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Speak to my Heart
Communities of Faith and Contemporary African American Life.

Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture

Interview with Reverend Patricia DeGrafenreid
St. Matthew C.M.E. Church




Rev. Roderick Lewis and Rev. Patricia DeGrafenreid baptize a member of Miles Memorial CME church in Washington, D.C.

MS. MORRIS: Okay, so you're from this area.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Right, the State of Maryland.
MS. MORRIS: What are your early memories of church and what is your church background?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: First let me deal with church background. I was born and raised into the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Roots for the family go back as far as I know -- probably as far as I can't remember. By my family basically being from the south and it being a southern church, just about everybody in the family basically were Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. We have a few that may have been baptist and that kind of thing, but basically the denomination was the religion called the family -- Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. My early memories of the church go back so very far, probably before I'm able to remember, but I do remember as a child I served on the usher board, the CYF Christian Youth Fellowship. I also was a choir member, and I know that all of those things took place before the age of 12. So I've been active in the church for as long as I can remember. I am told that during Sunday school, doing recitations, recite poems and do special readings, but of course that had to be somewhere around the ages of 3 and 4. But my earliest memory, oh, I guess somewhere between 6 and 7.
MS. MORRIS: So when did you feel that you were being called to the ministry?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: That came much much later in life. Prior to my calling to the ministry was my calling to Christianity. That happened in my teen years. The most profound time I remember was when I was 16 years of age, and my grandmother was very ill, and she had said to me that, though she could pray for me and though my mother could pray for me, the time had come for me to start to develop my own relationship with God. And so I think somewhere around the age of 16 I started my own personal quest where I personally had to get to know God for myself. It would no longer just be the God my grandmother told me about; the God I heard my mother talking about; the God that I heard other people talking about, but he would become my own person. He would become God for me as well. So that was my first calling. And then my calling to the ministry -- I've been in the ministry 9 years now, but I guess you can say I struggled with the issue of the preaching segment of the ministry, and I say the preaching segment of the ministry, because I've always worked in some capacity of the ministry. Understand that the ministry is very broad and it's just not sectioned off with preaching. Preaching is not the ministry, it is a segment of the ministry. So I've always worked in some part of the ministry all my life in the church. But in 1986 -- all of '86 and the latter part of -- it started around September of 1985. And I say that because I was away at a (inaudible) retreat at Lake Junilester (phonetic) in North Carolina. And I had been wrestling with this issue for so long. I felt that there was something else God wanted me to do, and I kept saying to myself that I didn't know what it was, but Lord reveal it to me. I really knew; I just didn't want it to be part of preaching ministry. From what I could see, preachers had hard lives; pastors had hard lives. Their time was not their own and that was not something I would have chosen for myself. And I was happy, content in just being a good lay leader for the church, which for my home church was a first. It was originally born out of the Methodist Men's Fellowship, and for their to be a female lay leader -- and I was the first female lay leader, and I was lay leader for 5 years, and being a young person -- that was a major milestone. So I was pretty happy and satisfied; that I really did not necessarily need anything else. But I just felt God had something else. I knew God had something else for me to do, though I tried to get around it. But in 1986 New Year's Eve night, it was an overwhelming, burning desire. It was like -- When I say burning desire I mean a literal burning almost. I felt very warm and hot on the inside, and their was an urgency that I stand up and announce my calling to preach the gospel. I knew it was there, and I'm sure that it probably started long before 1985. I know it definitely happened long before 1986 when I recognized it and verbalized it in public. I guess 1985 was when I became aware.
MS. MORRIS: So was anybody in your family a minister?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: No, not in my immediate family. My mother's grandfather was a baptist preacher, but he was not someone that I knew. He died when I was a very very little girl. My mother said, I had met him, but this was her father side.
