Local church brings in first African-American preacher

Photos by Timothy Ramsey

Local church brings in first African-American preacher
September 07
04:00 2017

Burkhead United Methodist Church, 5250 Silas Creek Parkway, has a new senior pastor.  The predominately white congregation welcomed their first African-American pastor, the Rev. Dr. Carl Manuel Jr. recently. 

Manuel, a Greensboro native, had recently been the pastor of a two-point charge in Reidsville, leading two congregations, where he was also greatly involved in the community.  He seeks to be just as involved in the Winston-Salem community as he was in Reidsville.

He started his pastoral journey in the Presbyterian Church and then moved to the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  He was teaching at Bennett College in Greensboro when a district superintendent of the United Methodist Church asked him if he would be interested in becoming a United Methodist.  He was apprehensive at first, but after contemplating the decision, he accepted.

“I love the ministry. I love working with people, especially young people,” Manuel said.  “The school system is one thing I will get involved with here in town along with working with the university students at both Winston-Salem State University and Wake Forest.”

He said this is his first time leading a predominately white congregation.  Since his arrival, he has received nothing but open arms from the members of the congregation.

“This is my first cross-racial appointment and I am the first African-American pastor here since the church was founded back in the 1800s,” he said.  “I must say that everyone has been extremely nice and I haven’t witnessed or experienced any sort of prejudice among any of the members.

“They really have gone overboard with the welcome wagon,” he continued.  “When I got here, there were so many greeting cards as well as nearly 50 gift cards to different restaurants around the city.  They had a Fourth of July cookout for me, and I am happy to be here.”

Thus far he has noticed that there is a difference in worship style from this church and an African-American church.  He says he somewhat misses the music and worship style of the African-American church because that’s what he was used to but also enjoys the style at Burkhead as well.

“The style is different and it is somewhat quiet with little response from the people but they always tell me how much they enjoy it and tell me different points I have made during my sermon,” he continued.  “I feel that the Spirit is here even though the African-American church is more vocal.”

Betty Bewley, Burkhead member since 1979, says many members of the congregation are ecstatic to have Manuel lead their church. 

“I was very pleased to have him come here,” Bewley said.  “We had a couple of rough years prior to him coming.  He is the first male pastor we have had in 17 years, and people were excited to have him.”

Burkhead is very active in the community and Manuel wants to expand that reach.  Currently the church is collecting funds for hurricane relief in the Houston area, they make food for H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Eat) twice a month and once a month they make a meal for Open Arms, an outreach of the United Methodist Church in southeast Winston-Salem.  Individually, the members also are involved with personal community service efforts all around the area.

Manuel said he did notice the congregation of Burkhead was older than most churches.  He says he plans to reach out to the local universities and school system to try and bring in a younger demographic to the church.  He also wants to work with the local ministers’ conference as he did in Reidsville.

Photo by Timothy Ramsey- Newly arrived minister the Rev. Dr. Carl L. Manuel is the first African-American pastor of Burkhead United Methodist Church.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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