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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 Rev. and Mrs. Anthony Motley
Redemption Ministry


Ms. Morris: State your name. 
REV. MOTLEY: Anthony Motley. 
Ms. Morris: Are you from the D.C. metropolitan area? 
Ms. Morris: You are? 
REV. MOTLEY: Yes, right here in southeast. 
Ms. Morris: Okay. What was the motivation behind creating Redemption Ministry? 
REV. MOTLEY: The need to address the concerns of young people about not going to church, not being able to attend church, for the lack of clothing, proper clothing. For the lack of transportation to go to churches that may be at a distance, and you know, for not having parental support before going to church. 
Ms. Morris: Okay. When was Redemption Ministry formed? 
REV. MOTLEY: We began the formation in October of 1993. 
Ms. Morris: Did Redemption Ministry grow out of an outreach ministry at another church? 
Ms. Morris: No, it didn't? 
Ms. Morris: Redemption Ministry is located in your home. Is there a reason for that? 
REV. MOTLEY: Well, yeah. When -- see, I believe in the power of God and the revelations that God gives us. We, as spiritual beings, have to be in tune, so that when God speaks to us, that we will, in fact, hear what God has to say, and then act on it. 

As a concern, as I stated before, the young people, and their inability to attend church for various reasons. I was in prayer about what to do, how to help the situation, and it was one morning, as I was preparing to go to church, the spirit of God spoke to my heart, and said that he knew that I was concerned about the young people and that I needed to start this ministry, and that I needed to do it as an open door ministry, come as you are ministry. 

No form and fashion. No traditionalism, you know, clothing and the like, you know. You don't have to have a shirt and tie to worship and to praise God. You don't have to be all dressed up in dresses and high heels to be respectful and to be acceptable. 

Children attending a youth service at Redemption Ministry.
And then in my way, I kind of, like, had a dialogue with that spirit that morning, with God, and God -- I said, "Well, where do I start this?" You know. Because I didn't have a building. I didn't have a church. I didn't have, you know, a building. 

And the spirit said, "You have this home." And then, what the spirit said to me was, in my heart, was that I gave you a home large enough plus you knocked out a wall last year. 

So we started right there. And we had knocked out this wall. That was a bedroom right there. And so the year before, in 1992 -- and I didn't know why I was knocking the wall out. I just -- the workman was over here to repair the wall, and I came downstairs, and I said, "Hey, knock the wall out." 

And he looked at me, and my wife came downstairs and looked at me. And I said, "I don't know why I said that, but just knock the wall out." 

And he knocked it out. So we had it as a -- it was like a little sitting area where, you know, we had wicker in there, and everything. And people would come over, and we'd sit in that area. 

And then when God revealed to me that I had knocked that wall out, he said that it was for a reason, that we would have the room to do ministry in this home. 

Then I went to the Scriptures, and I saw where the early church of Jesus Christ started in the home. They didn't have a big building. They started in people's houses. 

And so if God had revealed to me later that if this were to be a different type of ministry, if it was going to be a nontraditional ministry, if it was going to be a ministry that catered to the needs of people and we're sensitive to where we are, that we needed to have a home environment, because so much takes place in the home -- love, nurturing and all of that. 

And so since this was going to be different, he said, start it here. 

Ms. Morris: Can you give me an overview of some of the ministries and programs that comprise Redemption Ministry? Like, Christian education, music ministry, and your outreach evangelism? 
REV. MOTLEY: Oh, yeah. We have a pretty extensive ministerial operation that comes out of Redemption Ministry. For example, our Christian education ministry, which is headed by my wife, Minister Motley. She's also a school teacher. And -- a veteran teacher of twenty-three or twenty-four years. I've forgotten which one it is. 

She heads up our Christian education department, which teaches the Bible study, does the vacation Bible school, and other workshops during the course of the year. Also, the Christian education component does retreats for other churches. 

So we've assisted other churches, mainline churches, in preparing their leaders to be sensitive to the needs of the community, as well as the people within the congregation. We've done this for about six years. Even before starting Redemption Ministry, we were doing retreats. And after Redemption Ministry, we continued to do retreats. 