MS. MORRIS: So who inspired you then?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: There was no one in my life. At that time our church was Pastor (inaudible), the first female pastor. I saw the hardships that she endured. Her pastor was very complex. The relationship was very complex and strain for the search, and I think in large part was probably because she was their first female pastor, and some other thing. I saw the struggle that she was going through, and I don't want any part of it. So I can't say there was any one person in my life that I've ever known who was in ministry that I said, I want to be a minister just like him; it was not something that I ever experienced. I knew ministers; I grew up (inaudible) with minister, but none of them -- and not that there was any flaw in the ministers. There was nothing wrong with them. I mean these were some dynamic ministers, but ministry -- the preaching segment, the traveling segment, the pastoral segment of ministry -- was not something that I had envisioned for myself. And so, when persons asked me, how would I explain calling, identify calling, the only thing I can is this, the call to preach, the true call to preach, divine call to preach, is something being chosen for you that you would not select or choose for yourself, because there was no influence going on at the time that made me ever consciously or subconsciously want to be a minister. Because keep in mind, I always worked in, and always worked in the full knowledge of that whatever role I held in the church I was a working part of the ministry. I was never taught that the preaching was the total ministry, so didn't see where I needed to do anything other than what I was doing.
MS. MORRIS: Did you confront any type of opposition from family members when you decided to become a reverend?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: This is going to seem like a complex answer. From two family members, no; from some relatives, yes. And -- How should explain this? All relatives are not family, and all family might not necessarily be relatives. From family members -- and I pray family members being persons who know you very well, you know them very well, and there is no established bond. In other words those family members who I knew would be supportive or felt would be supportive, were supportive. Any opposition that came, came from relatives, but there would have been opposition anyway, whether it was the ministry or something else. And so to say did I have opposition from family members? No. Never any opposition from any family members. Some opposition from some relatives.
MS. MORRIS: So was it based on the fact that you were a female?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: No. I don't think that had anything -- Well, okay. I don't want to say that. I want to say that there is a possibility. I don't know. Generally when persons are pretty close-minded in other areas, nine times out of ten they're going to be pretty closed-minded in a broad spectrum of things, and so closed-minded individuals are basically close-minded individuals. But no, I think it had a lot to do with -- as Jesus confronted and Jesus dealt with -- that, when he said a man is without honor in his old country. It's very difficult sometimes I think for persons to see God plucking someone right up out of the immediate midst, and using them, and transforming them, and shaping them into somebody that they thought they knew, but then they find out, well maybe I don't really know this person, you understand? And the other thing you have understand with family or with relatives that operate as family -- because there's a difference there too; relatives operate as family -- there is a kind of ownership kind of thing of the person, believing that they know a person, or that kind of thing, and then it becomes a shock where you find out, oh, well, maybe I really didn't know what was going on in that person's life, or how God was using them. But there were some persons -- it might even be a thing about, well what did God find so special in that person that he didn't find me. So I think it was a combination of a lot of things, but I think the very basic thing, Jesus covered it when he said that prophet is without honor in their own land. And those persons -- it was hardest for his own immediate family to accept him as being the son of God as it was for perfect strangers. Perfect strangers accepted it. And that's very strange, isn't it? That people who don't know you will accept you, and people can know you and will not.
