At least that’s how Debbie Curtis, member of Broadway United Methodist Church, sees the reverend. “He walks the walk,” says Debbie as she exits the Sunday service.
Reverend Joe Beal has been in the ministry for 35 years and was appointed pastor of Broadway Methodist in June 2010. His message of love is what he is associated with most, but his role as the first black preacher for this predominantly white church is also notable.
Like any new appointment, Brother Joe and the congregation began with a bit of apprehension.
“We had our legitimate fear of the unknown. Without discussing it, I think that we decided to trust each other and each give the other a chance. It was new, different, and unknown for us both. Neither of us decided to base our judgement of the other solely on the color of our skin, but rather on how we would treat each other. Sadly, however, racism exists in our country and in our world. I am grateful to be part of a congregation that is trying to create a climate of love, trust, and respect among all people,” says Brother Joe.
When Debbie Curtis calls Brother Joe “the real deal,” she says it is because his love is genuine.
“To love others not professionally, not in word only, but to love them ‘for real,’” says Brother Joe.
Brother Joe recently announced he would be leaving “the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of [his] life” because of an ongoing battle with diabetes. While he will no longer serve in the pulpit, he plans to remain as active as he is able with the congregation.
Pastoral Ministries Assistant John Sparks says that there simply are some people you can’t replace.
“There is a tendency for any church to see itself more as an organization than an organism. Brother Joe helped Broadway by providing a fresh vision of compassion,” says John.
There are new realities in the community, like homelessness and mental illness, that John believes will require the vision Brother Joe has brought to Broadway.
“It’s by being able to see through a lens that sees everyone as being part of something bigger that we can reach out to them and that we can be reached by them as well. To continue to live into that spirit that he walked is not only a challenge but an opportunity, especially in this neighborhood. He opened a lot more doors for those opportunities,” says John.
As John takes over the daily administration of the church, Brother Joe has a few words of advice.
“To love unconditionally…and to realize that the success or failure of the congregation is not on his back, but on God’s; to remember that his name is “John” and not “Atlas;” to remember that the Church is of God and will be until the end of time; and lastly, to remember how much he is loved by God, his family, me, and the congregation,” says Brother Joe.
And the congregation will forever love their Brother Joe.