SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO, Patricia Holder walked away from a well paying job to take up pastoral ministry in the United Holy Church of America for a meagre stipend. She had taken a leap of faith, responding to a strong “pull” to go into full-time ministry. It was a decision that shocked her employer.
Only months before, Patricia had landed the job in the private sector after being laid off from one she had previously held for 14 years. In an interview with the SUNDAY SUN, she recalled the day she walked into the office of the financial controller and announced she would be quitting. “I got up from my desk and walked straight to the financial controller’s office and said, ‘I am resigning at the end of May when the financial audit is finished’.”
The immediate response was naturally: “Why?” After all, the former secretary who was now performing very well in accounts had come to the organisation highly recommended by a previous employer and had already proven herself. What’s more, she was making the announcement in May, five months after joining the organisation.
But Holder’s decision was just another step along the path that she feels was divinely laid for her, and not even an attractive offer of a salary increase or persuasion to stay from the owner of the company himself would change her mind. Now she says: “I don’t even know how I got where I am, but as I look back I can only recognise that God was leading me all along, because you do not realise where he is leading you, but as you follow you realise this is where he was bringing you all along.”
On May 6, Pastor Patricia Holder will be consecrated a bishop in the United Holy Church of America at a ceremony in Greensboro, North Carolina, becoming only the third female to be elevated to bishop in that organisation. Another woman, American Carolyn Horton, also being consecrated bishop on that day, will be the fourth.
First was the late Bishop Jestina Gentles who with her late husband Bishop Harry Gentles, led the Mount Olive United Holy Church of America in Carrington’s Village, St Michael. Holder was raised in the United Holy Church of America by parents who were themselves outstanding members. Her father was pastor of one of the churches, her mother an elder and her brother is currently an elder. “I believe my greatest influence came from within the home – my parents.”
There were other influences like Bishop Jestina Gentles, and Sunday School teacher Elder Jessica Clarke in the teen years. Holder first served in the pastoral ministry along with her parents at the Evangel Tabernacle in Melrose, St Thomas, while working in the private sector. “I must confess I felt the call of God on my life to go into full-time ministry before 1993 . . . but looking at my children . . . one in college, one in secondary school, my husband . . . [who she said was working but without the kind of job stability she had],” she put full-time ministry on hold. Circumstances forced her to bow to her financial obligations to her family at that time.
“But in 1993 something just propelled me to go into full time ministry and I remember saying to God, ‘Lord I know you have called me and if I go into this ministry, I am not going to ask anybody for anything. I know your Word said ask and it shall be given’, and I have never had to ask anybody for anything since.”
Today Holder is pastor of the Mount Hermon Church in Grenville Way, Cave Hill, a church currently with a membership of 101 that has been recognised as the fastest growing branch of the United Holy Church of America here.
Desire to win souls
“My heartbeat is to win souls into the kingdom. I know that the vision of the late Harry Gentles was to plant churches in Barbados, and he did so. “But that would not be my vision now. I personally would rather like to see what we have expand and grow.” She is careful to point out this is her personal vision, rather than that of the local president. Her style is to embrace members of her church, especially those who run afoul of the church. “We all know the moral fabric of the society around us has weakened, even in the church.
“When I was growing up there were these pastors who were strict, who would tell members of the congregation not to come back to church until they cleaned up their act.” Her approach is to let such people in and hope “when they come they hear a word from the Lord that will cause them to change their behaviour”. At the same time, she makes the observation: “I find that it seems as though people’s hearts are so hardened against the Word that no matter how hard you teach, how hard you preach, no matter how you put it over to them, the Word of God seems to be having no effect.”
Her message to young people is “give the Lord the first place in you life. Allow him to shape your destiny”. Holder says: “When we look at it, the young people have so many distractions and so many attractions that to tell them to come into church and be all that God would have them to be, we still have to be realistic about the other things that are trying to grab their attention.” She holds herself up as an example of what God can do for the young person.
Her husband Everick, daughter Daniele, brother Elder Herbert Kirton, sisters Marcelle and Priscilla and friends will all be in Greensboro to witness the culmination of the journey taken by Bishop Elect Pastor Patricia Holder.