The Christian education also reviews all of our books and things that we want to order. Bibles, and other types of reading material to insure that it is in line with our basic theology, you know. And that is that God is the Father, Jesus Christ is the Son, and the Holy Spirit does, in fact, exist in each and every one of us. 

Then our music ministry is unique in that it is headed up by three young men. We have a Minister of Music, and he's quite young to be in that capacity. He's twenty-four. Then we have a musical arranger, who's twenty-three. And we have a music director who is twenty-three or twenty-four. 

So they're in that age range of young adults, and they head up our Music Ministry. Now, the Music Ministry has done some very terrific things, as far as allowed them to travel to New York, travel to Pittsburgh. They sang before the Gospel Music Workshop of minister this past summer, with one of our groups. We have several groups that do music ministry. 

The Sounds of Redemption, which is our female, vocal gospel group, they're the ones that have been in the studio. They're the ones that have travelled to Pittsburgh and sang before a vast audience of their contemporaries. Kurt Franklin, Donna Lawrence, Olanda Draper, Ricky Dillard. 

A typical worship service

These are gospel recording artists. So our young people had an opportunity to go and minister and song in Pittsburgh before a vast audience of people. 

As a matter of fact, on the 27th of this month, we'll be in concert up at Resurrection Church. It's our annual holiday benefit concert, and that's at Resurrection, at 3501 Martin Luther King Avenue, at 7:00 o'clock. 

And at this benefit concert, this is something that our music department has done for the past three years. We have, on an annual basis, a concert that benefits some program, whether it be here at this ministry, or be -- last year, we benefited the Howard Junior High School marching band. We heard that they needed uniforms. 

And we also benefitted the national children's center. We heard that there were children who were transitioning out of the children's center to public schools, and in that transition, there was a lack of money to help meet some of their transportation costs. 

So what we did was, we had a benefit concert, and we staged the whole thing. We do it all. And it doesn't cost us anything. We raise them, often for the church, the host church. We do a (inaudible) offering and then our young people are learning to give back. And so we display the entire music, artistic, media ministry that we have here. 

We have a younger generation, which is our male gospel group. They've bee in New York. They've ministered in song at the Kennedy Center, did a full concert there, in '93. And they're quite a group of young men. 

It is interesting that the young men that head up our music ministry, they -- that's the younger generation. And they are the musicians behind the girls, the Songs of Redemption. But then they can sing, too. So it's an interesting combination. 

We also have debuted our mass -- well, we haven't really debuted the mass choir. They've sung. As a matter of fact, they're going to be consecrated here next Sunday. We're going to consecrate the mass choir. And the consecration is the setting apart from the ministry to do -- to go out and do ministry, that they, in fact, are empowered by God to go and perform wherever. 

And that's their charge, to go and minister in song. So the mass choir, which I think it's about -- about forty people, young people, the young ones all the way up to the old ones that was in here yesterday, had rehearsal. 

So they're going to be debuting. We're going to debut the mass choir, as a matter of fact, on the 27th at the concert, which will be their first official coming out ask a group. And we're praying that God will use them, and take them as well. 

As a matter of fact, they've been requested to perform musically at -- Bernice King is coming in from Atlanta, Reverend Dr. Bernice King. And she's going to e here January 12th at Ballou High School. That's a Sunday program, and our mass choir has been requested to be part of that, as well as our girls. 

And then on the 17th, there's going to be a ward wide gospel program, and I believe -- I believe one of those groups are being asked to perform. I think maybe the guys are being asked to perform; I'm not real sure. 

But it just shows the depth of our music ministry, as well as it has an artistic component, which is, artistically, the ministry -- we do artistic renditions, where we have young people to give poetry, things that they've written, or even things that we might pull like Lanston Hughs or country color, you know, someone at during the service. So we make that part of their development. 

And then media, we have a media component, which consists of two young ladies, with the help of some young men from our ministry, but the young ladies are pretty much in charge of our sound and video. One of them is a recent graduate from San Diego State College in Telecommunications and Film. So she's director for media. 

Then we also have a youth choir, but it hasn't really taken form yet. So we kind of, like combined the youth with the adults, and created the mass choir for right now. So that's pretty much the music. 

