Pastor Reuben English: Legacy of Love
By Dianne Anderson
Even at 96 years young, no one was ever too far out of the way for Pastor Rueben English to jump in his car, go out one on one into the community to pray for families in need.
“When you talked to him on the phone, before he’d hang up he’d say let us pray. He was a strong prayer warrior. He was involved in many things, he was a faithful man he’s going to be missed greatly,” said Rev. Coleman L. Hart, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church of Long Beach.
Rev. Hart described his good friend of over 40 years as a man of God who loved to care for his people and community. For over two decades, he sat under then-pastor English’s leadership until the torch was passed to him to lead the church in 2009.
“He was a faithful minister of God, he’d take care of real business,” Pastor Hart said. “He was faithful to his family, he’s been faithful to the church for 50 years or longer.”
Pastor English passed away earlier this month, and is remembered for always taking time and talent to help others on the path.
“He wouldn’t stop driving, but they kept giving him a driving license,” Hart said. “We enjoyed him coming in every Sunday morning. He wouldn’t miss a Sunday, he was a faithful man in everything he did.”
From the start, Pastor Gregory Sanders said that Pastor English served as a barometer for leadership, both inside and outside of the church.
“He was very community engaged, an amazing shepherd with a clear vision and accurate dispensation of the Word,” said Sanders, lead pastor at The ROCK Christian Fellowship and current president of the Long Beach Ministers Alliance.
Sanders said he held many different areas of influence, and dedicated to building upon the vision of his predecessor, New Hope Baptist Church founder, late Rev. N. J. Kirkpatrick. He was always at events, parades and presenting at city parks.
“He was really representing at city council efforts, when they heard Pastor English was in the house, all eyes and ears were open,” Sanders said.
At the time, church multi-use facilities were unheard of, but Sanders said New Hope Baptist Church owned and managed its own senior citizen home so seniors could have a safe place and get the right kind of care.
Pastor English also brought his unique personality, and a great sense of humor, easily relating to the younger generation. He emphasized the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King, the voice of the people, and the vote.
Sanders said he can’t think of anyone in the city not influenced by his work, particularly local successful Black businesses.
“From education to all those dealerships most came out of New Hope, our most prominent day care centers and restaurants came out of New Hope. Most of them, their fire was lit under them based on his vision,” he said.
Dr. Garon Harden, pastor at Greater Open Door Church of God in Christ, described Pastor English as someone who spent many hours personally helping him through the hard times.
“He would come by or call me, even at 90-something years old, he’d come by. He was there to encourage me as a father, and how to get through it,” he said.
Pastor Harden, who started Greater Open Door COGIC in 1980, said it is a privilege to have been chosen as one of Pastor English’s godsons.
For 14 years, Harden served as Long Beach Ministers Alliance president. He said Pastor English garnered donations for community programs, helping strengthen the alliance. He was key to ensuring the community was served during the holidays with food, and turkeys. The alliance had given away $168,000 in scholarships during that time.
“Pastor English was very helpful in getting grants, he helped raise the money through the schools, and businesses. He played a very important role in whatever we did,” he said.
When Harden learned the pastor was sick, he went to pray for him, but even sedated, the pastor recognized him.
“I went there to pray for him and he took me by the hand to pray for me. That’s the thing I remember, his love and kindness. The things that he’s done for me, a relationship of father mentoring a son,” he said.
Hattie Herring, also a long time member of New Hope Baptist Church, said Pastor English was a mainstay in her family, and performed marriage ceremonies, but he was also widely admired where he lived in the city of Compton.
“He’s made quite a reputation just going around to these people and praying for them and doing whatever he can do to make sure he can help them when they’re caught in their bind,” she said.
For many decades, she said people have loved and admired him for miles and miles around.
“At 96 years old still driving, still coming to church and praying,” she said. “He’s phenomenal. We just got through Bible study where they sang his song, ‘Get on that train right now, the night train may be too late.’”