When it comes to working in the ministry, the Rev. Dr. Sylvester Washington approaches each day with enthusiasm. In his opinion, there is no greater joy than serving God and His people.
Washington, who just completed his 46th year as a pastor, serves as the spiritual leader of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, a congregation in South Los Angeles. The road to his current assignment was not one that he sought, but over the years, has been quite rewarding.
“I’m still excited about the pastorate and about the ministry. I was not looking to be a pastor, but it has certainly been an awesome experience for me,” he said, adding that his prior spiritual ambitions was limited to singing.
As a young adult, Washington was (and still is) a member of Praises of Zion Baptist Church where he sang in the Mass Choir. However, in 1967, he accepted the call to preach and sought the counseling of his pastor, the Rev. Dr. Joseph B. Hardwick.
Under Hardwick’s tutelage, Washington was ordained in April 1969. Events in his life moved rapidly after that as he was appointed as an associate minister at Praises of Zion. Within four months, the Pleasant Hill congregation offered Washington the position of senior pastor where he continues to serve with passion.
Crediting Pleasant Hill’s congregation with assisting him in the early years, Washington recalled, “As a young man, I was fortunate to be a good listener and the people at Pleasant Hill were there for me, especially older people who helped me to become a pastor. I learned that’s it is important to respect the voice and opinions of those whom you are leading.”
Throughout his long ministry, Washington has rallied his members to reach beyond the church walls to positively impact the community. The church’s outreach ministries include regular blanket drives and food distributions to those in need as well as after-school care for youth and programs for seniors.
Ministry training is another area of emphasis for Dr. Washington, who completed courses at Fuller Theological Seminary, the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies, and Providence Baptist Seminary, where he received his Doctor of Divinity in 1983.
As the executive director of the Pleasant Hill School of Evangelism, Washington said, “We offer certificated Christian Education classes that elevate students to an appreciative level of discipleship and a point of personal Christian commitment.”
In addition, Dr. Washington serves as executive director of the National Evangelism Movement, Inc., founded in 1979 by the Rev. Dr. Rocellia Johnson, then-pastor of Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles. The organization, comprised of hundreds of churches in the U.S. and Canada, develops strategies and programs to aid congregation in witnessing for Christ.
Working in the ministry has proven to a perfect match for Washington, who said he has no plans to slow down. As for the future, he insisted that he will keep concentrate on Christ.
“I will continue to focus on Psalm 23 and understand what it means when it says, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ That’s what I anchor myself in. I keep Him in front of me.”