Then we have the men's ministry. The men of redemption are a very strong component. It's headed up by one of our ministers, and they -- the men meet, like, once a month for a men's function, and it consists of Bible study. It consists of eating. It consists of doing those kind of things that would create a very good character, and a responsibility for manhood -- for Christian manhood. 

And watch videotapes. We get speakers, or presentations about what it means to be a Christian man. And also, the men meet once a week for basketball. We play up at the boys club up here. And we've been playing the Safeway team, so we've done that now for about six months, seven months every Thursday night, we play basketball. 

And you know, the men -- and I guess that's about it, what the men do for right now. Then we have our evangelistic outreach and social concerns ministry, which is headed by one of our female ministers, and who does the -- or coordinates the street ministry, which is our third Sunday of the month. We go out on the street. 

She also coordinates any other kind of outreach activities that we might be involved in, or might be involved in with other churches or ministries or other organizations. She's our contact person. And usually, someone from her ministerial department will, in fact, have some role to play, or be present, at some activity. 

And then social concerns, she heads up that area where we -- as a ministry, we might discuss the concerns of our community, and then we'll give -- whatever we determine might be an interest of ours at the time. We would then give it over to that part of our ministry, and they would develop it. 

For example, we're working on a peace summit, and we saw the need to do a peace summit amongst the young people from the various neighborhoods. And we've identified thirteen neighborhoods that we're going to go in and target the young men initially, and then later the young women. And we're going to have it at Liberty Temple AME church up on Alabama Avenue and Martin Luther King Avenue, on January 11th. 

And what we're aiming to do there is to bring the guys that pretty much everybody has written off, and said that they're the ones that's doing the killing. They're the ones that's selling the drugs. They're the ones that's on the corners. They're the ones that wear the Eddie Bauers. They're the ones that, you know, are robbing and stealing. 

That we're targeting them, and we're bringing them in on the 11th for a summit where there will be no media, no police. We want them to come as they are. We're going to ask them not to bring any weapons, and no drugs. We're going to ask them not to bring them. 

But we're going to talk to them, and we're going to share with them what God has given us as a ministry to them, in the hopes that somebody's life will be changed, and someone might, you know, ask what must they do to be saved. How can I turn my life around? 

Because most of our men come from the street, you know. Most of us -- myself, you know. I'm right off these streets here. And you know, I've got my stories to tell. And most of our young men in our ministry are right from the streets, and their lives have been changed. 

And so it's, like, we're giving it back, to try to reach out to those fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen-year-old that nobody else wants to touch, that people are afraid of. And we're saying that we're not afraid, and we've done some preliminary discussions with them, and they're interested in coming to sit, and just hear what we have to say. 

So we're organizing that now through our social concerns ministry. 

We have a youth ministry, and our youth ministry is very active. Our youth ministry pretty much takes care of our young people. We have, for example, our transportation ministry takes our young people back and forth to school during the day. Our van does not sit still, you know. We got it, we use it. And we have young people in our ministry who are transported back and forth to school on a daily basis. 

We have a service specifically designed for our young people. They have youth worship and prayers at 11:00 o'clock. So they will be here at 11:00. And through our youth director, they're led in Bible reading, worship, praise, singing, and testimony. And then at 12:00 o'clock, then, the adults come in. And some of the youths stay and participate in with the older, you know, the 12:00 o'clock service. 

But then we also have a service on Saturday night once a month for our young people. It's called Saturday lay night -- lay, meaning lay ministry. Where they come in and they sing and dance and read poems, develop short stories, tell stories about their lives, about the lives of other people, make up stories that they tell. And it's a very good experience for them. 

They also go places once a month. There's a coordinated effort to take them some place to a movie, bowling, roller skating. So that they can have function as well. Or just -- even just come together, talk, watch a movie, eat some popcorn, something. 

Then we have -- we have a new area of ministry now called our facilities and operations, which is headed up by one of our deacons, and that's a ministry that's responsible for making sure that the service is set up for Sunday, that everything is swept and mopped. The bathrooms are cleaned, and the new apartment building that we have site control over, that we're now beginning to get involved in renovating that, and having management control over that. 

Ms. Morris: Where is that? 
REV. MOTLEY: Down the street. And so our resident ministry that now has control responsibilities for that as well. 