MS. MORRIS: How long have you been the pastor of St. Matthew C.M.E. Church?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Just finishing up one year. In the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church we have yearly assignments. Our appointments are for one year, and as you heard us announce in service today, my annual conference, in that annual conference -- every year we have annual conferences, and what happens is -- First of all, I don't know how familiar you are with the church, but whenever you see the term "episcopal" it means ruled by a college of bishops. And so we have a college of bishops. Our bishop, who is Bishop (inaudible) Blumefield, Senior, he's the bishop of the (inaudible). And so at annual conference he will read our assignments, but he makes his decisions long before he gets to the annual conference, as to what pastors will serve in what churches. I'm sure he uses different criteria, but one of the main things that the church tries to do is they try to make the church's needs with the gifts and graces of the pastor to see to it that the church's needs are being met, and that the church is not stagnating. Our appointments are for one year, and so I'm finishing up my first appointment at this church. Now, that could mean that I could come back and pastor there for the next 10 years, but that would mean I had 10 appointments. And we leave the conference with an appointment sheet.
MS. MORRIS: Who makes the decision if you are to come back>?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: As to where we ought to pastor?
MS. MORRIS: Yes.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: The final decision rests upon the presiding elder, which is the bishop. The bishop makes the final decision as to what pastors will go well. But also in this church, and in the A.M.E. church, and in the A.M.E. Zion Church we have presiding elders, and the presiding elders are equivalent to in the United Methodist Church what they would call district superintendents. And so the hierarchy is the pastor reports to the presiding elder; the presiding elder reports to the bishop. Basically all of us reporting to the bishop, but the presiding elder is more or less like the overseer of a particular district, and the bishop relies heavily upon the recommendation of presiding elders because presiding elders travel the district, and they get to know the pastors. They know first-hand knowledge of what their work is in the local church; what the general atmosphere of the church is between congregation and pastor, and that kind of thing. So I would say that the bishop takes in regard or take into consideration the recommendations of the presiding elders. The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church is set up very much identical to the African Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion. The difference was A.M.E. church was born in Manila (phonetic), Philadelphia, freed men and women. The C.M.E. church was born in the south, freed slaves. We were born out of the Methodist Church south. So I guess you could say one is of northern persuasion and one is of southern persuasion, but policies are the same, doctrine is the same, governmental structure is the same, hierarchy is the same, just our roots are a little bit different.
MS. MORRIS: How many members do you have at St. Matthew C.M.E. Church?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: I was told -- but if you look at the role you would say 125, but it's much more. We've had a few persons to come back who left for various reasons. I would venture to say that, (unintelligible) role we'll make it at 125.
MS. MORRIS: Do other members come from the community?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Yes, on some occasions; not as much as I'd like to see. When I come from the community on Sunday morning there are too many cars for my comfort in driveways that tells me that those are persons who do one or two things; they've selected an early morning service, because some churches have 8:00 service, so they may be attending an 8:00 service, and so their worship experience may be over around that time, or these are persons who have selected a church home for whatever reason. They are not actively participating somewhere for whatever reason, whatever that is. They have not found something that suits them -- whatever reason, but there are too many cars in driveways.
MS. MORRIS: So what challenges have you encountered as being a pastor?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: The challenges are vast. Being a minister or being a pastor?
MS. MORRIS: Pastor.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Pastor. There's a difference.
MS. MORRIS: Yes, I know.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: As pastor the greatest challenge I had is, the best I can, to meet the needs of the people; identifying the needs of the church -- identifying the needs of the church, meeting those needs, but also meeting the needs of the people. The reason why I say that is that it's true that the people make up the church, but the church will often have needs that's different from what the people want. And so it's almost like how do you balance the two; the needs of the church, and the needs of the people, and the people of the church. The needs of the church can be vastly different than the needs of the people.
