Son to take over from father at Bread of Life Christian Center

Bishop L.D. Skinner Sr. said he does not particularly see the resemblance, but his wife, Ruth, sure does.

"When my son preaches, she will say to me, 'That's you up there, he is just like you,'" he said.

The bishop laughed and added that when he was his son's age, he was much more "long-winded."

His son, L. Darnel Skinner Jr., will be doing a lot more preaching in the days to come. This month, he takes over the role of senior pastor at Bread of Life Christian Center, a nondenominational church in Columbus, from his father.

The pastoral elevation service is Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the church on 4510 Oates Ave. The general public is invited. At 8:15 p.m. in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, there will be an elevation reception gala with dinner featuring singers Peggy Jenkins and Mary Bettis. Tickets are $50, and anyone interested in attending should call 706-571-0111.

"It is going to be a wonderful evening," said Skinner Sr., who will continue to play a role at the church.

The 63-year-old pastor founded Bread of Life 30 years ago with 15 people in the basement of his home and has seen membership grow to several hundred.

He was already thinking about who might follow him as senior pastor when, about seven years ago, he suffered a stroke and had bypass surgery.

He said he became aware that he was not going to be here forever and did not want there to be an uproar about the next pastor should he suffer an untimely death.

"When the time came, I wanted there to be a smooth transition," Skinner Sr. said.

Skinner Jr. has a business background with a bachelor's degree in business administration from Georgia State University and a master's in management from Troy. He has served as an adjunct professor at Columbus Technical College and as a banker with SunTrust.

Skinner Jr., 38, said he was called to the ministry when he was 16.

"I ran from it. I sprinted. I knew the great responsibility," he said.

He said at age 25 he could not run anymore.

"I did not push him," Skinner Sr. said.

The son has been working as executive director of ministry, operating as the chief administrative officer to more than 50 ministries.

As an unofficial pastor, he has done some preaching and counseling.

"My father has afforded me the opportunity to sit and watch him and to learn. I will continue to learn and grow. I really relish working with my natural and spiritual father," Skinner Jr. said.

He called it "good news" that his father will still be serving.

Skinner Sr. brought his son into the church and let him preach so that members would get to know him better.

He said he was proud when a church board member came up to him and said of his son, "he has your spirit. He's our man."

The bishop knows the church will be in good hands.

The son does not plan many changes.

"I don't want to disrupt the flow," Skinner Jr. said.

"The beauty of it is that he does not want big change," Skinner Sr. remarked.

"This will be a smooth transition, just like two relay runners handing off the baton practically side by side," Skinner Jr. said.

He is confident about his new position.

"My father and I are switching seats. I feel comfortable with the steering wheel," Skinner Jr. said.

Through the years, Skinner Sr., the author of four books, has worked with the Columbus National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, House of Mercy, Urban League of Columbus and the Salvation Army. He has served as chaplain at Jack T. Rutledge Correctional Institution in addition to his church duties. That charitable work goes along with his belief that if you want to be of help to God, you must serve your fellow man. Skinner Jr. has served as a vice president with the local NAACP.

Skinner Sr. explained that being a senior pastor is an arduous task. "It takes a lot out of you if your are doing your job. I am happy that God has allowed me to serve on his team and make an impact on his people," Skinner Sr. said.

He said he is glad he does not have to keep on the job because of financial reasons, so, he is ready to relax.

"I want to travel," he said. "It will be easier to do now that I won't have to worry about the church."