When the Rev. Quentin Wallace attended a meeting with members of his congregation last week, they served his favorite meal.
For him, it was comfort food. For the members of the congregation, it was a statement: We like this guy.
Thirteen months ago, Wallace became the first African-American pastor of Lancaster city’s Covenant United Methodist Church, home to a mostly older, mostly white congregation.
His initial meetings with the staff-parish relations committee led him to believe he was in the right place.
“The take-in was awesome here,” he said. “We kind of set the tone of where I was coming from and what I was bringing to the table and I got a sense of who they were.”
That was far different than his experience in Reading in 2008 when, as pastor of New Beginnings, a multiracial church, he presided over a merger with St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church, which also had an established older, white congregation.
It became a territorial issue, he said, because he had been pastor at New Beginnings.
“When I went to St. Matthew’s,” he explained, “I didn’t get the chance to know the congregation.”
Covenant represented a new opportunity.
“Here, it was just me and my family,” Wallace said, “so we could take the time to get to know everyone.”
Richard Galen, a city resident and 30-year member of Covenant, calls Wallace “dynamic.”
“He’s a listener,” Galen said, “and he’s into local issues.”
For example, last month the Intra-city Progressive Pastors Association, of which Wallace is a member, hosted a community service at Covenant to address police interaction with African-Americans in the wake of police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mayor Rick Gray and police Chief Keith Sadler were among those in attendance.
In fact, the church has long been involved in the community. Covenant has operated a preschool program since 1995, has been involved in the Power Packs food program, helps supply uniforms for youths at Fulton Elementary School, and partners with Community Mennonite Church on projects.
“This church has always been a great church in the community,” Wallace said.
As a child, Wallace attended a Baptist church in Baltimore. It was only after attending Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, however, that he became enthused about religion.
The Rev. John Bryant, who is now a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal church, was Bethel’s pastor.
“He was an awesome preacher,” Wallace said. “You would go to church and be touched.”
Part of Bryant’s preaching style has rubbed off on Wallace. He refers to it as the black preaching style in which he brings “a lot of energy to the pulpit; putting it all on the table. When I come to preach, God is bringing the word through me.”
His goal is “to make sure that the people are getting what God wants them to hear because that’s what brings about change or hope or transformation.”
His style, he said, “is kind of conversational … and it leaves people with a challenge at the end.”
Galen agreed: “He’s different in the way he delivers his sermons,” he said. “No one falls asleep.”
Nancy Grau, a 50-year member of Covenant, described Wallace’s sermons as “down-to-earth and inspiring.”
She said the congregation has taken to Wallace’s family — his wife, Brenda Ingram-Wallace, who is an associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, and their three children. Wallace also has an adult daughter from an earlier marriage.
“His wife is just as personable and lovely as he is,” Grau said.
Galen noted that Ingram-Wallace also takes an active role in the church. “We got two (pastors) for the price of one,” he quipped.
Source: Lancaster Online | EARLE CORNELIUS