Building on faith at Prayers by Faith

The Rev. Dr. Willie G. Mayberry, right, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Gainesville and St. John Baptist Church in Melrose, and First Lady Kate Mayberry pray during the service.

ASHLEY CRANE/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.

Pastor Gerard Duncan of Prayers by Faith Family Ministries remembers being a part of a subculture that took pride in tearing things down instead of building things up.



Pastor: Pastor Gerard Duncan.
Services: Sunday school is 10 a.m., followed by morning worship at 11 a.m. Bible study is 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Phone: 352-283-2185.

However, with much faith and many prayers, he is now leading a ministry in the same neighborhood where he sold drugs in the early 1990s. Duncan, who presided over the Family and Friends Day service at his church Sunday afternoon, said his commitment to renovating the sanctuary of Prayers by Faith at 429 NW 4th St. is solid.

"The reason why I am able to say I was glad when they said unto to me, let us go into the house of the Lord, is because it was in the house of the Lord that I first began to know him, and because of that, I have never been the same," said Duncan.

The Rev. Dr. Willie G. Mayberry, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Gainesville and St. John Baptist Church in Melrose, praised Duncan for being a part of finishing the work that is to be done at the church located in the historic Pleasant Street neighborhood.

Mayberry said the building where Prayers by Faith is located — the former home of Mount Carmel Baptist Church — used to be the center of the black community. He said it was the home of the Alachua County branch NAACP when it was formed many decades ago and hosted most big African-American funerals and weddings during its heyday.

"I will tell you this," said Mayberry to Duncan and his parishioners. "Though art my son, in whom I am well pleased."

Mayberry said Duncan is "a fine young man" and "a man of his word." He also said Duncan, who founded Prayers by Faith seven years ago, should be commended from the community and receive help for continuing to make sure "the work that God wants to be done in that building is done."

Mayberry preached from II Chronicles 24:10-14 on the subject of "Finishing the House of God." He emphasized that Prayers by Faith is only part of a continuum that will hold services in the sanctuary built by Mount Carmel. He said like all of the other preachers who led congregations in the building, Duncan is doing God's work.

"I really appreciate you having the guts to stay here on the avenue," Mayberry said. "When we (Pleasant Hill) came here many years ago, they said we were fools because it was a drug-infested area, and ‘20/20' (an ABC network news show) came and interviewed me. It was really bad around here."

Mayberry said drug dealers were making so much money in the area at the time that a "hit" was put out on his life to persuade him from working with the police to rid the area of drugs and crime.

"They sent a young man over to tell me that they were going to kill me, and I told him to tell them to go ahead and kill me so I can go ahead and be with my Jesus," Mayberry said.

Mayberry said he bequeathed the sanctuary to Duncan when Pleasant Hill moved to its current location at 2611 NW 68th Ave. several years ago. He said the work Duncan is doing at the church should be commended and aided by the community at large. He said he rode past the church one night and saw "white girls" walking past the church on their way to party in downtown Gainesville.

"They couldn't do that years ago," Mayberry said.

Duncan said he is grateful to have Mayberry as a spiritual adviser and it means a lot to him to be the steward of the building that housed preachers like Mayberry, the Rev. Dr. T.A. Wright of Mount Carmel and many others.

"Being in this building is something that I don't take lightly," Duncan said.

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