave me preparation and training ground to be ready for a ministry this size. There are also racial differences between my current and previous churches, but the members are more alike than they are different; people often try to look for differences between races, but they all worship and have a yearning for a relationship with God.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF PASTORING? The disadvantage is having expectations from people and still making sure that you fulfill the expectations of God and His vision. The advantages are spending more time with God and serving His people.
BEING THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN PASTOR AT ALDERSGATE IN 90 YEARS, WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME? With the racial and cultural tension going on in this country, I make sure to have open conversation with people. I allow them to speak freely while I do the same in a real conversation. There are also assumptions and stereotypes about people of color in ministry; I plan to debunk all of that. There may be differences in style, but there are no differences in the work or method of ministry.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUTH ASPIRING TO BECOME CLERGY MEMBERS? First, spend time with yourself in studying and devotion. Second, follow your dreams and aspirations regardless of other’s opinion. Third, follow God’s plan and forget about the cookie cutter mold because it’s just the cookie.
WHAT WOULD MAKE MONTGOMERY MORE ATTRACTIVE TO YOUNG PROFESSIONALS? More opportunities for young adults to build relationships with influential people in Montgomery would make it more attractive to young professionals. I also think people should be more open-minded and in conversation instead of competition.
All rights reserved, Gumptown Magazine. Copyright 2017.