By Rev. Dorothy S. Boulware, AFRO Managing Editor
With one movement, history is made in myriad ways with the announced retirement of current pastor, the Rev. Dr. Charles E. Coger and the appointment of his daughter, the Rev. Myeskia Coger Watson as the first woman, and only the sixth pastor of 122-year-old Mt. Ararat Baptist Church.
When she ascends the pulpit, Dec. 2, to preach her first sermon as pastor-elect, she will stand in awe of the fact that she also preached her initial sermon when she was 19, in the same place.
“I am honored and humbled,” Rev. Watson told the AFRO. “It’s amazing to be in this place at this time and I’m so grateful to God.”
It is a place she initially resisted when her father was appointed pastor, because she had nothing but love and affection for what had been their home church for her entire life until that point.
“I told my family I was not leaving New Psalmist and I was so glad I was 18 and could drive myself,” she said. “I loved New Psalmist and I thought it would be my church forever.”
But she loved and supported her parents’ ministry at Mt. Ararat, something she continues with this new move.
“We’ve been helping out for about four years now,” Rev. Watson said, in the light of health challenges her father has met with great success, with the help of the Lord. “And in the past two, we’ve been preaching on Sundays and conducting Wednesday Bible studies,” she said. So, the transition is expected to be as smooth as a transition can be.
Rev. Watson is not new to being a pastor since she was blessed to establish her own congregation, Living in Love Ministries, which she has led while helping out at Mt. Ararat.
“We are still in ministry with ‘Living in Love’ and are anticipating what God will do as we go forward together,” she said.
As are the members of Mt. Ararat, some of whom have been in the fellowship for many years.
One of them is Deacon E. Lee Lassiter, who counts his membership in decades, at least five.
“I share the excitement and optimism of other members of Mt. Ararat as the church moves forward under new leadership,” he said, adding, “expanding our tradition of lifting up and serving God and meeting the needs of the people.
His historical view is rich.
“Each of Mt. Ararat’s pastors has stressed sound doctrine, spiritual and physical growth, sacrifice and service in interest of furthering God’s work on earth,” Deacon Lassiter said. “We are on the brink of moving to higher heights in all these areas under Pastor Watson’s leadership.”
He recalled that Mt. Ararat was the first African-American church to move into the Mondawmin area and that it became and remains a kind of religious “flagship.”
“Proclaiming itself ‘The End of Your Search for a Friendly Church,’ Mt. Ararat opened its doors at the current site the first Sunday in February 1955 with a small band of courageous members still on board,” according to the church’s website. But it was not to remain small.
“It drew members from all denominations simply because it was the only of its kind,” he said. “And I’ve been blessed to witness the positive impact on and service to the city’s religious community and the community surrounding the church.”
With no disagreement from the Rev. Dr. A.C.D. Vaughn, who is marking the moment and happy to see history being made.
“I’m going to be excited every time I drive down Gwynns Falls Parkway and see Myeskia’s name on the marquee,” the long time pastor of Sharon Baptist Church said.
“Not just the first time, but every time.”
Known as the “Baptist Bishop,” Rev. Vaughn said the appointment of Rev. Watson is a sign of hope for other women in the ministry, especially Baptist women.
“These women have worked hard in other vineyards, some for little compensation; they’ve prepared themselves professionally and academically,” he said.
“It’s only fair they be given equal opportunity to pastor within the denomination in which they’ve grown up and learned ministry.”
Rev. Vaughn said Rev. Watson had done a “massive job of ministry” in assisting her father and being supportive of his ministry, and was thus deserving of this opportunity for leadership.
“The day of the woman is here and everyone might as well realize it,” he said.
“The women need to know that this is no longer impossible for them. And in that Rev. Watson is setting a standard.”