The Rev. Walter Arrington, senior pastor of Peoples Baptist Church at 701 17th St. SE, is set to celebrate his 25th anniversary in the pulpit. Peoples is the first and only church Arrington has ever pastored.
Comedienne Lily Tomlin once said that if every adult became what they wanted to be as children, “the world would be filled with firemen, ballerinas, cowboys and mommies.”
The Rev. Walter Arrington says he knew he would be a preacher.
“I knew at 7,” he said. “I just knew it, I felt it, I heard it in my heart and spirit: This is what I was going to be doing.”
Next week, the senior pastor of Peoples Baptist Church at 701 17th St. SE will celebrate his 25th anniversary in the pulpit.
Peoples is the first and only church Arrington has ever pastored.
“The Lord put me here,” Arrington, who arrived at Peoples on the first Sunday in May 1986, when he was 31.
Prior to Peoples, Arrington served for five years under his father, the Rev. Edward Arrington Sr., as assistant pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Massillon.
His father’s best advice?
“Preach,” Arrington replied. “He told me to preach and be faithful.”
Arrington, who considers himself a “preacher” who also happens to be a pastor, entered the ministry at 27. Coincidentally, he delivered his first-ever sermon on the first Sunday in May 1981.
“Every minister is not necessarily a pastor,” he said. “In the preaching ministry, he (minister) is called to speak to people on God’s behalf. His job is one of helping and encouraging them to fulfill the purpose to which God has created them. Pastors tend to the flock and build on the kingdom through witnessing, teaching and training.”
A native of Massillon, Arrington is one of seven children and is one of two sibling pastors. His brother, Edward II, is an associate pastor at Peoples.
Arrington said his quarter of a century in the pulpit at Peoples has been both challenging and rewarding.
“It’s a challenge to get people to walk by faith and trust God,” he said. “What’s most rewarding is when you see that they do.”
In 1986, Arrington was not even in the running to succeed the Rev. William H. Cotton, who pastored Peoples for four decades. Members wanted a minister with pastoral experience, and Arrington expected to be called to a church in Pennsylvania. He had been preaching at Peoples as a fill-in and to serve Communion, but he held no administrative duties. But when someone nominated him as a candidate, he won 60 percent of the floor vote.
“I didn’t tell anyone but in my own spirit and mind, I sensed it might happen, that he (God) called me here. Whatever God wanted.”
Arrington jokes that even though he’s a Massillonian, he’s been embraced by Cantonians.
Page 2 of 2 - “God wanted to get them saved, so he used a tiger to do it,” he said laughing.
“He’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever known,” said Gloria Jackson, a secretary at Peoples for 17 years.
Cleo Lucas, a lifelong member at Peoples, agrees.
“He is such a giving person, above and beyond what you would even expect for a minister,” she said. “He gives of his time, his finances, and sometimes I’m just amazed at what he does for people. That’s just so much of his personality. He just gives and gives and gives.
“It’s amazing how fast it’s gone,” Arrington said. “This is a tremendous church. I’ve told them there’s no place else I’d rather be. There have been some tough times, but they’ve been a cakewalk compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard about other churches. God has blessed me with these people. They always rise to the occasion.”
At 10 a.m. Sunday, Peoples will culminate Arrington’s anniversary with a worship service, with guest speaker, the Rev. M. L. Cunningham of Elyria.