COLUMBIA — Up the stairs of the unimposing, gray house off McBaine Avenue, the Rev. Lue Ella Canton beamed as she welcomed the small afternoon crowd to celebrate the ordination of five new ministers.
Canton, who has led the All Peoples Missionary Baptist Church since its founding seven years ago, ordained the church’s newest pastors: the Rev. Demetrice Bell, the Rev. Yolanda Ayuso, the Rev. Russell Robinson, the Rev. Emmanuel Guyton and the Rev. James Patterson.
Bell has already landed a position in Montgomery City as the new pastor of St. John Baptist Church. The other ministers will be seeking their own congregations in the next few months.
“Wherever God leads us,” Guyton said.
All Peoples Missionary Baptist Church began seven years ago, but Canton has been preaching since she was 9 years old, she said. Born in Arkansas, Canton came to Columbia and started her Baptist church without a building. Moving from place to place, Canton pressed on.
“The Lord told me to go forth,” Canton said, “He will stand by me, he will make a way.”
In about two weeks, the church’s building at 219 McBaine Ave. will be paid in full, about 2 ½ years after the congregation moved in.
The All Peoples Missionary Baptist Church is devoted to community outreach, Canton said. When a police officer asked her what she’d be using her building for, she replied, “I want to have it to help you all get the people off the street and find the Lord.” She added, “We’re filling ours up with people out on the streets.”
Nationwide, about 90 percent of black churchgoers attend a black church denomination, according to Hartford Seminary statistics. The seven recognized denominations of the historic black church are: the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Baptist Convention USA, the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention of America.
Drew Smith is the director of the Public Influences of African-American Churches Project and author of “New Day Begun: African American Churches and Civic Culture in Post-Civil Rights America.”
According to Smith, “African-Americans continue to regard churches as institutions focused on the spiritual and social needs at the very heart of black life.” But he adds that as we move forward into the 21st century, the black church has begun to embrace diversity.
Canton agrees. Her church is “mixed,” she said. She attributes much of that to interracial marriages.
“When we get to heaven there ain’t going to be no more separation now. We’re going to be the same,” Canton said. “We’re trying to get to be the same down here. We’re trying to be one.”