MS. MORRIS: I was talking to a male pastor and he disagreed on having female pastors, and he said that females I guess are too emotional, or need to be very strong to be a pastor of a church, and it's hard.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Well, well I don't disagree with that brother on all counts of nature. It's true, you have to be very strong, but then when you look at our society, who's stronger than a woman? Who can take as much or as more? Who can endure as much hardship with less grumbling as a woman? You look at the very role that she plays in society. Women are structured so that they can endure great pain, intense pain, and bring forth life, just in the childbirth experience. Women hold families together, societies together, and that brother who spoke, I would venture to say, probably the driving force of where he is in his ministry and his relationship with God was by the hand of a woman, probably his momma.
MS. MORRIS: That is true.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: And so he does not yet walk in the light, but then he too shall come into the full knowledge. And so he's right in what the criteria of what a pastor should be -- some of the criteria -- but physical strength doesn't mean anything. Are you mentally fit, emotionally fit, spiritually fit? It's not just physical strength, it's spiritual strength, it's emotional strength, it's mental strength, it's mental agility, emotional agility. And the very thing that woman are kind of like pounding for, which is our ability in this society in all of its inequity as far as women are concerned, has yet to noun (unintelligible) us for our freedom to show emotion. It does not mean women are more emotional. It simply means that we have the freedom, because it is socially acceptable by this society to show it. Whereas brothers feel that it's not manly to show their emotion, or show it in such a way that they think they are showing it. But the one thing that brothers and women, and whoever need to be aware of is that, you are always showing your emotion, and there is no such thing as being human and being too emotional. There is such a thing as not being in control, but there's no such thing as being human and too emotional. That in the pastorship there is a degree of emotionalism and human concern that you have to have; there is a nurturing side. Pastoring itself if very nurturing, and who best than the nurturers of the world. So, I understand where the brother may be speaking from, but he speaks from an archaic time. But maybe that's why God is calling so many women; maybe that's why he's calling the nurturers of the world to nurture his people. That's what pastoring is; pastoring is a nurturing ministry, nurturing God's people in all aspects of Christian living, daily living.
MS. MORRIS: I was doing some background research, and I was reading what was called "The Black Church and the African American Experience", and it said that the white churches are more accepting to females, women, being pastors than the black denominations.  
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Well, I have my own theory of why. I don't know that they are more accepting. I think that that may have been an author's viewpoint. I think that this society as a whole is a very sexist society, whether you're black or white, purple, blue or green. But I think from a black experience the one thing that we must keep in mind is that the black church has been the one arena in which the black man has not had to contend with the black woman. It was the one arena that afforded him all of the respect that he should have gotten as a reverend; that he should have gotten as a man in society. Society has not given him his just due, as a man, as a leader, as the head of his household. Even in the economic world white society will give a black woman a job that it won't give a black man; anything to keep us odds with one another. The other reason is that we count as a double minority. Well, with affirmative action going out the window we don't know if that would be necessary, but we were women and we were black, and we're counted as two minorities for now. But it was the one arena that looked up to the black man. The black preacher has always been looked up to now. I mean folk held them in high esteem. It was an arena in which years ago the black man monopolized and dominated, because he was the only the contender. But then God in all of his boldness called more and more black women, more and more women, period -- not just black but more and more women period. As I answer this I'm trying to deal with it in the black community. And so it's almost like here is another intrusion; here is the black woman again, encroaching upon his territory, and it was the one area in which he monopolized. Folks respected him; they looked up to him. They looked to him for counsel; to make major decisions. They regarded him, and he was treated with the best that folk had. You understand what I'm saying? We understand that. Long time ago the preacher was paid with a sack of potatoes. Basically he was the most respected member of the black community. He was held in higher regard than the schoolteacher, in all those places. I think now the black man finds himself, in this arena that he has dominated for so many years, finds himself now once again confronted with the black woman being basically in his space. And men are very spatial things. This is mine -- very territorial. This is mine, period.

