Pastor making his mark on St. Mark

Published 9:02 pm Thursday, July 26, 2018

A new pastor has come to McKinley Avenue to build relationships within his newfound Suffolk community both in and out of church.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Alexander Perry officially started as the new pastor of St. Mark AME Zion Church at 817 McKinley Ave. on July 1 following the previous pastor’s retirement. Perry said his last June service at St. Luke AME Zion in Franklin — where he’s been the pastor for four years — was an emotional goodbye, but he’s also excited for what’s ahead of him in Suffolk.

“You make friends, then have to adjust to a whole new congregation,” he said. “It can be hard, but the family at St. Mark has made it an easy adjustment.”


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Perry has been preaching, teaching and learning for more than two decades. He earned both his Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Divinity from Roanoke Theological Seminary in Elizabeth City, N.C., in 1996 and 2008, respectively. His Doctorate of Ministry, which emphasized pastoral leadership, came in 2011 from the Andersonville Theological Seminary in Camilla, Ga.

He started in ministry when he preached his trial sermon in 1992 at St. John AME Zion Church in Sunbury, N.C., the place where he’s lived for more than 50 years. He was ordained and later became a pastor in 1996.

He keeps himself busy these days by serving as District Director of Evangelism of the Newport News District, presenting evangelism workshops and bringing his enthusiasm for worship with him when he drives from the Sunbury residence he shares with his wife, Patricia, to his congregation in downtown Suffolk.

“A pastor should be in constant contact with the people he pastors and the community he serves,” he said.

Perry works as a program coordinator for the Department of Motor Vehicles in North Carolina and supervises school bus and traffic safety in six counties. He also has 26 years of experience in human resources and training at Smithfield Foods.

He plans to use those skills to develop youth mentoring, career readiness and other outreach programs at St. Mark. He’ll attend city meetings and pray with people from hospitals to their own homes with Patricia by his side.

“I believe in reaching out, touching people’s lives and building relationships,” he said. “That’s my hallmark.”

The congregation is planning to enhance its existing church by using the land behind the church entrance for added structure and paved parking spaces, but those plans are still in the very early stages, Perry said.

In the meantime, Perry is writing columns in the Suffolk News-Herald and The Tidewater News, spreading his message through his radio ministry on WKGM 940 and every weekend on McKinley Avenue as the congregation makes its mark on the city of Suffolk, he said.

Worship services at St. Mark AME Zion Church are held each Sunday at 10 a.m., and Bible study is held on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Email or call 252-3