When the pandemic hit Shelby County in March of 2020, Bishop Lee Salter was founder and pastor of Anointed Faith World Outreach Center.
But the physical toll COVID-19 was taking on the Frayser community inspired a divine name change and a new commitment to transforming people.
“People were not only dying, but those left behind were losing hope,” said Salter. “We were following Health Department and CDC guidelines. So, I started streaming our services live from my home and, later, from the church.
“Then on the third Sunday in August (2020) – I will never forget it – God spoke to me and told me to change the church’s name to Anointed Faith Transformation Center.”
Salter said the church experienced quite a bit more than just a name change. It was a pivotal moment, not only in the church’s 20-year history, but a life-changing moment for Salter’s ministry.
“Our mission has always been to build faith and transform lives,” said Salter. “That is a part of our mission statement. But Frayser is a community that has great distrust – not only for law enforcement, but for each other.
“Many communities have churches, but the church is not really present in the community. People come into the community to attend church, and then they go back home across town where they live.”
That was the key to more effective ministry, according to Salter. His divine encounter not only moved the prelate to change the church’s name, but the congregation started to move in a more compassionate direction.
“Real ministry involves taking Christ outside the church walls,” said Salter. “We began to take walks through the community, stopping to speak to people, not necessarily preaching to people – just being personable.
“We wanted to let people know that we truly care, and that our church family is there for them. So, come to visit. A few have stayed and become a part of the church.”
Anointed Faith hosted a “Back to School” rally, giving away school supplies and book bags.
“People have come to the church with a need, and we have addressed that need,” said Salter. “We have given away clothes and offered some financial assistance for utilities because we need to address the practical and social needs of people. The Church of Jesus Christ must address the needs of the whole man.”
Salter also making home visits, using masks and social distancing, to encourage and help his own members who were faltering in the oppressive isolation of safer at home orders.
This empathetic outreach also has been extended to those outside of the church because Frayser, as a community, is broken.
Salter said Frayser residents have suffered a great “disconnect and distrust of each other.”
He senses that people there want something better, a different, more loving kind of community.
“The level of poverty in Frayser has triggered the lawlessness we see,” said Salter. “People are broken-hearted and living without hope. They look to the church for encouragement, comfort and spiritual guidance.
“We aren’t called to fill a building up, but we are called to fill their lives up with brotherly love.”
With real transformation comes a renewed outlook on life. That is what the church wants to see in the community – real transformation, Salter said. The pandemic forced Anointed Faith to look for more creative ways to take the gospel outside of the sanctuary.
Like other small churches that have resorted to live-streaming and recording services on social media platforms, Anointed Faith boasts a virtual congregation that ranges from Gary, Indiana to Atlanta to parts of Florida and far-away countries such as Nigeria.
Anointed Faith was started in Salter’s home in 1999 when he felt led of God to plant a non-denominational church. In 2000, the church moved into its first building at 858 Ayers St., near Jackson Ave., in North Memphis. The next location was in Nutbush, at 3767 Orchi Rd.
In 2015, the congregation moved to its present location at 4091 Overton Crossing. Videos of recorded services as well as weekly service times may be accessed on Salter’s Facebook page: Bishop Lee Salter.
Services are open to the public. Masks, temperature checks, and social distancing guidelines are strictly enforced.