LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Reeves Temple A.M.E. is the oldest black church in Lake Charles, according to the Southwest Louisiana Genealogy Library. The church has been around for nearly 154 years.
The church was founded in 1865 under the leadership of George Ryan, says Pastor Williams. Prior to it’s beginning, church service took place outside.
Originally called Reeves Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, the actual building was formed in 1866.
The church has had 16 pastors since it’s beginning. Pastor Williams has been around since 2002.
Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the building. The church members and others restructured the building with their hands.
The church has been racially integrated since the 1800s and also through the 1900s. Williams says, “We had both blacks and whites in this church.”
In 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education marked a big racial shift for the church. It was changed from Colored Methodist Episcopal to Christian Methodist Episcopal in 1954 as well.
1954 marked the start of the Civil Rights Movement. Williams was a part of fighting for equality.
“I was a part of it in my struggle to get together with persons in Memphis. Then we marched and went to Lorraine Hotel. We marched. We marched in the middle of the streets to try to make equality. And I worked with race relations under Mayor Roach," Williams said.
Pastor Williams is originally from Mississippi. He’s been interested in ministry since 1976 and he started preaching in 1977 at several churches in Mississippi.
When Williams was first asked to pastor Reeves C.M.E., he wasn’t 100 percent sold on moving to Lake Charles.
“I think it was Nebraska when I received the call from Bishop Hart that they needed a pastor here. Well, at the time, I said I would think about it. I had not been to The South—this far south. I found that the people were so warm and they were so receptive. And I just rejoiced from the moment I arrived," Williams said.
Now, he loves the people here. The rich history of the church gave him a greater appreciation of what he’s doing.
Williams recalls a time where people used to love getting dressed up for church. Some would get ready as early as Saturday, he says.
He wants to get back that time. Williams calls it “back to the basics.” This is how he prepares the youth and members of the church.
Williams thanks the people around him for being his backbone during this process.
“It’s really important to have family support,” Williams said. He also thanks his wife and especially his grandchildren. In addition to that, his clergy has always supported him.
Pastor Williams said, "First of all, I want to thank God for calling me to the ministry in general and calling me to Reeves Temple. [Thank You] Bishop Hart, Bishop Brown, Bishop King, for allowing me to stay. I want to thank all the officers and members that we are now serving during this 16 and a half years.”
For the next four years moving forward, Williams plans to help the community and helping senior citizens.
“I think that we’ll be moving forward in regards to putting up some...possibly...putting up some community and economic development with being we’ll be putting up some housing or being putting up some things for senior ministry,” said Williams.
The church has six properties to make this happen. This is how the church will go into the next generation.
Join Reeves C.M.E. for their 11 o’clock service every Sunday at 1400 Winterhalter Street.