Hundreds celebrate Holmes’ 30 years as pastor, visionary
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
At times the affair seemed like a roast of Rev. R.B. Holmes, then some moments was so emotional it brought the speaker and some in the audience to tears.
By the time keynote speaker pastor Patrick Winfield II got done with a half-hour sermon, the dining room inside the Civic Center was moved the way a down-home Baptist preacher does it.
It was all part of an appreciation banquet that drew hundreds of people this past Thursday night to the event that recognized Holmes and his wife, Gloria, for 30 years of ministry at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Some of the memories Holmes created since taking over the church were captured in a slide show that was featured on two large screens, as Holmes and his wife made a grand entry into the room.
“These were the most powerful, most gracious, most meaningful years of my life to pastor a great church without having any major hiccups,” Holmes said.
Midway through the program, Robyn Seniors, who represented the young people of Bethel, broke into tears as she told the audience of the influence Holmes has had on her life. She talked about how, when she felt discouraged, Holmes would offer words of wisdom that strengthened her.
One speaker after another praised Holmes for the role he plays in his church and the Tallahassee community. Holmes has served in several civic roles, including being named to Florida Education Commission and serving as a former vice chairman of the FAMU Board of Trustees.
Just three weeks ago, Leadership Tallahassee recognized Holmes with its lifetime award.
Beyond the pulpit, Holmes has been the driving force behind the redevelopment of Frenchtown. Most of it has Bethel’s fingerprint, including Bethel Christian Academy, Carolina Oaks housing development.
Most recently, Holmes engineered a deal that brought Envision and FSU credit unions together to form the Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center. He also is the visionary behind a plan to build an all-inclusive community on a full city block between West Tennessee and Virginia streets.
Several of Holmes’ initiatives and accomplishments were cited in a proclamation from Sen. Bill Montford.
In what seemed like a moment of roasting the pastor, county commissioner Bill Proctor, former state senator Al Lawson and attorney Benjamin Crump brought the crowd to laughter with most of their comments.
Lawson joked about going to heaven but even in that he was profound as to how much he values Holmes’ friendship.
“When I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to ask St. Peter if Rev. Holmes is up there waiting on me,” Lawson said. “I want to make sure my residence is pretty close to his.”
Holmes’ impact on the community hasn’t been without controversy, though. This past spring he took the lead in keeping the death of Barbara Dawson in the forefront. Dawson died after being denied treatment at the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital and weeks later Holmes formed a task force to find a resolve to the crisis.
Holmes was again at the center of yet another controversial situation when he signed a letter asking former FAMU president Elmira Mangum to relinquish her role.
His stance – no matter the position – seemingly has always won the respect of his peers.
“I applaud Rev. Holmes for not just keeping his vision in the church only to Bethel, but sharing it with not just Tallahassee, not just the state of Florida but with all of America,” said Crump, who left a business trip to attend the appreciation event. “He is a national leader and I’m reminded of that every time when I go into these (out-of-town) communities.”
Holmes’ personal life is a model for others, said Larry Robinson, interim president of FAMU.
“Your union, your marriage provides a vivid example of long, enduring love and mutual respect,” Robinson said. “You are role models to many you may know well and even more; those you may encounter.
“You shepherd a family that extends far beyond the physical and biological realm. Your true family is formed by spiritual connection that transcends the walls of this structure or any structure conceived by ordinary men. One day you will know these things for sure.”
The mark that Holmes and his wife have had on the community is indelible, said Proctor. So much so that he called their impact “a massive trail that they have blessed this community with for 30 years.”