The L.A. Baptist community is mourning the recent death of Pastor Reginald Pope, who served for 45 years as the senior pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and as the founder of Watts Area Ministers. He was 89.
In 2015, the city of Los Angeles recognized Pope for his contributions to the Watts community with Councilman Joe Buscaino designating Compton Avenue—from 109th Street to 110th Street—as Pastor Reginald A. Pope Way.
“The landscape of Los Angeles has changed dramatically in the passing of Paster Reginald Pope. He was an asset to our church community,” said Pastor Ticey Brown of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church. “He was cool, caring and will definitely be missed as one of the elder statemen of our great city.”
The sudden death came as a shock to many in the faith community as well as the church he pastored for nearly a half century.
“He wasn’t ill, so it was sudden,” said Pastor Alvin Stafford, who was appointed pastor of the church when Pope—who was his great uncle— retired.
“For over 45 years, he’s been faithful and a pillar not only in our church and community, but our family. He had a gift and a calling for teaching, and he honored and praised the Lord all the way to the end.”
“He was a mentor and a great friend”, said Pastor Robert Taylor of the Beulah Baptist Church in Watts. “He taught me basic principles on how to survive as a pastor and that’s important. Not to mention that he was responsible for getting me involved in the Watts Area Ministers and now I’m president.”
The non-profit—initially organized to re-activate the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Watts some years ago—has since become a viable force in addressing the needs of the Watts community.
The Ringgold, Louisiana native—who had a gift for singing— joined Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in 1975 and was able to grow the church from 80 people to 250 with ten associate ministers. He retired last year.
“The most satisfactory thing in my ministry is to see the growth of the members. It is not necessarily about numbers but is about the spiritual balance and well-being. That’s most satisfying to me,” Pope told L.A. Focus in 2019. “I try to get my members motivated to take outside what we do inside these walls.”
“Any time a person comes to Christ and gets his life in better shape, that’s motivation, that’s encouragement and that’s fulfillment and what ministry should be about.”
A viewing is scheduled for June 30 at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church from 1-5pm. Funeral services will commence at 11am on July 1 at Paradise Baptist Church.