CLAYTON — When Pastor Ray Carr stands before the members of his congregation each Sunday, he is looking out at a mostly white worshipers, save for his own family.
An immigrant from Saint Vincent, an island in the Caribbean, Carr is used to being surrounded by white people as a pastor in the Baptist faith; it’s the white congregants who sometimes aren’t used to being led by a black preacher.
After being turned away from a post at a church in Virginia because the search committee wasn’t comfortable having a black pastor for a white congregation, Carr found nothing but open arms at Baptist Center Church in Clayton.
“I was not discouraged,” Carr says of the experience. “I was very thankful for the opportunity and was willing to trust God and allow him to have his way through this, and he did, he opened the door.”
Working on his doctor of ministry at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, Carr was one of the pastors who rotated through Baptist Center Church while the church was without a pastor for the last two and a half years.
The congregation asked him to come back, and eventually asked for his resume and interviewed him for the position of pastor.
“Baptist Center Church is a testimony of the fact that not all Caucasians are the same, and that people are willing to move beyond color,” Carr said.
Up until he came to the church, it was 100 percent white. Now, along with his family, two African Americans have joined the congregation.
“Things are changing,” Carr said. “This is what I really admire about this church, the search committee said, you happen to be black, it doesn’t matter. They’re very open, realizing that the gospel is not just for one group of people but for everyone.”
Growing up on Saint Vincent, Carr had been a devoted member of the Anglican Church, and had dreamed of one day becoming an Anglican priest. After being invited to a service at a Baptist church, he began going regularly, attending the Anglican Church every Sunday at 7 a.m. and the Baptist church later at 11 a.m.
Eventually, he stopped going to the Anglican Church all together, finding himself caught up in what he called the warmth of the Baptist congregation and the way they preached the word of God directly from the Bible.
In 1991, a missionary serving on the island recognized Carr’s passion, and asked him if he would be interested in serving as a pastor at another church on the island. For the next 10 years, Carr served as the pastor of Glen Baptist Church in Saint Vincent before resigning to study in the states at the Baptist College of Florida, where he did his undergraduate study.
From the beginning, it was clear that the faith he had chosen left him as a minority, but Carr – and soon his children – got used to it. Now at Baptist Center Church, he said his children are perfectly comfortable, having been members of a 1,000-person congregation in Florida that was entirely white.
And the church is being particularly accepting of his wife, Deborah.
“The ladies of this church have gone above and beyond to make my wife feel welcome. It means so much to me living away from our country, our family and friends, it is very difficult, and they really have gone above and beyond. We have felt so loved and accepted by every person,” Carr said.
Now, Carr’s goal is to give Baptist Center Church a measure of stability after being so long without a pastor, and help his congregation in their spiritual growth.
“My main task is to feed the congregation here. I want the congregation here to first and foremost know God personally, know who they are in Christ, and to understand their mission as part of the church,” he said.
At the moment, he doesn’t have any plans for new programs, but he is excited about getting the church involved in missions worldwide.
“I don’t want to be the pastor that is busy running here and running there with programs, I want the church members to do that. I want them to be equipped so they can go out and serve.”