By Charles Hallman
Alphonse Reff, Sr. accepted the call to ministry in 1962. “I thought I could do some other things other than [being a minister],” admits the reverend, adding that ever since he took “a whipping from God, He whipped me into shape, and for 50 years I’ve been trying to tell the whole story.”
Both the community and his church, Wayman A.M.E. Church, where Reff has pastored for nearly 30 years, and others helped celebrated his 50 years in ministry during a three-day celebration last September. He received proclamations from both Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak among the best wishes expressed to both him and his wife Janice, who he married in 1963.
“He has been a leader in the community for years now, and we are just grateful to see folk coming out and recognizing his leadership,” noted Rev. James Moody of Chicago.
“It was just my honor to be here, to this great celebration and gathering with these wonderful people,” said AME Senior Bishop John R. Bryant, who was the featured speaker at a service given by the St. Paul Minneapolis District — Reff was appointed presiding elder when it was founded in 2004.
Reff and Eric Mahmoud created a collaboration between Harvest Preparatory School and Wayman Church three years after the school moved next door to the church. On the partnership, the school founder said, “It has been wonderful. We just appreciate his leadership.”
“We’ve been friends and supported each other in our ministries,” added Rev. Jessie Griffin, who in November celebrated his 34th anniversary as pastor of True Vine Missionary Baptist Church. The two men annually preach at each other’s church anniversary celebrations.
“When I first heard he was called to the ministry, it was like, ‘Oh, no!’”recalled Mrs. Reff of her husband — she had earlier made a vow to not to marry a minister. “It must’ve been God that wanted me to be who I am today, a minister’s wife. I have no regrets about that.” She fully appreciated the show of love — “all the accolades [of] the work that my husband does [that] sometimes goes unnoticed,” she pointed out.
“I am not the same preacher” as when he first started back in his native New Orleans 50 years ago, noted Reff. “I was trying to find my place, my style. Eventually God has to let you know. You can’t imitate somebody [else]… God has to give you your style.
“Some people say I’m a better teacher than preacher, and some people say I’m a better preacher than teacher. But I try to do both — I try to preach and teach. I teach [from] the informational perspective, to inform the people,” said Rev. Reff. “Then I preach inspirational, to inspire them.
“I don’t want to be known [as] a famous preacher,” he said. “I want to be known as a preacher who was not afraid to preach the Gospel. The one thing that I want to be known for is that for all of my mistakes, I still try to preach the Gospel.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-record er.com.