Women are very inclusive. We have the ability to allow others into our space. And that is what pastoring is. Pastoring is the ability to allow others into your space. First of all, you've got to allow the Holy Spirit into your space. Then your congregation, you've got to allow them into your space. With the pastor it's so many people, and by the time you look up it will be crowded; it may not be enough space for you. And I'm just kind of like joking when I say that, but there are so many folk that are allowed in your space, but then look how God fashioned things. Men are very special things, but we have the ability to allow others in our space. Just the way God made our bodies we allowed another human being to grow inside of us. We are very inclusive. Women are very inclusive. And so in the black community I think it becomes another issue of, here is the black woman in my space threatening who I am. And I find that very sad, especially for the black community because I find it especially sad when any group of oppressed people have the audacity to become oppressors. And so, no, you're not racists, you're just sexists. I mean, please -- what is that supposed to be the lesser of the two evils? Evil is evil.

MS. MORRIS: That's right. They don't mind females preaching, but pastoring is something different.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Oh, they even have a problem with the preaching. They are threatened by -- when I say they -- I'm not talking about these progressive brothers who have enough sense that God will use whomever he chooses; those men and women. Because see, all your opposition is not from men. You have women in the church who prefer that their pastors be male. They don't necessarily want a female pastor. Why? For some of the same reasons that that unenlightened brother feels; women don't make good pastors. But my congregation has yet to see me emotional and out of control. No, no, I take that back. They've seen emotion, but they have yet to see me out of control. I'm not emotional because I am female; I'm emotional because I'm human. And emotionalism is not a gender thing; it's a part of our make-up. God gave it to us, and we were made in his image, which tells me the God I serve is an emotional God -- had to be. Jesus was moved to tears when he found out about Lazarus. What is that emotion? Was that emotion? I thought maybe just Mary and Martha was down there crying at the tomb, but the word tells me that so was Jesus. And so emotionalism is not a gender thing. It has nothing to do with gender. We're no more emotional than men, however, we do have a greater margin for displaying our emotions than they do; which some could argue --
MS. MORRIS: -- changing religious icons and (inaudible) Afrocentric ideas and religious belief. Has St. Matthew been touched by this (unintelligible) in any way?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: We stand firm in our beliefs in the doctrines and the mandates and the policies and procedures of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Our beliefs are outlined in what we call a Book of Discipline, and that is our guide as far as politics is concerned, However, we don't vacillate to and fro; we stand pretty firm. We're pretty concrete in what we believe, and we believe Jesus is the son of God in the unintelligible), and everything that comes with that. But we know we don't cross -- cross-breed is a bad term.
MS. MORRIS: So in the construction of your new church there has been no talk of black Jesus or anything like that.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: There has been no talk, because I haven't brought it to the floor yet. But I personally have a real problem with black churches that have white Jesus' hanging in their sanctuary. Not saying that that's not what Jesus look like, is some pope, but the (unintelligible) have very negative connotation. It's like, well we reject what we look like as being bad. But if you look in the Bible, if you search the scripture, and if you really scripture, you won't find a blonde head, blue-eyed Jesus hanging on the cross. It's inconsistent with Biblical description. It's inconsistent with the land in which he lived -- very much inconsistent. And I always tell my folk, if you want to get into black history, get into Bible. And so, no, we haven't put it to the floor yet, because I haven't brought it to the floor. But we won't have stained-glass windows with the "traditional American, Anglo-Saxon version of Jesus" in the church.
MS. MORRIS: You won't?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: (Unintelligible). That's not who we are.
MS. MORRIS: So do you believe that black churches are the key to making positive changes in our community?
MS. MORRIS: Absolutely. It was in the past, it is in the present, and it will be in the future. (Unintelligible). As soon as we the church stop sleeping, as soon as we wake up -- we received the wake-up call. As soon as we wake up we can start bringing about some positive change in our community. But we're not going to bring about any change as long as we turn our head and bury our heads in the sand. I strongly believe the black church is the backbone in the black community; always has been.
MS. MORRIS: So what program has the church developed to address the urban issues?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Today they have not addressed any. It has not been a church that has been deeply rooted in community outreach ministry, other than -- No, I shouldn't say that. They are participants of the Share Program, and have been for quite some time, as a church that's there -- very giving church, very open church, full of heart, full of love. But because of building constraints they've been very limited in the development of outreach ministry, and that's what we're getting ready to move to, outreach ministry. I believe that at some point or another all churches have this invisible sign that hangs outside its doors that says, "for members only", and that's not the purpose of the church. What have they developed at this point? Other than participants in the Share Program, nothing. What we will be developing, hopefully a great deal. Quite a few youth live in that community, and there has been some efforts by Nicole Colbert and her mom, and a few other persons -- There have been some efforts to reach out to the youth, or at least be inclusive of the youth and activities at the church. I'm a firm believer in, you get the children, you'll get the parents. You get the children involved, eventually the parents will become involved. If you send your child to the church up the street -- Sunday school -- and your child comes home and says, "Mama, I'm in a play, and I have three lines to read", where are you going to be on the Sunday that child has to read those three lines?
MS. MORRIS: In church.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: You're going to be in church. So to date we haven't developed anything greater than Share, but it is in the works, and that's basically been because of building constraints.
MS. MORRIS: How about the men involved in church? I noticed the banner that you had out, that says, "St. Matthew C.M.E. Church Annual Men's Day: Men Taking Leadership Roles For Christ". Can you tell me something about that?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Our male numbers are not real large, but as you heard on Wednesday night, the male populist in the church period is not real large, not just our church, but church period. And different ones of us have different ideals as to why that it. My own personal idea is that I think that brothers -- their plight has been so intense and so fierce for so long until I think they've lost sight of God and his ability to care for him. You know how they continually pray for deliverance and deliverance doesn't come as they think they should; they kind of lose heart, lose faith. And it used to really anger me when I would hear black men say, this is what the white man did to us, and we were in slavery, and this is what the white man did to us.

