Transition or change is something that we all face at some point in our lives. Whether it is the birth of a child, graduation (high school or college), marriage, divorce, or death it is something we have all had to deal with and work through. Members and pastors of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (A.M.E. Zion) face an additional transition each year, the reassignment of their pastor. In the A.M.E. Zion Church the pastors are appointed by the Bishop of their particular Episcopal District/Region to serve for a term of 1 conference year. In Virginia, which is a part of the Mid-Atlantic II Episcopal District, that year runs fiscally beginning in July and ending in June of each year. At the end of that conference year it is at the discretion of the Bishop to reassign the pastor to another church or allow them to stay at their current church.
For Rev. Willmers Williams of Chesapeake, Virginia, the past six years at conference have been the same for her. She has been one of the fortunate few to be given the opportunity to stay at the same church, which was St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church in Suffolk, Virginia. This afforded her the opportunity to begin raising funds to build a new edifice and continue tapping into the spiritual gifts of those in her congregation. However following her trip to England in August 2010; where she accompanied her Bishop and other members of his ministerial delegation for another Episcopal Conference; she was reassigned to another church, Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church in Norfolk, Virginia. Four months into a new conference year, at the conferences first check up meeting, this came as a shock to Rev. Williams but as with anything she held to her faith and stated “that it was a move of God” for her to be reassigned.
Change is something Rev. Williams has had to deal with a lot throughout her life. As the second eldest of 8 children and the only girl for several years she was accustom to having to make certain accommodations whenever a new child came home from the hospital. Those changes caused her to grow up with a constant fear that she would never be good enough to accomplish her goals. Willmers left home at an early age and married a serviceman by the name of Joseph “Joe” Williams and out of that marriage they were blessed with two children, the late Tildon A. Williams and Amanda D. Williams (Shepherd). Throughout her marriage she was able to travel and grow due to her husband being military. As she continued to grow she realized that in order to move forward and live life the way she knew it could be she would have to leave her husband. Yet again she was faced with change; she went from being a wife and mother with two children to a single mother of two. Not letting her circumstances hold her back she persevered and made a life for her family in Northern Virginia.
In February 1996 Willmers decided it was time for her to come back home and continue to build a life closer to her family (Now she knows that it was a move of God). Shortly after moving home she completed her degree at Norfolk State University and accepted her call to ministry. In February 1997, one year after returning home, she preached her initial sermon at Gilmerton Star A.M.E. Zion Church and began a journey that has taken her far from the shy, insecure child she use to be. In her time as a pastor she has dealt with the death of her son in 2008 and the death of her mother in 2010. As a result of both passing she has become the matriarch of a family that is somewhat divided. She has been forced to be the emotional backbone for those around her, which has allowed little time for her to mourn such great losses. Those circumstances alone are enough to make anyone wonder what their place is in life, but not Rev. Williams, she has remained constant knowing that God is working in her life as well as the lives of those around her. Even with this latest change in her life she as well as her family are taking it in stride.
From the outside looking in people assume that a single pastor being moved to a new church only affects them. However that is not the case, walking into a new congregation is similar to the first day of school, where the pastor is the “new kid” placed into a situation they may or may not be prepared for. For Rev. Williams even though the move has been positive thus far it has not come easy. She has been placed once again in a church that is in need of internal structure and organization. The edifice is showing signs of aging and is in need of repair, she is also faced with the task of bringing people back to the congregation. On her first Sunday at Wesley Union she was joined by her family and close friends to support her. They all share the same sentiment that even though it was a difficult move, the outcome will be worth the sacrifices that need to be made. As a pastor Rev. Williams is known for having innovative ideas when it comes to ministry and reaching the masses. She pours her heart and soul into meeting the needs of her congregation and that will be the catalyst for her success in the future. Her prayer is that God will give her the wisdom to lead the people where he wants them to go.
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