Local pastor celebrates 60 years of service to hometown church

HOUSTON – One of Houston’s oldest historically black churches is celebrating a milestone for a pastor who grew up at the church and served its members for 60 years.

Church members of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church celebrated the 60th anniversary for the Rev. Nathaniel Floyd Williams Sr.

Williams Sr. is the son of the Rev. M.C. Williams who served the church for 28 years before he passed away.

“I was raised in this  church and this community.  I rode horses in this community. I played and went to school in this community,” said Williams Sr. 

The church is located on Beal St. in the little Acres Homes neighborhood in Northwest Houston. Though Nathaniel Floyd grew up there, he would end up working in several towns including Beaumont, before he was called back to his hometown.

“I never wanted to pastor at my home church,” Williams Sr. said. “I wanted to pastor out of state of somewhere else.”

But for a man whose father and grandfather were religious leaders, God’s plan was to call William Sr. back home. His father, M.C. Williams passed away in 1958. The church would call upon William Sr. to come back and take over the church after his father’s death.

“My father was a community activist, and it was thrust upon me that this church was somewhat of the guiding light for community changes and things like that,” Nathaniel Floyd said.

Williams Sr. sought out to build relationships, fight for his community and combat crime.

“My inspiration was to be sure to make the community great,” Williams Sr. said.

Turning boys to men, he started a youth athletic program at the church, which attracted many boys in the community and their families.

“(The boys) needed activities. They needed direction,” said Williams Sr. “One of the criteria for our program was you had to be a Sunday school attendant. You had to have your parents as well as your pastor’s signature that you were worthy to play on the team.”

He also established a relationship with Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Constable’s Office to build a bridge between law enforcement and the community in hopes to increase fairness and safety.

“We had the right to stand anywhere 40 feet of any stop, if a cop made a  stop, to see what was going on, and to make sure the stop was made fairly,” said Williams Sr.  said. “We felt that there was sometimes disrespect between officers and our people. Our presence changed the way the interactions went.”

He said law enforcement would also confide in him and his family to help curb crime on the streets.

However, the center of his legacy was through his interpretation of the Bible and his sermons, which gave him opportunities to speak all over the world.

“I believe firmly in the Bible. I don’t deviate from that. I think that’s been my success,” said Williams Sr. said.

His church members celebrated his 60th anniversary last Saturday.

“What can I say about a man like Pastor Williams. He has been my stability. He keeps me focused,” said long time church member Deborah Bright.

“Sixty years is rare. Not many people these days live for 60 years but to be standing and preaching with power and clarity is really rare and very special to us,” the Rev. Carl Thomas, an associate minister with the church who planned the 60th anniversary gala. 

said Williams Sr.’s son is in line to succeed him, making for 3 generations of Williams at the church, which has been open for 95 years.

“I’m going to serve out these last few years serving the people that God gave me and do my best to keep this community moving,” Nathaniel Floyd said.

The church will have an Easter celebration Sunday and said Williams Sr. and his family will be leading the service.