New pastor looks to make impact in church and community

New pastor looks to make impact in church and community
December 07
05:00 2017

First Baptist Church, 700 N. Highland Ave., is the oldest black Baptist church in the city of Winston-Salem.  Recently the congregation welcomed a new pastor, Paul Robeson Ford, to lead the congregation. 

Ford has been in the city for just over a month but already has a great feel for the people and the history of the church.  He gave his first sermon a few weeks ago but says he wants to hit the ground running by making an immediate impact.  He came to Winston from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he led the congregation of Union Baptist Church for the previous six years.

“The work of ministry has carried me from New York City, out to the Midwest, back to the east coast in New England and now down here to the great state of North Carolina in the city of Winston-Salem,” Ford said.  “I am glad to be here and really blessed with the opportunity because this is a great church with a tremendous amount of history.”

“I think the future is bright for this church because there is a central core of people that are really sincere and authentic about their faith and committed to doing the work of Christ for this age,” he continued.

Ford was born and raised in New York City in the Upper West side of Manhattan.  He says he heard the call of ministry when he heard a sermon delivered by Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama, in the late 1990s.

“That was my first introduction to the man, the myth and the ministry of Pastor Wright and it was also the message the Lord used to call me into the ministry, so I accepted that call at that time not knowing fully what it all meant and what it was going to develop into,” said Ford.

“That was a big influence in shaping my understanding of my faith and my understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ and what it meant to serve in ministry as one of God’s lieutenants, so to speak,” he continued. 

He attended the University of Chicago Divinity School in the Masters of Divinity program under the mentorship of Dr. Dwight Hopkins.  He has now moved to the Ph.D program and hopes to obtain his doctorate sometime in the future centering on a theological resolution to the mass incarceration problem in America.

Going back to his time as a high school student, Ford has always had a passion for criminal justice and activism.  As he acclimates himself to the city, he plans to get involved with those issues here as well.  He has also worked with the Black Lives Matter Movement while in Cambridge.

“That has always been central to my work, and my work has expanded beyond that now that I am in my third pastorate duty,” he said. 

Ford has a tremendous grasp of the history of First Baptist because he feels you need to know where you come from to have a good idea of where you’re going.  He truly wishes to continue on the legacy the previous senior pastors have set before him.

He says the reception he has received since coming to Winston has been “Holy positive and received with real openness.”  He says he not only has been received well in the church but also with local ministers in the area as well.

Ford firmly believes in reaching out to the younger generation and bridging the gap between them and the elderly people in the church.  He thinks there is a way to bring in young people while not alienating the older demographic.

“I do think that there is a way to build upon the past so you are not so much wiping away the past but you are building upon that past to take the best of it with you and innovate for the future,” he said.

For Ford he says when he thinks about the predecessors who have led the church in the past they have “marked their time there” by doing one or two things that have a timeless value to them he would love to leave a similar mark on the church as well.  He strongly believes that education is the key to success as well as changing the current status of black Americans as a whole.

“I hope and pray through the work we do in this church we can nurture a renewal of consciousness in our community as to who we are, where we have been and where we need to go,” he stated.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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