Christian ministries turns 10

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

What began 10 years ago as a fervent prayer and hope in the hearts of some members of a First Baptist Church adult study group has become a vanguard of Christian kingdom-building in the Selma and Dallas County area.

The Experiencing God class, led by Ralph Derryberry, was being held at First Baptist Church, and reached the conclusion that God was calling for new work in the low-income Craig Field area.

In September 1995, Selma Christian Ministries was born with a strong board of directors representing several denominations from the entire church community.

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At that time, the Rev. Winston Williams, who had moved two years previously from Detroit, was called as the first part-time executive director. Williams continues to lead the organization with vision, energy and imagination, and Derryberry who has been president several times, has only recently rotated of the board.

Williams, a native of Trinidad, supported by the board and by the administrative director Donna Long, a native Selmian, has managed to guide the organization into a widening spectrum of ministry programs that now includes Pine Glen Estates, the Minnie B. Anderson Homes and summer programs such as Student Life, which take young people away for a week of camp in the summer.

At the same time Williams serves as pastor of St. Paul CME Church and is personally engaged in a number of ministries, programs and Christian associations in the area.

With him is Donna Long, administrative director, whose job it is to put wheels under SCM’s programs and to provide the necessary logistical base from the nonprofit, interdenominational ministry’s office graciously housed in the Tri-Tech Equipment complex on Ravenwood Drive.

Today, Selma Christian Ministries, which began with a single backyard Bible study at Craig Field, now has afternoon Bible studies in the Craig Field area led by volunteers from a number of churches, a morning Bible study for women who live in the area, tutoring and summer camps – such as this past summer at Shocco Springs Assembly in Talladega.

The standout program for 2004 has been tutoring, according to Williams. “In 2004 we had the best tutorial year ever – using Concordia College students and some other students. This expanded program has grown out of a very small Saturday morning tutorial program using Concordia students from Trinidad whose British education in Trinidad made them very effective tutors,” he said.

“This past year we had 400 area students being tutored – in both in-school and after-school programs – in Tipton Junior High, Southside High and Bruce Craig Elementary in the county schools and Knox Elementary in Selma,” he said.

Williams said that each student received tutoring in 30-minute sessions. And for the past two summers there have been eight weeks of tutoring in June and July, he said.

Williams is looking forward to the board’s New Year retreat in January when plans will be laid for the coming year.

Williams said that he has found that being pastor of St. Paul’s CME church and executive director of Selma Christian Ministries is a good fit. “Over the years, our elderly congregation has become more youthful, and even though it remains more elderly the members care deeply about the young people, and are always praying for them and their activities and helping any way they can,” he said. “For me,” Williams said, “what we see at work here is the grace of Jesus Christ and Christian fellowship.”

Williams agrees with the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and Selma Christian Ministries is attempting to provide a mentoring culture that allows children to know how much they are valued and loved. The ministry has been going long enough that Williams is able to see students who have come through the ranks and are now on the verge of takeoff after completing their high school education.

“They (the children) are our future,” Long said, “and Selma Christian Ministries wants to continue to meet the challenges and seek the opportunities to impact their lives with the love of Christ.”