The Reverend Paul Robeson Ford is the 11th Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church (Highland Avenue) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His leadership at First Baptist is focused on stimulating growth and renewed mission at this historic congregation. Rev. Ford was born and raised in New York City and grew up at the Riverside Church under the leadership of Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. He answered the call to ministry in 1997 and was licensed to preach the Gospel at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa in 2002. He holds standing as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Grinnell College and a Master of Divinity Degree from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.
Rev. Ford is a Candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Theology at the University of Chicago, where his research interests focus on developing a theology of liberation for the situation of mass incarceration in the United States. While at the University, he worked as Program Coordinator for the Race and Religion Workshop (2005-2008). He has taught as Adjunct Faculty at the Divinity School, and the Andover Newton Theological School, as well as Supervising Pastor at McCormick Theological Seminary. He has twice been named a Fellow of the Fund for Theological Education.
Rev. Ford’s previous experience in ministry includes six years as Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts (2011-2017), two years as Executive Director of the Boston Workers Alliance, a Roxbury-based grassroots organization dedicated to creating economic opportunity and winning criminal justice reform in Massachusetts (2014–2016), and two years as Senior Pastor of the Avalon Park Community Church in Chicago, Illinois (2009-2011). He served as Associate Pastor for Justice Witness Ministries at Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Illinois (2003-2011), working with the congregation’s outreach ministries and facilitating a partnership between the Prison Ministries of Covenant and Trinity United Church of Christ (Chicago, Illinois) that included pastoral ventures to prisons in two states.
Rev. Ford currently serves as Chair of the By-Laws Committee for the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem & Vicinity, and as Treasurer for Action 4 Equity, a grassroots organization advocating for greater equity in the Forsyth County School Department. Past service includes General Secretary of the Cambridge Black Pastors Alliance, Board Member of the Massachusetts Peace Action Network, and Co-Chair of Committed Clergy in Action (National Action Network) Chicago Chapter. He has been a featured guest on television and radio, including the International Sunday School Broadcast, Basic Black, and the Callie Crossley Show. In 2012, the LinkedIn online professional network ranked him among the top 1% most endorsed preachers nationally.
Rev. Ford has a heart for ministry and is dedicated to empowering all of God’s people to walk fully into God’s promises for their lives. He is married to the Reverend Kirstin Boswell Ford, and their blended family includes three children: daughters, Cheyenne and Ayanna, son, William Jackson, and two dogs, Caesar and Gus.
Reverend Glenn Pettiford was born in Durham, NC, the son of Mr. and Mrs. McNeil Pettiford. Rev. Pettiford’s home church is the Mount Gilead Baptist Church of Durham.
Education and Licensing
Acknowledging a call to preach while in high school in Durham, Rev. Pettiford began preparing for the ministry while a member of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church. He was licensed three years later at the age of 19 and has been an ordained minister since 1976. He is a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. His seminary work has been done at the School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, and the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA.
Presently, Rev. Pettiford serves as the Assistant Pastor at First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue in Winston-Salem, NC.
Previously, he served as pastor for 17 years at the First Baptist Church of Lexington, NC. Before the pastorate, he served as a full-time chaplain for the prison, youth detention center, and women’s halfway house in Winston-Salem for five years.