Following in the footsteps of a 60 plus year legacy can be a little intimidating, but St. Rest Baptist Church Pastor-elect Dr. Robby D. Williams said he is humbled and honored to be its next leader.
The Martin family – the late Rev. B.F. Martin and then his son, the Rev. B.J. Martin – have led the iconic church for 64 years, and Williams wants to continue the strength, character and the sense of community in the church he grew up in.
“Bro. Ben’s father was my pastor,” he said. “So I know the traditions of the church and the community. It’s not difficult for me to come in and pick up the traditions and community of the church and continue what’s already begun. My position is to continue the iconic legacy of this church. This is a trailblazer church.”
St. Rest is a model church for other churches in the area, Louisiana and in some cases the nation, he said. Historically, he said African-American churches were built in a “T” model, with a long sanctuary and two rooms on either side. St. Rest was one of the first not built in the “T” model and one of the first to build a Christian education and activities center.
“This church has been the powerhouse for religious experiences and people watch what this church does to model their churches after,” he said. “If they want to know how it’s to be done, they look at St. Rest, because it’s been the model for ministry for many years. Back then, the focus was not on Christian education in the church, it was the inspiration of worship. So this church was the (motivation) for other churches.”
He wants to continue the focus on Christian education and economic empowerment, saying it is not about the amount of money a person has but rather how people treat each other regardless of economic status.
“Those are the things this church is known for,” he said. “I want to sustain and help perpetuate that idea of the legacy this church has had, even when I was a child and now. That’s a challenge.
“I was saved in this church; I was led to the Lord in a backyard Bible study,” he continued. “I was called, licensed and ordained to preach in this church. This is home doubly for me. Now to get to come back and serve the church and community is a real unique experience for me.”
A 1983 graduate of Minden High School, he attended Louisiana College in Pineville for his undergraduate in philosophy, later went to United Seminary for his graduate in theology and received his doctorate from St. Thomas Christian College.
He came back to St. Rest and served one year as the minister of Christian education until he was called to a small church in Arcadia. Then he spent the next 30 years as the pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church in Monroe.
“It was a difficult decision for me to leave a church I’d pastored for 30 years and come home,” he said. “I was asked to come back to serve the church, and it took a lot of prayer. I felt the call to come home to serve this community, and I’m comfortable with the decision to come home.”
His first Sunday to lead the service will be at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. An installation ceremony will be at 3 p.m. with dinner and fellowship to follow at the B.F. Martin Family Life Center.
At age 52, he has one daughter, India Williams. His mother, Louise Moore, still lives in Minden and is a member of St. Rest.