Pastor and wife celebrate 25 years at North Minneapolis church


It’s rare indeed for a pastor to serve a quarter-century at one charge, especially in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), where pastors are appointed to their respective churches for one year at a time.

Rev. Alphonse Reff, Sr. in 1984 was appointed pastor of Wayman A.M.E. Church in North Minneapolis. He and his wife Janice have served there faithfully ever since.

“When we moved here,” Janice Reff points out, “he [Rev. Reff] said that he wanted to retire from Wayman. That was our goal and plan when we came here.

And if the Lord lets him live, hopefully he can retire from here.”

The Reffs are celebrating their 25th anniversary at Wayman. The church has designated September 21-25 as “Pastor & Wife Appreciation Week” and culminates the week’s activities with “Pastor & Wife Appreciation Day” on Sunday, September 27.

“It has been a joy for 25 years,” says Pastor Reff, who formerly served as pastor of St. Mark’s AME in Duluth before relocating to the Twin Cities in the mid-1980s. When the appointments were being handed out, Wayman was the last church he thought he would be named as pastor, Reff recalls.

Admittedly, it was an adjustment moving to a new church, but says proudly, “I have no regret and haven’t looked back one day.”

Located at 1221 Seventh Avenue North since 1966, the church’s mortgage was retired, and the sanctuary and undercroft have been renovated under Reff’s leadership. In addition, Wayman has been involved in two educational collaborative ventures: a partnership with Harvest Prep School, which involved building an educational wing shared by both the church and the school; and Richard Allen Math and Science Academy, a charter school for grades 6-8 that began in September.

“When I came here, [the church’s property was] almost like an open field,” notes the pastor. “Now we just about own the block.”

Also, not only has church membership has grown, but “the spirituality of the people” has increased as well, says the pastor. “[The congregation] realize that I was not afraid to try things, and they were open to that,” he continues.

“We have gone as far as 50-60 members in the choir,” adds Mrs. Reff, a gifted soloist in her own right.

But as Wayman has changed over the course of 25 years, so has he, admits Rev. Reff, who also was appointed presiding elder when the St. Paul-Minneapolis District of the AME was formed five years ago. “I don’t preach the same sermons as I did 25 years [ago] or listen to the same music,” he notes.

Finally, the Reffs both admit that seeing themselves in their present position for another quarter-century might be a stretch. “I wished that I could be around the next 25 years,” he joked. “I have to take my life one day at a time.”

“God is blessing Wayman,” Mrs. Reff concludes.

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