And I would say to myself, well wait a minute now, were the history books wrong? I heard that black people were enslaved. I have yet to read where the black man was enslaved -- I heard black people were enslaved. That includes men, women, children, boys, girls; everybody. And so somewhere along the line I don't understand how it is the sister has been able to hold on to her faith, but the brother lost his. And so that's the thing that I -- Where are we? I guess we are no worse off than any other church, the black populist, male populist is low. Where would we like to be? Where every other black church is, where the populist is high. Why men don't take leadership roles? It's like they've adopted this defeatist attitude.

MS. MORRIS: Do you feel that the black church still has a role in empowering people?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Oh, absolutely. That's (unintelligible). And it's not just. And that's something that I try to make persons understand. God is concerned about all of us, every fiber of our being. Not just the spiritual us but the psychological us, the physical us, the emotional us, the mental us. He's concerned about all. What he wants is well-rounded Christians, the whole, happy in him, in all aspects. So, I think to just try to deal with us spiritually -- that's not the only part of us. You can be spiritually high and an emotional wreck. You could be spiritually high and a mental disaster. Or physically your body is just turning in on itself. But I think we have to find a way to touch persons' lives in all aspects; show persons that God is available, not just in the spiritual plane, but all the other planes, and he's concerned about every fiber of your being. It seems like the only two places that we give him credence is spiritually and physically, because folk can tell you about when they were physically ill and how the Lord (unintelligible).

It's a difficult -- We've painted God into this little corner, and he's bigger than that corner can hold, and it's time for us to let him out. And he's concerned about all aspects of our being.

MS. MORRIS: What do you see as the role of black women in the black church, and what is the role of women at St. Matthew Church?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: I see the role of black women as any other (unintelligible). We don't have certain offices. Certain things we can or cannot do. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. One of the male populists' favorite writers when they want to deal with women and want them to be silent in the church, or not have such a dominant role or a role of leadership is that, they always refer to Paul when Paul says that the women are to keep silent in the church.

They take it all out of context. But I refer to Paul -- Paul was the writer who says, that we worship God in truth and the spirit. There is no male or female in the spirit. And so when we come before God we're just a mere spirit. And so the women at St. Matthew can hold whatever office they choose. When I say they choose; they choose, God has chosen for them, or wherever their gifts, their grace and their talents lie. But I think as a people, I think as a church we need to get away from that sexist, segregationist, slave master mentality, field nigga', house nigga' mentality. We really need to get away from that because it is destroying us as a people. So I see the women at St. Matthew being all they can possibly be for Jesus in whatever capacity that is; whatever office that is. And the same true for the men.

The role of women in the church -- Well, let us be honest. If we pulled all the sisters out of church I wonder how many churches would still be open. We are the church. We are the ones who kept the church doors opened, and our faithfulness is not something new. We've searched scripture and we understand -- really searched scripture, and nowhere in the Bible where you find that a woman ever betrayed Christ, denied him, or ever turned her back on him. It was the women at the cross when the brothers had fled. It was the women who he acknowledged on the way to the cross, from the cross. It was the women. It was the women in the cemetery that he greeted on Easter Sunday morning, and he said, go tell the men. So, what do I see their roles as? Whatever God would have them to be.

