The Rev. Curtis Levingston will take over as pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis on Sunday with a deep appreciation of the church's 112-year history and an aggressive plan of action.
"It will be a challenge and, yes, there will be pressure to continue all the good work Mount Zion has done for God's people for so long," said Levingston, 49. His installation follows the death of the church's longtime pastor, the Rev. John H. Rouse, more than two years ago. "Life is pressure. I cannot take the place of that great man of faith. I have to be myself and stay with God to do the best I can do."
Levingston and his wife, Michele, have five adult children: Curtis, Lenora, Kelly, Elaina and Mickail.
"Michele is the First Lady and she is a great help in everything I do."
They recently moved to Fairview Heights after Levingston served the past 12 years as pastor of churches in Graham, N.C.
Mount Zion has approximately 300 members, a number that has been declining in recent years, Levingston said. He plans to emphasize ministries for youth and senior citizens.
"I want to step up tutoring with our schools. And I will push the AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) programs for youth. I want to see more of our older members involved with mentoring young people. We have a book club. The book we are reading now is 'Decoded' by Jay-Z."
"I want more of our good men mentoring children in single-parent homes and being good role models."
He also wants to enhance the effective ministries already in place that attracted him to Mount Zion. They include a food pantry and clothing giveaway.
"We will remain very involved in helping people," he said. "The food pantry feeds 150 people on Wednesdays and Fridays, and gives them food that will last till the next Wednesday. They are the types of ministries that come directly from Scripture, which tells us, 'help the less fortunate.'"
He also wants the church to help people get their GEDs, get jobs and get off drugs.
Levingston grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and was ordained there at Genesis Missionary Baptist Church. He served as associate minister at Genesis from 1991 through 1999.
Most recently, he was senior pastor of New Beginnings Worship Center in Graham, N.C., for two years and previously was pastor of First Baptist Church-Graham for 10 years.
Dr. Nathaniel Anderson, a lifelong member of Mount Zion and the former head of East St. Louis School District 189 school board, was on the selection committee.
"First of all, he met all the requirements we had after surveying church members," said Anderson, who traveled to North Carolina to meet Levingston. "A consideration was that he had started his own ministries and people followed his leadership.
"We were nothing but pleased with his work. We look forward to working with him, and he looks forward to working with us. It goes both ways, all the time."
Anderson considers the new pastor a "Man of Faith," which is the theme of Sunday's installation.
Levingston said the move to East St. Louis and Mount Zion is the next step in God's plan for him.
""God has moved me to East St. Louis," he said. "He gave me a vision to move from my hometown church (in Kansas City) to North Carolina, where I got my schooling and raised a family. And now he has moved me back to the Midwest, close to home and family.
"Every move means taking a chance. I rely on my wife and my faith in God. ... I did not know anyone here. Now I'm 'all in' with Mount Zion."
Who: The Rev. Curtis Levingston
When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 2235 Bond Ave., East St. Louis
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks and Illinois Sen. James Clayborne Jr. will among the dignitaries at the service.
The Rev. Lesley J. Winfield Jr., pastor of Genesis Missionary Baptist Church and moderator of the Midwest District Association of Greater Kansas City, will bring the charge to the pastor.
The Rev. Jimmie Brown, pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis and second vice president of the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc., will bring the charge to the church.
The Rev. William Sankey Jr., pastor of Reborn Ministries in Huntsville, Ala., will lead the installation prayer. The Rev. Dr. Joe L. Stevenson, senior pastor of Macedonia New Life Church in Raleigh, N.C., will give the sermon.
The service also will include a praise dance and musical selections.