- Faith & Family
When Pastor Robert Shaw of New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church received the call into ministry 30 years ago, he did not run away from his God-given purpose. However, he did approach his God-given purpose cautiously.
“I had to distinguish my calling from my conversion since there’s a loose connection between the two,” said the 68-year old Shaw. “In a conversion, it’s a life changing experience where a total transformation has not quite taken place but you have decided to always try to do what is right. But in a calling [you are] just compelled to go and to proclaim the Word of God.”
For Shaw, a faithful church-goer who had served his church in numerous positions from usher to Sunday school teacher, the answer became obvious to him.
“I was not contented with any of [my former positions], so I knew that there was some other direction that God was sending me in,” he said.
The next year, Shaw was sent to Allen Temple AME Church to begin his training. Over the course of his ministerial career, he has lead other churches before being assigned to his current location.
For the past eight years, he has been leading the Goulds-based church. No matter where he goes, his focus has remained the same.
Putting the church into the neighborhood is very important, according to Shaw.
“We have to make sure that we take care of God’s people,” the minister explained. “They need more than just a good sermon.”
The outreach ministry for New Bethel AME church, includes everything from witnessing to people in the streets to connecting people in need to much needed social service resources.
The efforts to reach out to the community have produced results. Of the church’s 215 members, a proportion of them remain long-standing church members, while a growing number of the congregation are coming from the surrounding neighborhood.
According to Shaw, in the upcoming years, the church has plans to build a Family Life Center, that will provide child care for the community.
When Shaw does stand still behind his pulpit, most Sundays his sermon topics carry the same theme. “Hope, faith and you may be down but you’re not out,” said the pastor. “I think I preach more on that than anything else.”
On Sunday, Jan. 28th, the church will be hosting a Biblical Theme fundraising dinner. However, true to its purpose, New Bethel AME Church is offering an open invitation to anyone interested in attending.
“[The dinner] is meant to let the neighborhood know that our doors are open and we are here for them,” Shaw said.
New Bethel AME Church is located at 11695 SW 220th Street in Goulds.
By Kaila Heard