**FILE** Rev. Anika Wilson-Brown (Courtesy of Union Temple Baptist Church)
**FILE** Rev. Anika Wilson-Brown (Courtesy of Union Temple Baptist Church)

As the wife of a Metropolitan Police officer and the mother of three children, Rev. Anika Wilson-Brown has displayed a humility and insight to work well with the members of Union Temple Baptist Church.

And on Saturday, this wife and mother with a doctorate in counseling became the pastor of the southeast Washington congregation that has been the epicenter for social justice and empowerment for residents east of the Anacostia River for 58 years.

“My vision has always been to help and support people,” said Wilson-Brown in an interview with The Washington Informer on Saturday morning, a few hours before she was installed as the fourth pastor of a church led by her father, Rev. Willie F. Wilson.

One might think granting an interview on the morning of her investiture as pastor of the church would be ill-timed, but Wilson-Brown was calm and joking about her new role and title.

“There is a long line of ministers in my family and this is something that I didn’t choose, it chose me,” said Wilson-Brown, who is prepared academically for the moment as well. She earned a bachelor of science degree in social work from Spelman and a doctorate in counseling from Loyola University — both of which she said hold importance.

“I see Jesus as a counselor as well as a savior,” Wilson-Brown said. “Today I see the church at a macro level and a micro level because of the challenges we are facing in the post-COVID era, because the church has to take it the next level.”

Union Temple Baptist Church was filled with both inspirational and political leaders as Wilson-Brown was installed as the fourth pastor and first woman to lead the 8,000-member congregation.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry and inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant were among those attending Wilson-Brown’s investiture at the southeast Washington church on Saturday afternoon..

In terms of the community, Wilson-Brown said, “The vision has not changed but it has to progress and shift. We still have that liberating message but we have to be aware of the challenges to make progress.”

Taking note that most Baptist churches still don’t ordain women, Wilson-Brown called it a “huge moment in the history of the church in terms of the role of women in leadership,” adding that the Baptist denomination needs to catch up with the Bible.

“When Jesus rose, the first people to preach were women coming from the tomb while the men were still trying to figure out what happened,” she said.

One of the most unique parts of Wilson-Brown’s life is her husband, retired MPD Officer John Brown, who she met while passing out flyers for the Union Temple Youth Choir.

“This means a lot to me,” the husband said of his wife’s investiture. “We met at the Anacostia subway station in 1994. I was a police officer in D.C. I was working overtime and I saw this woman getting out van and I told my sergeant, ‘Who is that? Can you introduce me to her?'”

The two met again at a gun buyback event at the church and developed a friendship, and even after Wilson-Brown went back to college in Atlanta, he joined the Union Temple. The couple eventually married in 1998.

Brown’s father, Rev. Willie Wilson, 78. arrived at Union Temple two hours before the historic service on Saturday.

“I am extremely excited to witness this take place,” Wilson told The Informer. “We have been planning this for several years. We organized and now it is here.”

Wilson said that his daughter has been pastoring for nearly two years but a public installation service was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. But he made it clear that the time is past due.

“Women have been put in a negative light,” he said. “I was put out of the Baptist ministers conference because I ordained 19 women.”

For her part, Wilson-Brown acknowledged that being a “PK” (preacher’s kid) “is a hard thing to live, but I made up my mind to live an authentic life and be myself.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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