Longest serving pastor of Wayman A.M.E. soon to retire


Rev. Dr. Alphonse Reff (l) and Eric Mahmoud (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Rev. Dr. Alphonse Reff, Sr. of Wayman A.M.E. Church in North Minneapolis, along with Dollie Dimple Foster and Rev. Charles J. Foye, recently received honorary doctorates from Saint Thomas Christian University-Twin Cities Campus.

Saint Thomas COO Dr. Sharon D. Ross said during the school’s May 20 commencement at Shiloh Temple International that the three were unanimously recommended by the regents because of their longtime community service.

Set to retire in September after 33 years as Wayman senior pastor — Reff is the longest serving pastor in the church’s 98-year history — the honorary doctorate is among many celebratory recognitions and testimonies he has received, including a congratulatory letter from former President Barack Obama, before he left office in January. Both Twin Cities mayors also honored Reff, and A.M.E. Council of Bishops President and Fourth Episcopal District Presiding Bishop John White also honored him when he spoke at a retirement celebration held in late April.

“This degree, this honor” is humbling because it comes from the community, stated Reff as he accepted the honorary degree. “I thank the community for recognizing me. The name of Alphonse Reff will go down in history because you made history for me.”

During Reff’s leadership, the church mortgage was retired in 1998 and major renovations to the sanctuary and undercroft were completed in 2003. He also was named the St. Paul Minneapolis District inaugural presiding elder in 2004 and oversees 10 churches located in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Apple Valley, Duluth, and in Iowa (Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Fort Dodge). He will step down from this position as well when he retires later this year.

Over the years, Rev. Reff has participated on many local boards and projects for the betterment of the community. He and Harvest Network of Schools Founder and CEO Eric Mahmoud in 1999 formed a collaborative between a church and a school. “Rev. Reff has been supportive of our school ever since we have been at Olson Memorial Highway,” recalled Mahmoud. “He was the one that allowed us to build the building and supported our students so that the community could benefit.

“He made a tremendous impact on the community. Even when I was having personal challenges, he would support me. I can’t thank him enough,” said Mahmoud.

“He has done an outstanding job,” said Rev. Jesse Griffin, a Saint Thomas Christian regent, pastor of True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis and a longtime friend of Reff. He told the MSR, “Our friendship has lasted over 35 years, and we have fellowshipped down through the years. I’m proud of him.”

“I am blessed” to be honored, said Reff to the MSR afterwards. “I am very appreciative of the community and the people recognizing me while I am living, and giving me my flowers while I can smell [them]. You always have to give praise to the people for what they do for you, because they don’t have to.”


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