Then we have our child care ministry, and that ministry is responsible for our after school program, along in conjunction with our Christian education ministry, where we have an after school program that we run from 4:00 to 5:30 Monday through Thursday. It's like a homework center. 

And so the van picks the kids up from school, and those who want to go to the after school program, they drop them off at the library, and the coordinator of the after school program, who is our child care coordinator, meets them at the library and then works with them, doing their homework, and making sure that they have all their assignments completed, and then the transportation -- the van takes the rest of the kids home. The ones that don't go to the homework center. 

So we average about thirteen kids after school, at the homework center. 

But then also, she's responsible for the day care kids that we have in day care, which is about four little ones that come into her charge, and so give support to make sure that their needs are met. And then she's also responsible for making sure that the services that -- see, when we're up here, there's another level downstairs, and that video camera over there will show the energies from here. And you can hear and see everything downstairs. 

Redemption Ministry holds an annual outdoor community service in a S.E. Washington, D.C. apartment complex.
And so a lot of times, the young people like to go downstairs and sit up here at the 12:00 o'clock service. So the child care coordinator takes care of that down there, making sure that the assignments, that people -- each ministry is responsible for a Sunday to be downstairs. Like Christian education and -- what Sunday are you responsible for, do you know? I guest you can say assignment. 

You know. You're responsible for making sure that the children are okay downstairs, and then the next Sunday, another. Like, the men might be responsible for making sure that the children are all right. 

Then we have the missions ministry. We have a missions director. Making sure that, for example, the needs of our membership are met, you know. People need food. They need shelters. They might need a utility bill paid. You know. Emergency situations. 

We also sponsor the SHARE program where, once a month, groceries are brought in, and there are people who sign up for the groceries, and so the missions department takes care of that, and make sure that's distributed. 

Ms. Morris: How many members do you have? 
REV. MOTLEY: How many members? About 180, around there. 

And then -- let's see. What else do they do? The mission department makes sure that we send flowers to funerals and the bereaved, and our sick, and shut ins are taken care of. They make sure that we give birthday cards out on birthdays, things like that. So that comes out of our mission department. 

And then we have also a theologian in residence. The theologian that we have is Reverend Sally Cuffy. She's a Ph.D. student in -- 

Mrs. MOTLEY: Union. 
REV. MOTLEY: At Union Theological Seminary in New York. And she's on staff. We help financially with her endeavor, and she helps us in terms of developing -- she acts like our ministry relations person. When she's available and in town, she works with our different churches in coordinating meetings and things like that, especially as we were developing the package for the building on Atlanta Street. She was the lead person in doing that. 

She also is responsible for the development of the ordination of our ministers. So that's pretty much it. 

Ms. Morris: Your outreach is different in the aspect that the congregation actually walks out in the neighborhood and hands out tracts instead of going, into a distant neighborhood? 
Ms. Morris: What's the purpose for that? You just wanted to stay in the neighborhood, in the community? 
REV. MOTLEY: Stay in the neighborhood. We're -- the ministry for outreach, she says that, at some point, she wants to go just a little further, but we don't want to go too far, you know. We want to stay right in a certain area. 

It's pretty much based on, like a Catholic parish concept, you know, where in the Catholic Church, each church is responsible for a certain block radius, or certain square mile radius. And they stay within that radius, you know, and then the next church is responsible for the next square mile radius. 

And you know, it's -- you know, instead of us going all over the place, you know, we say, "Let's focus right around in the area where we are, because this is, you know, home." 

Ms. Morris: Could you tell me what has been the biggest challenge for Redemption Ministry? 
REV. MOTLEY: The biggest challenge? The biggest challenge. The biggest challenge. What would you say would be the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge. 

The biggest challenge. 

Mrs. MOTLEY: As a ministry, I wouldn't see it necessarily as a challenge. I think individually, just dealing with the pressures of the world, and how it impacts upon the striving Christian that's trying to live holy, as the Word asks us to. Just struggling with day to day temptations. 

But as a ministry, I don't feel like we -- God has enabled us to do everything that he's asked us to do. So. 

