Rev. Dr. Charles E. Booth
His towering stance commands attention, as does his booming voice. But when he begins to share the word, all attention is immediately drawn to the story he tells and the adept way he’s been telling it since the age of 17 when he preached his initial sermon.
“I preached my first sermon on Oct. 16, 1964 at Enon Baptist Church,” said Baltimore native, the Rev. Dr. Charles E. Booth, who recently marked his 50th year in ministry.
In his teachings, he approaches scripture by looking at present-day issues.
“The ancients were always addressing the ills of the times and the ills of society, and for me, there must also be a wedding between scripture and contemporary context,” he said.
In his prophetic messages, Booth addresses issues most dear to his heart, such as the plight of the poor, health crisis sweeping the world and the reality of racism in America.
“I enjoy having studied over the years and applying what I have studied to real life experiences–that has been a great joy for me,” said Rev. Booth.
And a great joy for those who’ve sat under his ministry and been taught and strengthened by that teaching.
Many of them gathered, with political and religious leaders totaling nearly 500, Oct. 12 at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, in Columbus, Ohio, where he’s been pastor since 1978.
During the service in his honor, Rev. Booth received special acknowledgement from religious leaders including Bishop Timothy Clarke, of First Church of God; the Rev. Dr. James Childs, professor emeritus, Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the Rev. Tim Forbess, vice president of development, United Theological Seminary.
Dr. Charles Booth honored by Rep. Joyce Beatty during the anniversary celebration.
Additionally, he was presented with a resolution from Rep. Joyce Beatty that included a special signature from President Barack Obama and acknowledgment from Rep. Chris Gibson, whose representative presented him with a flag that was flown over the White House in his honor.
Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman also honored the pastor by naming Oct. 13 as Rev. Dr. Charles E. Booth Day.
Among his peers in ministry, Rev. Booth is well celebrated.
“Charles Booth is one of the most gifted preachers that you’ll find anywhere,” the Rev. Dr. A.C.D. Vaughn said.
Pastor of the Sharon Baptist Church in Baltimore, Rev. Vaughn led Rev. Booth to his ordination as a young minister. “He’s a great mentor to younger preachers and I’m proud to have a part in his ministry all these fifty years,” he continued.
Also sharing in that pride is the Right Rev. Walter Thomas, pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore.
“He is an awesome preacher who makes preachers better,” Bishop Thomas said. “There are moments in preparing a sermon that I will say ‘How would Booth do this?’ He has changed the landscape of preaching for decades to come.”
More than a role model to Bishop Thomas, Rev. Booth is a friend and confidant. “He has great advice and we often keep each other from going off the deep end,” Bishop Thomas said. “He has shared all of my major moments and my children see him as their uncle.”
Baltimore ministers Darnell Jeffers, right, and Travon Thomas recognize Dr. Booth on behalf of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake.
Rev. Booth found the outpouring almost overwhelming.
“I was very much humbled by everything that was done,” he said. “When you look back across 50 years of the preaching experience that I’ve had, you’re suddenly touched by the fact that you have had an impact on so many lives; and it greatly humbled me to hear people speak about what I consider to be very feeble efforts.”
The event also served as the unveiling of a publication celebrating his legacy, “Living Under an Imposed Sentence: Imprints From the Preaching Life of Charles E. Booth.” The book features contributed narratives from 33 noted preachers and religious leaders from across the country.
Moving forward, Booth is excited about the groundbreaking of Mt. Olivet’s future $8 million Family Life Center, as well as the opportunity to continue teaching courses at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in St. Columbus, Ohio.
In reflection, he considers his opportunities to shepherd as a pastor, build relationships, bless children, baptize new converts, provide counseling and bury the deceased as meaningful markers in his life, “All of those experiences have gone into making me who I am,” he said “and they’ve been rich.”
Rev. Booth graduated from Howard University and earned a master’s in divinity at Eastern Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and a doctorate in ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
He served as pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester, Penn., December 1970 through September 1977. He became pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church on January 1, 1978.
During his leadership at Mt. Olivet, Booth founded an elementary school, the Dr. Gloria S. Friend Christian Academy. He also led the congregation in raising $2.1 million to build the 100-seat Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Chapel, an administrative wing, expand the Rev. Dr. H. Beecher Hicks Sr. Fellowship Center and add 12 new classrooms.
Over the years, Booth has earned numerous honors and awards. He was listed in the Who’s Who Among African Americans and Ebony Magazine’s “Honor Roll of Great African American Preachers.” He won the James E. Stamps Alumni Recognition Award for outstanding contributions to young people attending historically black colleges and universities. He was also awarded the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award from the Columbus Education Association.
His alma mater, the United Theological Seminary, where he serves on the board of trustees, has named a national preaching conference in his honor that is in its fourth year.
Across the globe, he has preached to congregations in Germany, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Europe, South and Central America and Africa.