By Sherri L. Jackson
The Rev. Henry Williams Jr. is the new president of the Ministers of Economic Development, an entity created in 2004 to help build a positive environment that would bring about economic development in Alexandria.
Williams is pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Alexandria. The installation ceremony was held Sunday, June 6, at St. Matthew Baptist Church in Boyce. Dr. Joe S. Green is pastor.
“MOED will move beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary,” Williams said.
The organization began in 2004 when two ministers called Johnnie Varnado, the then newly elected president of the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce. The ministers were concerned about “the direction the Chamber would take to improve the economic condition of the community,” according to the group’s history. At that time, the ministers believed drugs, crime and rundown vacant housing were major issues for the community.
To begin addressing the problems, about 14 ministers agreed to begin preaching the same sermon at their individual churches. The sermons would focus on reverence for God, respect for parents and regard for the law.
“As long as we were preaching these topics, crime went down,” said Rev. Green. “Chief (Darren) Coutee didn’t believe it would work, but he had to come back to us to say that the crime statistics showed a decrease. As soon as we quit preaching those topics, crime went back up.”
Other programs MOED has been involved in include the Help, Hope Healing Project, which assisted Hurricane Katrina evacuees, Clergy in the Classroom, which provides ministers in the schools to monitor and counsel students and Ministry in ER, which provides ministerial services to patients and families at Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital.
During Sunday’s program, Elder Mark Vassar, the immediate past president, was the speaker. He emphasized the need for MOED, which is mostly comprised of black male ministers, to be more inclusive of all ministers, including women.
Williams echoed Vassar’s call to broaden its membership and to become more flexible and open to change.
The program also paid homage to Varnado, who MOED considers to be the “mother” of the organization.
Other officers are Willie J. Dunkley, chairman; Floyd Kirts, vice president; Averri LeMalle, second-vice president; Eugene Stevenson, secretary; and William Dearbone, treasurer. Attorney Michael Johnson serves as the legal adviser.
Program participants included Hollie Thornton, Mitch Daniels, and Elton Pody. Williams performed a saxophone solo.