Pas­tor leads first ser­vice at his­toric Bethel AME

Pa­trick Clay­born fol­lows long­time preacher Frank Reid III, now a bishop

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Car­rie Wells cwells@balt­

For a few brief mo­ments as he be­gan his ser­mon, the Rev. Pa­trick D. Clay­born paused, lead­ing some at Bethel AME Church to think he was ner­vous and to shout out words of en­cour­age­ment.

In­stead, the 41-year-old pas­tor launched into a ser­vice so en­er­gized a few in the con­gre­ga­tion be­came over­come with emo­tion and wept, while one con­gre­gant kicked off her white heels and danced bare­foot in front of the al­tar. Clay­born paced around the pul­pit shout­ing “hal­lelu­jah.”

Sun­day marked the pas­tor’s first ser­mon at the 231-year-old West Bal­ti­more church. The Rev. Frank M. Reid III, the church’s pas­tor for 28 years, was re­cently el­e­vated to the rank of bishop in the African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church.

Clay­born’s mes­sage to his new con­gre­ga­tion: Take the path of courage, dare to be your­self, and stir things up. He used the bib­li­cal story of Joshua, who led the Is­raelites af­ter the death of Moses, to il­lus­trate how sometimes peo­ple pass from our lives when their pur­pose has been ful­filled.

Reid served his pur­pose, Clay­born said, just as he had served his pur­pose as a pas­tor in Alabama, and that it was time for both of them to take a new path.

“You be you and I’ll be me, and by be­ing our­selves, we take the path of courage,” Clay­born said. “Ac­cept your­self. Stop try­ing to be some­body else. Joshua could never be Moses, and that’s okay. I can’t be Mr. Reid on my best day. I can’t be Bishop [James] Davis on my best day. They are su­per The Rev. Pa­trick D. Clay­born, new pas­tor of Bethel AME Church in West Bal­ti­more, leads his first ser­vice Sun­day. Clay­born, a Memphis na­tive, earned de­grees at More­house College, Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Drew Univer­sity. pas­tors and preach­ers and bish­ops. I’ll never be them, and that’s okay. Be­cause God didn’t call me to be them. God called me to be me.”

Jer­icka Robin­son started tex­ting old friends who hadn’t been to Bethel AMEin a while dur­ing the ser­mon. “Oh my god,” she wrote. “You need to hear this new pas­tor.”

“It was re­fresh­ing,” said Robin­son, 57. “We’re look­ing for­ward to new op­por­tu­ni­ties, a new sea­son. It’s nice to see some­one with as much en­ergy as you. Sometimes you need that new en­ergy.”

For­mer Bal­ti­more Mayor Sheila Dixon, an ac­tive mem­ber of Bethel AME, also said she was re­freshed and en­cour­aged by Clay­born.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to this new chap­ter in Bethel,” Dixon said. “There’s a lot we’re work­ing on in this com­mu­nity to en­hance it and I think he will bring a lot of great new ideas and strong lead­er­ship, and stir up in many of us some of the gifts that have gone dor­mant for what­ever rea­son.”

Clay­born, a Memphis na­tive, earned de­grees at More­house College and Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy be­fore en­ter­ing the min­istry, ul­ti­mately earn­ing a doc­tor­ate from Drew Univer­sity in New Jer­sey and go­ing on to teach min­istry at sev­eral schools and col­leges around the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to a bi­og­ra­phy from his for­mer church. He be­came pas­tor of St. John AME Church in Huntsville, Ala., in 2011. His wife, Sheri, is also a pas­tor and the cou­ple have two chil­dren.

Clay­born said his in­spi­ra­tion for his ser­mon came to him in a dream.

“It’s my hope that I honor those who come be­fore me,” Clay­born said. “If I had to cast a vi­sion for where I pray we’re go­ing, some­body asked me the other day what are the three things you stand for, and I said off the top of my head, God, fam­ily and com­mu­nity. My prayer is that as I love God and I love my fam­ily, that I will be of ser­vice to the com­mu­nity.”


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