Longest-serving pastor reflects on 46 years of leadership

Published 12:24 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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EDGARD — Pastor Vernon Alexander Sr. has toiled over Greater New St. Peter Baptist Church of Edgard for 46 years. At almost 87 years old, he is believed to be the oldest pastor in St. John the Baptist Parish and the longest-serving at a single church.

Through decades of change, Alexander’s dedication to the church has never wavered. Prayer remains at the forefront of his life, and he makes it known that he loves God and his brothers and sisters in Christ with all of his heart and soul.

His journey to the pulpit began when he was in the Navy out in San Diego, California. He was a young man surrounded by others who were unsaved at the time. Alexander’s pride was hurt when the other guys joked about his ego, claiming he was self-righteous and didn’t value others’ perspectives. Taking the criticism to heart, Alexander looked to the older preachers in his life for guidance and learned by example how to become an effective leader.

“Time went on, and I ended up doing things that preachers do. I got in the church and started preaching and teaching, directing the membership, being the overseer of the people,” he said. “A church that respects leadership is a strong church. A pastor rules over the members but doesn’t overrule them. I rule and guide them, but I don’t tell them what they need to do in their house and with their families.”

Alexander received a master’s degree from Union Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans. At 42 years old, he was elected pastor of Greater New St. Peter Baptist Church in Edgard, and he’s been with the congregation ever since.

“Now I’ve got Moses by six,” Alexander said. “Moses led his people for 40 years, and I’ve been leading for 46.”

Originally from Norco, Alexander moved to St. John Parish after he was married. He still resides in LaPlace, but he has a special appreciation for the slower pace of life in Edgard, reminiscent of an era gone by.

“I like the church and the area because of the people. These are loving people, kind people, easy and humble people,” he said. “In LaPlace, it’s a little more city-like.”

Alexander is thankful to those who have helped him along the way, including his wife, Yvonne Banks Alexander, and Sister Mildred Samuels, mother of the church.

In recent years, Alexander has continued to reach out to aging members of the congregation by recording services and allowing the sick and shut in to dial in.

Dayna Nicholas, Alexander’s oldest granddaughter, said she appreciates the example he has set for her family.

“I can always count on you to inspire me with good advice, and you always make my day just a little brighter, especially when we have our disagreements,” she told him.

Nicholas added that Alexander has always been eager to teach his grandchildren about life and the Bible. Even when it seems they aren’t listening, they hang onto every word he says.

An anniversary service will be held from 8 a.m. to approximately 11 a.m. Sunday, September 17 at the church, located at 200 W. Third Street in Edgard. Visiting pastor Kevin Fredericks will deliver the sermon.