ELLERBE — Bishop Arlester Simpson will celebrate his 40th year as pastor at Sidney Grove Church of Deliverance in Ellerbe, N.C., a church that was established over 100 years ago.
The celebration will begin Friday and will end on Oct. 12. On Sunday there will be a fellowship luncheon and a presentation of gifts from other churches as well as from home churches.
There will be a different guest speaker every evening, including Pastor Vander D. Purcell Jr., Pastor Carl Ingram and Pastor Angelo Bratcher.
Simpson remembers when he first became pastor of the church. The church was started with only eight members and now there are nearly 200 members and the church continues to grow, he said.
Simpson said that the church was built in three stages. In the first stage, the sanctuary was built. In the second phase, the classrooms were built and in the third phase The Family Agape Center was built. Various programs and events have been held at the center, including weddings, church events, social gatherings and athletics.
Simpson is thankful that his church members are putting together a celebration in his honor.
“I feel blessed and all I want to do is serve people,” said Simpson. “I feel that God deserves the recognition and not me.”
Simpson is also grateful that he has been the pastor of the same church for four decades.
“In some cases I feel like a father and to others I feel like the grandfather,” he said.
Simpson is very active in other churches and has been an active member of the NAACP for more than 10 years. In addition, he is very active in the community and has been a state chaplain for seven years at Southern Correction Institution, located in Troy, N.C., where more than 500 inmates are housed.
“This past Saturday, Sidney Grove Church and 13 other churches ordained me as their presiding prelate,” said Simpson.
A prelate provides leadership to all churches to make certain that they are in gospel order and to offer assistance to those who have spiritual or physical needs, said Simpson.
The church has an outreach program and each second Saturday of the month members spend two to three hours out in the community giving out treat bags and encouraging those who are not saved to visit the church, said Simpson.
“He is dedicated, industries, loyal, a visionary man,” said Annie Buie, a member of the church. “He is a people person and he loves God.”
Simpson comes from a Christian-oriented family.
“My mother was a Christian,” he said. “My father was a deacon of a Baptist church. My uncle pastored for more than 40 years in the Baptist church and my family always valued going to church.”
Simpson said that he has enjoyed pastoring the church.
“Over the 40 years, it has been a family. Everything that goes into what a family is, that is what this church is,” he said. “We proudly proclaim that the Sidney Grove Church of Deliverance is the church where everybody is somebody and Jesus Christ is center.”
Simpson wants the community to know that the public is invited to attend the celebration.
Sidney Grove Church of Deliverance, located at 401 McIntyre Road, holds Sunday school at 9:45 a.m., morning worship service at 11:45 a.m. and bible study from 7 to 8:30 p.m every Thursday evening.
— Staff Writer Iris Hunter can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.