Risen From The Ashes
Prince of Peace Baptist Church: Risen from the ashes, now reaching out
Samaria Bailey TRIBUNE CORRESPONDENT - Nov 11, 2017
Eight years after a fire completely destroyed its place of worship, Prince of Peace Baptist Church has been restored to the point of being able to give freely to others. Using a formula of service, worship and fellowship, the church keeps its approach fundamental, reaching souls locally and globally with holistic ministry and love.
“Prince of Peace is unique,” Senior Pastor Robert Shipman said. “It’s capacity to be compassionate and hospitable are second to none, and the people here, although we are not all family, they all are genuinely family.”
Shipman has served Prince of Peace for 26 years, and with a clear and direct approach to his role, he is leading the church to be a place that is active and engaged in ways that can change people’s lives.
On the Sunday of the Tribune’s visit, this was apparent throughout the service as several moments — from the announcements to the sermon — were riddled with references to outreach efforts. During the announcements, Sister Shavonne Cook welcomed participation in the November job-readiness clinic and job fair, both of which are open to the community.
Then, Minister-in-training Tabenah Washington implored the congregation to be careful about the schooling choices for their children because “prisons are building cell blocks” based on reading test scores in the third grade.
Not long after Washington’s charge, Shipman showed a video of the destroyed homes and buildings that resulted from hurricane Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas, and thanked the church members for their donations of food and supplies to a Port Arthur church that has been a refuge for families.
Shipman then appealed for an additional donation of 300 gift cards to help the families buy bare necessities.
“I couldn’t stomach sitting at home watching people suffer and not having us involved in their relief,” he said. “I did some inquiry and found there was a pastor of a church in Texas whose church had been devastated, but he was engaged in feeding 300 people three times a week, [which] is a low estimate. I asked him how could we help and that’s how we began engaging.”
In his sermon, Shipman furthered the call for compassion, encouraging the congregation to use Jesus as an example of how to treat others.
“We are talking about the Jesus that lived among the people … loved the people, and fed them. He did not isolate himself from the strangers that needed him the most,” he preached. “Jesus loved people who were alienated.”
For members, Prince of Peace is a place to be changed, to serve and to be cared for.
“I liked the atmosphere and the Word — it sounded like it was coming to me about my situations. It totally affected how I think about things,” said Chanel Rodriguez, 29, a mother of two daughters and a month-long member. “Now I stop to think about things. I don’t go off instinct anymore. Since I’ve joined, I feel like every sermon is talking to me.”
Evelyn Mallard, a member for more than 40 years, said Prince of Peace has been there for her as she fights cancer.
“They’ve been praying, and whatever I would’ve needed, they would’ve done,” said Mallard, who is also a caretaker for a 9-year-old boy with special needs. “Prince of Peace cares for him and they care for me.”
Youth ministry President Courtney Gray, 19, characterized Prince of Peace as a “friendly, loving and kind” church.
“We try to find different ways to reach out to the kids in the community and kids in the church. Sometimes we have outdoor events like basketball or soccer in the parking lot,” Gray said.
The church also reaches youth with a weekly Bible study and youth Sundays. On the Sunday of the Tribune’s visit, several youth played an important part in the service, performing a series of praise dances as part of the mime ministry.
“I like it because it’s another way of expressing myself when I don’t have the words to say,” said Gray, who dances with the ministry.
Other outreach at Prince of Peace includes a computer lab that is open to the community, feeding and clothing programs for people in need, and a partnership with a nearby school.
“We are a loving church,” said Fred Blaine, a member for four years who serves as musician. “We are a church that wants to change the way people think and we do what we do because we care.”
Blaine was referred to Prince of Peace by a friend to fill an open musician position, and less than six months into the job, he joined. “It’s a nice church,” he said. “The Word is powerful, good teaching. It enhanced my study of the Word. It’s the place I’ve grown to love the Lord. It helped me develop into the man I am today, and I wouldn’t be with the woman I’m with, without this church.”
According to Shipman, Prince of Peace’s progression into the type of place that can answer people’s varied needs is due to a strong, faithful congregation.
“As little as we operate on, we do a lot of marvelous things,” he said. “It’s been our belief — trusting God to take what little we had and multiply it.”