By David L. Fitts, Jr.
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
In May, the Rev. Dr. David D. Mitchell ended Mt. Gilead Baptist Church’s two year search for a leader. Coming from Rhode Island, the Thomasville, Georgia native hopes to inspire Mt. Gilead’s congregation and involve the church in its Northeast Central Durham community.
Mitchell hopes to use his 25 years of experience to help Mt. Gilead grow. “Mt. Gilead Baptist Church is poised to move to the next level of spiritual growth,” said Mitchell.
Before making any changes, Mitchell is observing everything to see how the church ran before he arrived. “You have to sit in the saddle for a while to see where to take it,” said Mitchell.
He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University, Atlanta and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Theology and Ethics from Claremont School of Theology, California. While at Claremont, Mitchell was the first African-American to win the John Owen Smith Preaching Award.
Before coming to North Carolina, Mitchell was the pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church in Cornelia, Georgia; served as a chaplain in the United States Navy; and served as the senior pastor of Congdon Street Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island. He has delivered sermons, lectures, and speeches in 16 states and 17 countries.
Mitchell’s 2001 book, “Black Theology and Youths at Risk,” was used as a textbook at Emory University. According to the abstract, the book critically examines the problems and conditions facing youth today and prescribes proactive and innovative ministries that churches and communities can adopt to help youth stray away from destructive activities and move toward a future of hope and fulfillment.
“We at Mount Gilead are excited and filled with enthusiasm about our new beginning under the spiritual leadership of Rev. Mitchell,” said Deacon Ronnie Hunter. “The future possibilities are unlimited and achievable with God’s help.”
Mitchell also has extensive training as a counselor and is a certified Prevention Relationship Enhancement Program Instructor, a certified Neuro-linguistic Programming Counselor and a certified Meyers-Briggs Personality Test Administrator. Mitchell wants to use his experiences to better the church. Now that he is here, Mitchell believes that Mt. Gilead is ready to grow.
“We are expecting that our existing ministries and programs can be enhanced to become even more effective in carrying out Mount Gilead’s mission to spread the gospel and help build God’s spiritual kingdom in our community,” said Hunter.
Some small changes have already happened. “Bible study has become a full house every Wednesday night with people having a more positive mindset,” said Mitchell. He feels as though there is a sense of oneness and love coming out of the sessions which is bringing people together.
“He’s a great pastor and you can really hear him in Bible study,” said Deacon Larry Harvey.
Mitchell is planning outreach programs to bring more youth to the church. He wants them to feel as though they have a place to go and feel safe. Mitchell would also like for more youth to be involved.
“With Mt. Gilead in the middle of NECD, it is ready to expand its ministries throughout the community,” said Mitchell.
“Parents got their children more involved when I was younger growing up in the church,” said Tomika Small. Small was one of those children who did just that. “My mother made me go.” There were workshops, conventions and day trips for youth when she grew up in the church.
“I feel as though Pastor Mitchell will actively encourage more youth to participate in the different ministries in Mt. Gilead,” said Elaine Small. She feels as though youth used to only participate in activities that were only for them and would not get involved in everything at the church.
“Before the arrival of Pastor Mitchell, senior members ran the church,” said Small. “I feel as though Pastor Mitchell will encourage youth to take on higher roles so they will be prepared to take over future positions.”
Not only is he targeting youth growth and involvement, Mitchell wants more people to get involved in general. “I want to reach out to the members of the community especially young families,” said Mitchell. “I want families to come and see that Mt. Gilead is a family-centered church.”
“Community outreach through evangelism is anticipated to be a focal ministry in reaching those who are church unaffiliated,” said Hunter.
Other planned initiatives include a tutoring program and increased use of internet and web-based community forums and seminars. “Hopefully Mt. Gilead will embrace the elements of television and radio as a way to connect with residents,” said Tomika Small.
Church leaders would also like to train lay people within the congregation. They would then be able to organize home Bible study for working parents and group study for people whose schedules may not allow them to attend Bible study in the traditional church setting.
“Pastor Mitchell will lead us toward having a stronger faith in our beliefs spiritually as Christians,” said Dora Bailey.
Mitchell, along with his wife, Victoria, hope to guide “The Church on the Corner for the Care and Cure of Souls” into a better future where the church and community will be together as one.