The Rev. ELaura James Reid’s path to ministry is a winding road that she now travels as pastor of Coleman Chapel C.M.E. Church.
Reid was not only the valedictorian of Manassas High School in 1994, she reigned her senior year as Miss Manassas. Then, the popular beauty went on to Atlanta’s Spelman College where she earned a bachelors degree in Psychology.
“My grandmother was my best friend,” said Reid. “She promised she would live to see me graduate, and she came to Atlanta, keeping that promise. My grandmother was in her eighties and on dialysis. She took a turn for the worst, and I took care of her until she passed.”
Reid had aspirations of getting into graduate school, but the term had already begun. She became a case worker for the Department of Children’s Services, investigating reported abuse and taking children out of dangerous situations.
“I really liked the work, and I was pretty good with it,” said Reid. “But the pay wasn’t even enough to pay one year’s tuition at Spelman. So I decided that if I was going to work with children, I should put myself in less dangerous situations because sometimes, going into some traumatic homes could become dangerous.”
After a year with Child Protective Services, Reid decided to apply for a teaching position at Memphis City Schools.
“During her two decades in the classroom teaching middle school math, Reid earned a masters degree from the University of Memphis in Instruction Curriculum and Leadership in 2001.
God interrupted, you might say a promising career in education administration.
“In a word, you might say that I was ‘outed,’ said Reid. “As a preacher’s kid, with a mother as pastor, I was keenly aware of the sacrifice and service required. I knew it was a 24-hr. job, seven days a week.”
When Reid’s mother, Pastor Emeritus Deloris Downey, accepted a call to ministry and became a pastor, she almost lost custody of Reid. Downey was deemed “unstable,” and her sexual orientation was being questioned, according to Reid. It was the late seventies and a very different time for female pastors.
“That was not the life I wanted,” Reid said. “But in my senior year in college, I went to Shy Temple CME in Atlanta, and there was an altar call. The pastor asked that all those who “knew God had something special for you to do with your life” to come to the altar. He then asked us to remain at the altar if we felt God had given us a ministry. To my surprise, only two of us were still standing.”
Reid said she was not meaning to “accept” a call to ministry, she was simply acknowledging that God had a special work for her to do, just as “God has a specific purpose for everyone.”
She would remember that moment with greater understanding in 2009 when she became the youngest female pastor in Memphis, taking the helm of Coleman Chapel CME Church.
At times, Reid wondered whether she would also marry and have a family. Once she learned to make ministering to her small congregation her utmost priority, God “sent a husband.”
In 2016, Reid married Memphis native, Carlos Lavelle Reid. The very next year, the couple welcomed a baby girl, Caura Elise Reid.
“I’m a wife, mother, and pastor,” said Reid. “They are all 24-hr. jobs. I’m on call for all three, every day, all the time. One day never looks like the day before, and I have come to love my life and all the responsibilities that come with being me.
“I trust the Lord to help me do all that is required, and He is faithful.”
Reid has affiliations with: Kappa Delta Pi Educational Honor Society, Memphis Child Advocacy, One Church One School Mentoring Program, Churches United in Christ, CME Ministerial Alliance-Greater Memphis Area, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the graduate advising council for University of Tennessee-Martin, Top Ladies of Distinction (TLOD)-Tipton County Chapter, Memphis Educational Association, Tennessee Educational Association, National Educational Association, West Tennessee Psychological Association and the Board of Christian Education.