MS. MORRIS: That's so true. What has been your biggest contribution to the church for this year?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Of this particular church?
MS. MORRIS: Yes.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: One of my biggest biggest contributions -- effective leadership. And I say effective leadership because it brought about change, it caused folk to think about the process of how we do things. I am the first female pastor this church has had in what will be this year their 80th year. I have yet for anyone to come to me and tell me that they've noticed that there's any difference in how they're pastored by a female pastor or male pastor. When they refer to me they refer to me as pastor. I hope to have alleviated some fears, and put to sleep some myths -- not lies, but some myths -- as to how women are as effective leaders. Women are born leaders. That's not to say men are not, but by the same token, just as men are born leaders, that's not to say women are not. So I would say my greatest contribution this year has been effective leadership and I try to be a good pastor.
MS. MORRIS: What has been the biggest contribution that the church has made to you?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: It has challenged me to grow. It has challenged me to do what I was working on them to do, and that is, think through the process; think about the process; thing about how you do things; analyze the situation. It has made me fine tune my analytical skills. I am one who -- I have learned in life that it is better to keep your mouth shut and sit back and observe for a while. That's what I do. Analyze the situation. Test them waters before you leap in there head first. I guess the greatest contribution that the church has given me is that, in pastoring them it has been a year of joy. Some pastoralists are very difficult. Some folk are very hard to pastor. They can test who you are, let alone the "Reverend" in front of your name. So it has been a labor of love. But it has made me press on and grow to a higher height. When I entered the ministry, I was called an evangelist, not pastor. But I can't imagine my life not pastoring. I love pastoring because I love people, and I love to see change, positive change, come about in people's lives. I really do.
MS. MORRIS: So what do you see as the future at St. Matthew C.M.E. Church?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: St. Matthew the church, the building, there will be a new edifice; that's the building, but that's not the church. And I tell the folk this al the time. God won't give you a new building until it's a new church on the inside. It's almost like getting a new flask for wine,and you pour the wine in there. You understand what I'm saying. Would you pour sour wine in, or would you get the best wine that you had, from this beautiful flask, this beautiful decanter to hold wine. The same is true for the church. It may not be the best illustration, but the same is true for the church. I explain to them, what cause do you give God to give you a new building. You said new church. New church is not next-door. It hasn't been broken (unintelligible). The new church is over here. A new church is a new people with a new spirit. So what I envision -- I see the new edifice, but I don't confuse the edifice with the new church. The new church is being born right now; it's going on now. We're in the process of evolving and developing. And it is a church that is getting beyond it's fear of growth. Did you know folk are afraid to grow? Oh, yeah. Because see when you're open to growth you start tearing down tradition. Older folk has a bond with tradition. That's the way we've always done thing. That's the way the church works; that's the way the church operates; that's the way we do things, period.

Well, when you start to grow you challenge tradition; you challenge folks' power base, because the more folk you have, the more variety you have in an administrative capacity to select them. And folk may be in some positions that they are very comfortable with, but if they had more folk in there and greater competition they may not hold those positions. So, sometimes folk will build in barriers to prevent growth, and I will say that this is a church that is ready for growth. They are not building barriers to prevent growth. They're ready for growth; they really are. So the new St. Matthew I envision is five times that number, 525 -- five times or even greater. A number of outreach ministries. Not just outreach ministries in name. I don't like that "in name" stuff. It looks good on paper. It sounds good to talk about. "Oh, we have this ministry, oh, we have that ministry, and oh, we're doing this, and oh, we're doing that." Fine. But where are the results of the ministry? You understand what I'm saying? Where are the folk? Where are the folk who can testify that their lives are better because of this ministry? Where are the folk who can say they've moved from one point to another point because of this ministry? When I say viable, effective, outreach ministries, I'm not talking about this stuff that looks good on paper, and sounds good for folk to be standing (unintelligible) with people and say, and we have a food ministry where on Wednesdays we serve 500 people. That's good. You have 500 people this week. Now, what are you going to have next week, 600? And of that 600 it's the 500 of the same folk that's been coming week after week. So what I'm saying is, your numbers may increase, but if it's a productive and viable, effective ministry, while the numbers are increasing it will be increasing by new people and not growing from a base of the same old people. Somebody should be moving on up -- you understand what I'm saying -- if it's an effective ministry. And so, I see St. Matthew involved.

MS. MORRIS: Do they have any program for preserving the history of the church?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Present? No.
MS. MORRIS: You have no written historic --
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: We do. But now, what we're doing is pulling this together, because see, it's so scattered. It's everywhere. This person has a piece; that person has a piece. This person says, I have this back in 1925. We need to centralize that, because in the new St. Matthew I intend to have a glass case, hopefully that will chronicle the history of the church, the pieces of the church. One of our members has a ledger book in 1929 as to how much members paid on a given Sunday. In 1929 -- that's history. When they purchased the building, that piece of property -- because they built the building -- I understand that in the basement of the church they had coming out from the walls metal irons, chains, that held slaves captive.
MS. MORRIS: Really?
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Now I've got to find and see, did somebody take pictures of that. Where is it? And right next to there where all that open field is there was a house. Now I need to find out -- do you have a picture of the house. All of that is history. And when they were up on the hill; that's history. And so it's there, but now we've just got to get it and centralize it.
MS. MORRIS: Thank you very much for letting me interview you.
REVEREND DEGRAFENREID: Thank you for interviewing me. I hope I answered your questions candid.
MS. MORRIS: Oh, yes you did.

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