Greene celebrates 40 years at Fourth Street

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 20, 2003

NATCHEZ &045;&045; His 40 years as a minister have been a partnership with his people, a sharing of joys and sorrows and growth in the love of Christ’s teachings, said Windell Greene, who celebrates this year his calling to lead a congregation in 1963.

&uot;You cry together, laugh together; you’re there for weddings, funerals, when kids are born, when troubles come and in the lonely times,&uot; said Greene, pastor of Fourth Street Church of Christ. &uot;There’s a bond that takes place. You see children grow up and have their own children. How many generations have there been? This has been marvelous.&uot;

Greene is not ready to step down from his work in the church, but he does have a plan. &uot;I want it to be like a relay race,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t want to wait until I can barely get one foot in front of this other. In this race, I want to be running when I pass the baton.&uot;

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The passing of the baton may be to his son, Dwight Greene, who now is serving as assistant pastor while he attends school to get a master’s degree in theology.

&uot;That passing of the baton will still have to be a decision this church will make,&uot; Windell Greene said of the transition at the time of his retirement, which he expects to be in several years.

&uot;It will not be something they do because I told them to do it. And perhaps after my son finishes his degree, it will not be exactly what he wants.

&uot;Time will tell.&uot;

At any rate, the elder Greene wants to leave the church position knowing that a person who has been trained in all the complexities of modern ministry will follow him.

His association with the congregation at Fourth Street began when the church was blocks away on Woodlawn Street.

The small church there, where he and his wife for a while occupied an apartment in the rear of the building, seated 100 in the sanctuary. And classroom space was scarce.

&uot;We grew slowly but surely until 1978, when we moved to come here,&uot; Greene said. &uot;This sanctuary seats about 300. We have two parking lots and so many wonderful classrooms. We have had tremendous growth since we moved.&uot;

Greene was a teacher in the Concordia Parish, La., school system when he received the call to Woodlawn Avenue Church of Christ.

The small congregation at first was not able to pay a salary that allowed him to become a full-time minister, but together he and the congregation had that dream.

In 1985, the dream became reality, when the congregation told him they were ready and able to support him full time.

&uot;It wasn’t easy at the beginning,&uot; he said. &uot;And I am very proud of them for doing this.&uot;

From the beginning of his relationship with the congregation, Greene had several definite goals. One was to be the pastor of only one church &045;&045; that one.

&uot;I wanted to be of service to one church, to one people; I wanted them to know me and I would know them. I wanted to be there for them and they would be there for me.&uot;

Indeed, in the 40 years, the giving and receiving have gone both ways, he said. &uot;There have been times I needed them. Some of the older, more experienced members of the congregation were there to help me. It has been a give-and-take thing.&uot;

Greene and his wife, Elnora, reared five children, all now grown and all successful adults, he said. Setting an example as a husband, father and family man was another of his goals in the church.

&uot;I wanted them to see me as a good family man and a loyal, faithful husband,&uot; he said.

&uot;I did not want to walk about with a holier-than-thou attitude. But there is an elevated moral standard preachers must be held to.&uot;

Through his example and through his teaching of Christian concepts, Greene always has sought to show appropriate priorities in life choices &045;&045; not to condemn someone who made a bad choice but to show young people that they can break cycles of improper behavior.

&uot;I saw a lot of need for moral teaching, and that has been my mission. I wanted to make an impact,&uot; he said. &uot;I try to tell them that God is not so interested in the mistakes of the past but in what you’re going to do in the future.&uot;

Greene has not shunned controversy, in the pulpit or in the community. He won a reputation for calming racial tensions during the late 1980s, when a boycott of white-owned businesses called by a group of black leaders rose to a chilling crescendo.

&uot;We had a challenge to bring both sides together,&uot; Greene said. &uot;The ministers of this community needed to be a buffer between the black political leaders and the business leaders and others in the community.&uot;

His and other ministers’ diplomacy helped to end the crisis. &uot;When we finally came to the end of it, both sides knew I’d do what was right for the entire community,&uot; he said.

The other church leaders asked Greene to speak at what was billed as a unity gathering when the boycott ended. &uot;The community Thanksgiving program grew out of that,&uot; he said.

In the Fourth Street church, Greene sees a promising future. He takes comfort in the many lay leaders who have stepped up to lead the many ministries now active there.

&uot;That blesses me, to see so many people working. It’s not just what I can do, but what I can encourage, minister and nurture so they can function without me.&uot;