Pastor Profile: Rev. Mary Minor
Church: Brookins Kirkland Community AME
How Long: A year and a half
Family: Divorced mother of two children (son and daughter)
Education: Claremont School of Theology
Full Time Occupation: Senior [project management] consultant for Kaiser Permanente
How did you come to be a pastor?
I got my initial call in 1983. I never thought it was to be a pastor. At that time, I was in the Baptist church and in the Baptist church you could be a missionary, you could be a Sunday School teacher but I never saw any pastors who were female. So, shortly after I got my call into ministry, the Lord moved me out of the Baptist church into the AME church.
I remember it was Mother’s Day of 1984. My mom knew that I was on a quest to find another church to affiliate with and invited me to go with her to First AME (FAME). As I was sitting there, the Spirit of the Lord spoke to me and said I want you to join this church. And I said, not today. I remember seeing the women in the pulpit leading the various forms of liturgy and I remember the Spirit saying you can do that. I bargained with God and said, ‘if Mom joins the church, I’ll join.’ Well, moments later she tapped me on the shoulder, because she had to cross over me and I said, ‘So where are you going?’ and she said, ‘I’m going to join the church.’ That’s how I got to First AME. But still I didn’t go right into ministry.
After six years of preparation in 1989, the Spirit spoke to me and said ‘now, you’re ready.’ I’m sitting on the parking lot at FAME and at that time I had started a young adult usher board and the Lord said, ‘go in there and tell Rev. Murray that you’ve been called into the ministry.’ I go in there and knock on the door and Rev. Murray opens the door and says, ‘I’ve been waiting on you.’ And the rest is history.
I graduated from Claremont in 1995 and I’m working part-time at the church. Rev. Murray offers me the minister of youth position. In 2000, when Bishop John Bryant comes, I get my first assignment as a pastor and I am a bi-vocational pastor. The first churches I went to were smaller churches and I didn’t want to be a burden on my churches, so I’ve always been a working pastor and been able to help my churches be successful not having to worry about the finances, but building the people. That’s always been my philosophy.
How many churches have you pastored?
Four. My first church was St. Mark AME Church. My second was Bethel AME in Perris, California. Then I got assigned to Murph Chapel AME in Valinda, California and I was there for nine years and now I’ve been at Brookins AME for a year and a half. I was assigned there in November of 2015.
What did you think of pastors growing up?
Here’s my thing: I always had a love for service in the church. I joined the church at five years old. It was something he said at the invitation. In those days, they preached those fire and brimstone sermons and I remember him saying if you don’t get saved and know Jesus, you could die and go to Hell and burn in the lake of fire and I didn’t want that. So, I went down the aisle. My mom said, ‘do you know what you’re doing?’ and I said, ‘yes.’ So, I joined the church and got baptized.
Given all that Brookins AME has gone through—including losing its church—what were your thoughts upon receiving the assignment?
I’m sitting at the annual conference and God had already prepared me that my work at Murph Chapel was over. Bishop Kirkland had always told the people ‘I’m coming for her’. So, I’m sitting there and the Spirit told me to go talk to Bishop now. I say to him, ‘Bishop, I just want to make sure that you understand I’m available to you.’ He looked over at me and said, ‘will you go to Brookins?’ I said to myself why would I want to go to Brookins, (They lost everything except two parcels of land—a parking lot across the street and the old church), but I said, ‘if in your time of prayer, the Holy Spirit is leading you to send me to Brookins, I’ll go.’ Sure enough, he assigned me there. I said, ‘okay, Lord, you’re sending me there. You know what has to be done and you’re going to make provisions.’ Within a year’s time of my being there, we had moved into a new church.
When you got there in November of 2015, how many people were there?
They said they were probably seeing 100 on a good day. But through the leading and the preaching on the Holy Spirit, people started coming back. Not only did people come back, but we also had people who were joining and now I probably see an average of 250 every week so we’re growing. Oh, and at that annual conference, they changed the name from Brookins to Brookins/Kirkland. Bishop and Mrs. Kirkland joined the church and are fellowshipping with us.
What is your style of ministry?
My gift in ministry is the gift of empowerment. I want people to be knowledgeable of the word of God, so in my preaching style there’s teaching I do. I have the gift to encourage and to help people to discover what their innate gifts are, then to help them to develop them and once they develop them, to give them the opportunity to use them—equipping God’s people for service.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to deal with in your life and what did you learn from it?
In 1987, I was struggling with my ministry and I remember praying for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, and it happened, but right after that happened I contracted sarcoidosis. It’s a lung disease—the same illness Bernie Mac passed away from.
So, as I sat on the side of my bed in November 1991, I felt like I was ready to die and throwing my hands up I said, ‘okay Lord, if you me want to go, I’ll go, but if you let me stay, I’ll teach your children. I’ll preach your word.” The Spirit said to me that’s all I needed you to do was to surrender and it was after that I started some medication and it turned around and just like the illness came, the illness went. Through that experience—one of my girlfriends who wasn’t saved, said, ‘I watched you and you suffered a lot but you remained committed and strong and it’s through your witness that I want to know the God that you serve.’
The Lord told me I was going through a pruning process—that there was stuff I needed to let go of before He could use me.
What is your vision for Brookins?
I want Brookins to be a beacon in the community—a place where people who are lost and languishing can come and find a place of refuge. Not just a church that meets on Sundays, but I want us the make that word community in our name come alive. That’s why when we reorganized, I made sure community stayed in the name. You don’t have to be a church member. You can be a member of the community and come here and be served. I believe that once you’re served, you have to pay it forward and serve someone else.