Historic First Baptist Church welcomes first female deacon

IDLEWILD – In an age where leadership roles in the church are still typically occupied by men, more women are answering the call to serve. For the first time in Lake County, Arnelda E. Clark was ordained as the first female deacon at the Historic First Baptist Church of Idlewild.

“It’s such a joy to be a servant of Jesus,” Clark said. “And it is a privilege for me to be under the leadership of our pastor at the church, the Rev. Winston Welch. That has been a blessing to me.”

Clark was officially ordained as a deacon on June 29 in a ceremony held at the church. About 80 people, both from the community and church body, attended the formal installation.

“This is a milestone in the church’s history and for Lake County,” said Kathy Welch, the Rev. Winston Welch’s wife. “The deacon is usually a role traditionally filled by men, but as our pastor explained during the ceremony, as our spiritual needs continue to grow, our church is calling women to serve.”

Clark’s role as a deacon requires that she assist as a leader in worship activities, various ministry oversight and offer assistance to the Board of Deacons, who support the pastor in the general operation of the church.

“I love it,” Clark said. “I’m an educator, so to serve the Lord through teaching is a natural thing for me. I’m very excited.”

To become a deacon, Clark had to undergo an oral examination to test her Biblical knowledge. She underwent the examination after three months of study, and was required to take the exam in front of the church body, other pastors and the church’s deacons. She answered 25 questions about Bible scripture.

“It was really intense,” Clark said.

She was formerly installed on Nov. 10, 2013.

“When she underwent the questioning in November of 2013, she was so proficient in her answers,” Welch said. “It was just amazing to be able to answer the questions with the knowledge she had.”

Clark’s father, Deacon Charles Roxborough, also was a deacon at the church.

“It’s such a privilege for me to step into his shoes,” Clark said.

Clark is a certified teacher and holds a master’s in professional and school counseling. She also serves as the director of the church’s Sunday School Ministry. She has previously worked with the Baldwin Community School district and the GEO Michigan Youth Correctional Facility, formerly of Baldwin.

“The ceremony was wonderful,” Welch said. “It was a good cross section from both black and white people from different communities, people Arnelda has worked with and deacons from other churches. To see all the deacons there and all the ministers lay hands on her to pray for her was awesome.”

Clark is excited to continue her journey as a deacon.

“It’s such a privilege to be the first female deacon in Lake County, I take it very seriously,” Clark said. “I have goals and ambitions to one day do an internship with Joyce Meyer. She’s a pastor, has a TV ministry and does a lot of outreach; she’s very powerful, very scriptural. I would love to get to that capacity.”