Bishop Harold Rayford is leaving town after 13 years.
Rayford, 52, has accepted the call to lead Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith in Columbus, Ohio.
“Coming to Madison for many people has been a blessing and it’s been a blessing for me,” said Rayford, who came to Madison in 2006 to lead The Faith Place in Sun Prairie..” I love it here. You know, I enjoyed living here. My son is here, my grandchildren are here. The only reason I’m leaving is because I felt compelled to take this additional assignment.”
In an exclusive interview Thursday, Rayford said he’s proud of what he and his church have accomplished here.
“We outgrew one location and took a warehouse in Sun Prairie and converted it into the worship center. Very proud of that,” he said. “Also proud of the community engagement that I’ve been blessed to do through being the president of the African American Council of Churches of Greater Madison. I’m a member of the Sun Prairie Police and Fire Commission. I am a member of the Dane County Housing Authority. I am a Dane County Housing Authority commissioner, and I’m also a member on the Black Leadership Council of Greater Madison.”
Rayford, who was named one of the most influential African American leaders in Wisconsin by Madison365 in 2016, intends to get similarly involved in Columbus, especially because he believed African American church leaders need to lead outside the church walls, too.
“I think that as African American churches, we have a very important voice,” he said. “The African American churches collectively represent our community better than any other organization. We have, I believe, a unique place because of that. And so I believe that as churches we have to do all we can to help become a megaphone for issues or concerns that affect our community.”
Rayford is also known as a musician, and will continue to seek opportunities to perform.
“I mean, anytime I take my saxophone out, there’s a performance opportunity even if there’s an audience of one,” he said with a laugh. “I certainly will continue to play. I’ve been playing now for over 40 years, and I will continue to do that wherever I am.”
Rayford said a search committee is in place to find a new pastor for the Faith Place, and he will continue to be present during the search and transition.
“Within the next three weeks I will start ministering in Ohio. But I will also be ministering here during the week and making sure that the needs of the congregation are met until there’s a new pastor in place,” he said.
Rev. Marcus Allen of Mt. Zion Baptist Church will take over as president of the African American Council of Churches of Greater Madison.
Rayford also said 1800 Days, the nonprofit organization he started to address achievement gaps in education, will continue under the leadership of Gail Moore, and Rayford intends to start a Columbus branch for the organization, since disparities exist there too.
“The demographics (in Columbus) are not as challenging as they are here for minorities, but there is certainly an achievement gap,” he said. “All of the gaps we have here, they have their, all of the needs we have here, they have there. I don’t see Columbus as a step up, just a different challenge.”