The founder and only pastor of the 24-year-old Revelation Missionary Baptist Church retires soon, and in his place will not be one of his three minister sons, but McNeill.By inheriting her father's pulpit, McNeill will become the only female senior pastor in the denomination in Columbus -- and among all local Baptist congregations, for that matter.
It is not known how many African-American women lead Baptist churches across the state.
Like many things in life, this change of guard took a circuitous route.McNeill was licensed in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1997, a year after she joined Holsey Monumental Church.
After a year of study and testing, McNeill
was ordained a deacon, and later an elder.She
then served two CME churches -- one in Hogansville and one in West Point.She
led both for two years apiece.McNeill
had positive experiences at both.The West Point congregation, especially, was growing numerically and financially.
"If Vincent had been here," Valerie McNeill
said, referring to her
brother who leads Columbus' New Life Christian Church International, "possibly he
would have become the pastor.
father standing next to her
in the sanctuary this week, McNeill
is the more humble of the two.He
laughed but didn't disagree.
"I have a sternness," he
said."I give directives, proclamations.I don't explain.I'm more dogmatic and dictatorial."He
has told church orientation classes that even though members make decisions on various committees, he
ultimately runs Revelation
"Even in that, the people love him," said McNeill
..."Valerie is a great preacher.
...Before McNeill became a minister, she worked for the Muscogee County School District then at the Ledger-Enquirer, most recently in the newsroom library.
The announcement to the church about the leadership change came about a month ago.Members applauded in approval.If there were any criticisms about having a female pastor, "they would have to go through Reverend Allen," McNeill
said with a laugh.
"Ruth and Esther and other women were great women of the Bible who did great deeds, and if there is any woman God is using right now, it's Valerie Allen McNeill
...McNeill officially begins as pastor Jan. 1, 2005, keeping Revelation in the family.
"This is very serious to me," she
said of her