Headline image: Women's Bible Study; Above: Pastor Bernard Williams and Church Sanctuary
Learning by Stepping Out on Faith
Written by Betty Miller Buttram
Pastor Bernard Williams is the son of a pastor. His father started the ministry of The Way of Holiness Church in October 1981. His father passed away in June 2014, and God moved Pastor Williams’ heart, and he took over the ministry as the shepherd and visionary for the parishioners of the church.
In March 2016, the Church acquired the building located at 6901 South Hanna Street, its 63,000 square footage, and the ten and a half acres of property surrounding it. It was once an old retail store that was built in 1968. Prior to its present occupants, the building was home to another church, the Fort Wayne Christian Center, Pastor Ron and Cookie Rutgers. Pastor Rutgers passed away in 2012. His wife had doubts about continuing the ministry with the congregation, and the property and building were sold to The Way of Holiness Church.
The large church sanctuary has a sitting capacity for three hundred and can be expanded to seat at least 800 by just opening a door to another seating area. The Sanctuary has television screens mounted for announcements, scriptures, and fellowship entertainment. It’s also equipped with musical instruments and the latest technology.
Pastor Williams spoke about an area in the Sanctuary called Jericho Run where at one time the church had about 30 kids who ran around it. “Some people didn’t understand it because when the walls came tumbling down, they didn’t do a Jericho run. They said that’s not biblical,”. Williams said. “OK, but you all can embrace a new concept. If you were standing at the pulpit, and you saw them running, it was like a wind tunnel.”
Pastor Williams, who accepted Christ at age eight, has a passion for the young children, the millennials, and the seniors. It’s all about coexisting together by just understanding each other.
“I’ve been a minister since 12, and I’ve seen a lot [of them]. I listen to them, and I interact,” Williams said. “One of the things that I implemented when I took over the [church’s] ministry was a slogan: ‘Consider the old while embracing the new.’ You have to consider the old because they know the way, the Bible says. But you got to also embrace the new which means the old and the young have to learn to co-exist.”
The Pastor also has concerns about educating the parishioners about their health. He lost both his parents to pancreatic and colon cancer. He wants them to be aware of their diet intake.
“Sometimes, I have to stop preaching at them and preach to them. I’ve even showed a movie on a Sunday morning--I said because you all are not coming to see it during the day or during the week so since you’re here, we are going to show this movie.
“It helped a lot of people. It doesn’t mean to say that the diet doesn’t mean without food; it how you eat the balance of the food. I’m not saying you can’t have the pork and all that stuff, but in balance and in moderation.”
Pastor Williams has a vision about the vocational education of the young people and the millennials.
“It’s amazing because most of the people (black folks) here in Fort Wayne came from Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and paved the way for us,” Williams said. “But there is still a gap here because we respect them for what they stood for, but they only put us in a certain set of jobs. Today, there are maybe 10 doctors in different fields, but there wasn’t a lot of push for doctors.
The church acquired the building in March 2016 “because we have some community focus programs that we would like to put in the inner city. One of that being a trade school,” Williams said. “A lot of the young men and women are not military people or college bound people so they need a trade that they can take with them anywhere in the world. They are not just bound to Allen County, Fort Wayne, Indiana, once they get a certificate.”
There was a tour of the building which will house the trade school. This part of the building was once a big warehouse used for storage. Ron Rutgers, the previous pastor, had put all the present equipment and furnishings in the building. Some of the classrooms have been refurbished and the rest of the rooms will be renovated in future development plans. There are several restrooms, closet spaces, classrooms (some of them used by the parishioners on Sunday mornings and for Bible Study), and exercise rooms.
A construction company will be partnering with the church in the trade school starting with light construction and then going into electrical, plumbing, and then small engine repair. It will not be gender specific because in five years or less, the church would like to have an all-women mechanic shop, acknowledging that job roles have been changing. There are also site plans pending for a coffee house/café, a gym, free internet access, and maybe a gaming room.
Life Skills classes will be taught to the young people and, most particularly, how to dress for an interview. Pastor Williams has this to say on the subject of appropriate attire: “Now, that we have taken down the standards that says you can come to the church with this and the other…you ought to look in the mirror and judge yourself and see that this isn’t appropriate nowhere…not just church…but this isn’t appropriate to wear.”
Another message from Pastor Williams to the young people is that there will be a lot of things that you want to do in life so why hold up your life by being sexually irresponsible.
According to Pastor Williams, the future plans for the church property include for a Christian Life Club for the young and the seniors with music and artists. There is a plan for a sit down restaurant. “We’re not necessarily talking about fried catfish and BBQ because we know how to do that. We have some African-American people who know how to make filet mignon. I would like to put a culinary arts school in that building as well.”
The church wants to be a light in the community on the south side of Fort Wayne. When The Way of Holiness Church moved into their new Sanctuary and on the surrounding property, they made a faith move.
Service Times for The Way of Holiness Church for Sunday starts at 9:00 am (Prayer); 10:00 am (Kingdom Living); 11:15 am (Morning Worship); and 5:00 pm (Evening Worship). Women’s Bible Study is on Wednesdays at 11:30 am and Bible Study is on Thursdays at 7:00 pm.