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Passing of the mantle at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood

In 1996, Melvin D. Watkins Jr., who had enlisted in the Air Force two years earlier after graduating from Hamilton High School, returned from a duty station in Turkey to  attend the funeral of his grandmother. As the eulogy was being delivered, he found himself confronted with the unexpected.

Watkins, who was installed as the pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood last Sunday afternoon, envisioned a hand beckoning him to the pulpit. He also heard a vice calling him to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.:

He preached his first sermon in Cheyenne, Wyo., where he later was stationed. On Aug. 18, 1996 he was licensed to preach.

Rev. Watkins made several stops in his journey forward from that point, including serving as a minister in the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Mali. In 2002, he returned to his home church – Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood, getting involved in outreach ministry.

Mt. Vernon’s iconic pastor, the Rev. Dr. James L. Netters Sr., talked with Watkins about becoming assistant pastor in 2004. Thinking that he was not ready, Watkins passed on the opportunity but accepted a second invitation in 2006.

On Sunday with Netters passing the mantle to him, Watkins, with his wife, Loie, nearby, gracefully accepted the church’s call, giving voice to the “Acceptance of The Charge.”

“As the Lord as my helper, I accept this charge and commit to never build barriers, to preach the word, be a watchman, walk in love, care for my family,  remember this is God’s work, give God my best, and be original. I make these promises in the name of Jesus.”

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