Minutes from a 2009 meeting at Canaan Baptist Church proved prophetic for the Rev. Rudy Allen Sr.
Allen didn’t know it, but the report from Sept. 8 that year said Allen would be the Rev. J.H. Carter’s choice in the pulpit should anything happen to him. Carter, Canaan’s founding pastor about 33 years ago, died last December after a series of strokes.
“I learned this after I became the pastor,” said Allen, who began his work as interim at Canaan in January and more recently became the permanent pastor.
Ordained in 1962, Allen is no stranger to Columbus congregations. At 74, he’s led Macedonia Baptist, Greater Shady Grove Baptist and most recently Revelation Baptist. Beginning in 1980, he founded and led Revelation for 24 years. In 2004, he retired from Revelation and full-time ministry. His daughter, the Rev. Valerie Thompson, became the pastor.
“I really felt called to come here,” Allen said on a recent morning in his office at Canaan. “I was doing well in retirement.”
An avid golfer, he still gets in nine holes most mornings at Bull Creek Golf Course. He plays with a few other men, including his son, the Rev. Vince Allen of the Bridge Church on Second Avenue. In retirement, he was spending even more time with his extensive family. He and his wife, Gloria, have seven children, including Vince and Valerie, and 15 grandchildren. Five of his children are preachers.
Carter was like family, too.
“Rev. Carter and I were very close,” Allen said. “I was at Shady Grove when he organized this church and I always had some kind of association with this church.”
He said Revelation and Canaan, across from Fort Junior High School, are similar in leadership styles of the preacher.
“The pastor has full authority to make decisions,” he said. “He is the final decision-maker and has the final say-so. There are deacons, but they are pastor-helpers -- and they fill the role well -- but they don’t make policy.”
The church doesn’t seem overly traumatized by their founding pastor’s death, from Allen’s perspective.
“There’s some grief, naturally. I sense there’s grief and feelings of loss,” he said. “I don’t fill all the void but the transition was easier because of my association with him.”
Carter’s widow, Goldie Ann Carter, remains active at Canaan.
Allen turns 75 in October. He believes he still has the energy for leading a church; and this one isn’t small. About 400 people fill the sanctuary each Sunday, he said.
“I still love to preach and share with people. I fulfill the duties of visitation and comforting the bereaved. I enjoy directing the ministry.” Though he’s slowed down since his younger days, he finds the calling much easier now. “I’ve probably been through it all. It’s more pleasurable because I know what I’m doing, and because of the acceptance of me at this church,” he said.
In the wider community, along with a few other ministers, he’s currently working on crime prevention in the Carver Heights area. He called it a drug-infested neighborhood, where the residents need support.
In 1998, he was one of the co-presidents of the Muscogee County Clergy Association, an inaugural clergy group that blended white and black ministers. (The other was the Rev. Cindy Garrard of St. Luke United Methodist.)
Additionally, he’s working to encourage local parents to engage their children more.
“I see a need to encourage parents to teach the children,” Allen said. “There is a cry for parental involvement in the school system. If schools are to have cohesiveness, parents must teach their children from the womb. Too often, we leave the teaching of children up to others.”
Allison Kennedy, 706-576-6237