REV. MOTLEY: [Inaudible]. 
Ms. Morris: Where do you see Redemption Ministry in the next five years? 
Mrs. MOTLEY: In another edifice. [Laughter] 
REV. MOTLEY: [Inaudible]. 
Mrs. MOTLEY: I envision the role of Redemption in this community acting as somewhat of the heartbeat of a village, as reverend talked about staying around in this particular area, I feel like if we can reach out and give the salvation call to our neighbors, and then the folk on the next street, and then the next street, the -- and God surprised us with the needs of this little area. It will be like the heartbeat or the pulse of this particular community, and we'll know, you know, who has needs of what, and they'll know that there's someone who can hear. 

Just growing. Just the body growing and reaching out, like -- as a web. 

Ms. Morris: Last question. What has this ministry contributed to your personal and spiritual life? 
Mrs. MOTLEY: Do you want to take that? 
REV. MOTLEY: Personally, you know, it's like you wind up giving so much to the ministry, that it's just -- and then I guess just to see the results in people's lives, the change that occurs. Personally, like, you know, to know that one life is changed, one life has been -- you know, we had a situation once where we had an attempted suicide, and they reached out to us at the point of committing the act -- overdosing with pills. And we responded. 

I called her and told her, I said, "This is what's going on. Meet me." And when we got there, they had already started to, you know, black out. And so I caused regurgitation, got my hand down her, and [inaudible]. The only thing I knew to do. 

And now, that person's life -- that person's life has changed, to the point now where they're one of our strongest members. 

Mrs. MOTLEY: [Inaudible]. 
REV. MOTLEY: You know. And just to see that occur. At one point, feeling so hopeless and helpless that you're willing to take your life to the point now where, you know, you're strong, you're vibrant, you're out in the community, talking to other people about life, giving other people hope. 

So personally, that just makes my day. 

And then spiritually, it has caused me to pray more, to make sure that I'm reading like I should. You know. My Scriptures as well as other ancillary material. 

And it has helped me to form a theology that is one based on actual practice rather than taking it from a text, and so I have -- you know, I've been doubly blessed, that I can go now into even the halls of academia and speak to issues that pretty much a lot of people have been wedded to the text, to understand, and to dialogue about, where I can come now from actual experience and say that -- you know, and I'm not just talking about church, you know, building experience. 

I'm talking about actual street experience, and how, you know, God has moved in the lives of people. So spiritually, I've been blessed in those areas. 

Mrs. MOTLEY: I'd like to echo what he said. To see the growth in other people. When you saw them, when you first met them, in many cases, especially those that came in with either little or no prior Christian involvement whatsoever. And to see, as they study, and they're closer to God, to see their whole persona, their whole expression, their whole energy level just change. 

And then the sense of responsibility for myself, realizing that whether I like it or not, or want it to be so, I'm a role model for many of those that are striving towards some level of whatever they perceive to be, some level of growth, or some level of achievement. And because of that, I find it a great responsibility to keep my mind focused, keep my eyes on the word of God. 

I'm also excited about how, as we go through the Bible and, in all true -- although I've read much, if not most of those books, as we read them now, going through Bible study, it almost looks like a script of present day, and to see God's word just have a present day impact on our live, and for us to be able to have some direction and a promise of some certainty of how God is going to respond is exciting to me, and to have people come back and almost express what they read, and how they applied it to their lives, and how God did exactly what he said he would do, is just most exciting for me. 

And even to just see the excitement in their eyes, because, to a great degree, people do things out of -- "Well, this is what you told me to do, and this is what the Word says," almost in sort of a shaky -- I don't want to say doubt, but almost like it's too good to be true, and yet, when they see it come alive, it's just such a reassurance and such an excitement. 

So I'm excited about what has been happening in the lives of the people that god has blessed us to touch, and I'm excited by what are you doing even in our life and in our lives. I don't think we could be closer. 

This is as great time to be alive for us, and I'm enjoying what I've seen God mold in my husband. I don't know -- I know where he gets his energy. I know where he gets his stamina. I know where he gets his love for people. 

But just to see it in him is just rewarding to me, because I've known him since he was, you know, in junior high school, and just to see who this person has grown to be, you know, is most exciting and fulfilling for me. 

Ms. Morris: Thank you very much. 
Mrs. MOTLEY: Thank you. 
REV. MOTLEY: Thank you. 

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