Pastor Regretta B. Ruffin
Our spotlight for the of the month of November 2013 is Rev. Regretta B. Ruffin, Pastor of Greater New Saint Paul Baptist Church, located in Washington, DC. We will talk with Pastor Ruffin about her life’s journey, including her ministry at Greater New Saint Paul. (Click on photos to enlarge them)
Destiny – Pride: Thank you, Pastor Ruffin, for being our Spotlight of the Month for November 2013. Before we talk about your ministry at Greater New Saint Paul Baptist Church, first tell us about yourself, starting with where and to whom you were born, following up with a little about your childhood.
Pastor Ruffin: Okay. Well I was born in Washington, DC at Howard University Hospital, when it was Freedman’s Hospital; so you know it was not too long ago. I was the third – the last – child. I was a “surprise” baby. I was not expected, but I was glad that I showed up. That’s how my name became “Regretta.” It means “No regrets!”
From there, I went to school – West Elementary School; Brightwood; McKinley Tech High School. I got skipped a couple of times, just for being smart. I ended up graduating from high school when I was 15 from McKinley Tech. . .
Destiny – Pride: Oh my gracious! It took me 24 years.
Pastor Ruffin: . . . and I was going to UDC – University of the District of Columbia – at the same time. At that point, they had a high school skip program. I was taking Mortuary Science, and I went to school to be a mortician at first.
When I was in school, my mother and father – my father, Rev. Burruss, Sr. [deceased], and my mother, Julia Burruss – were adamant about studying and learning. People ask how I graduated so young. I didn’t have a choice. That’s all we knew – church and school. So many people say “That’s not good,” but I thank God for it today because I would not have had the education and the knowledge that I have now if it hadn’t been for that. But they were strict about that.
When I was in high school, they came to school with us every day. All of the teachers knew them because they came to visit. All of the kids would say “mom and dad are here.” So, basically, that was my childhood.
Church and school. When everybody else went out to party on Friday or the weekend, on Monday they would talk about where everybody went and when they got us, they would say, “Oh, we know where ya’ll went – to church.” That basically was life for us.
Destiny – Pride: You spoke briefly about your mother and your father. This is the first time in my interview that I have had the honor of having one’s parent right here. Could you give us a little more on where they came from. Were they Washingtonians?
Pastor Ruffin: No. My mother and father both were born in Georgia. My father was born in Lavonia, Georgia; my mother was born in Martin, Georgia. My father was a preacher; had been a preacher / pastor / church builder. One day he met my mother at a revival, and the revival was over. They got married and moved to DC from Georgia. They had been in DC for most of their lives. He built the church in Alexandria, Virginia – Mt. Calvary Baptist Church – from the ground up. Now that’s a story, and I constantly tell my mother that she needs to write a book about it. He built a church in Hamilton, Bermuda – Emmanuel Baptist Church – and he built the church that I’m pastoring now. It was New Saint Paul, and when I became pastor it became Greater New Saint Paul.
Destiny – Pride: Okay. So the church in which you are now ministering, he built?
Pastor Ruffin: He built, from the ground, yes. It’s 53 years old now. I’ve been there 22 years.
Destiny – Pride: This is the first time that I’ve ever done this, but Ms. Julia [Burruss], give us just a little backdrop about your daughter – about when she came into being.
Mrs. Julia Burruss: Well, my husband was quite a bit older that I was. He had already lived in DC, but he was born in Georgia. He was an evangelist pastor. At that time, I was in school. After coming to DC, after we got married, I went to Howard University, and ended up being a musician. I had taken music from Dr. [Thomas] Kerr. You would always see him at the piano.
I continued to go to school. I was young; my husband was about 22 years older than me. He always was a church builder. He built Mount Calvary Baptist Church. Then the Lord gave him his orders to go to Hamilton, Bermuda after he built the Mount Calvary Baptist Church, because there wasn’t anything there. He went to Hamilton, Bermuda, and built Emmanuel Baptist Church, which is the only Baptist Church in Bermuda. He built that church. After building that church, he came back to Mount Calvary, but they didn’t want him. So he came to DC and built New Saint Paul Baptist Church.
Pastor Ruffin: And then the babies started coming!
Destiny – Pride: And then you came.
Pastor Ruffin: And then I came. Mother was playing the piano, singing “I hear music!”
Mrs. Julia Burruss: After my husband came back from Mt. Calvary to the District of Columbia, he became the first to be on channel 14 – The Gospel Hour. He organized and produced The Gospel Hour on radio and TV.
Pastor Ruffin: You see, I started singing when I was two-years old, on TV.
Destiny – Pride: Stop! I’m going to make you break out in song!
Mrs. Julia Burruss: She started singing one night as we were having groups for the television choir. . .
Pastor Ruffin: Now you’ve gotten mama started.
Mrs. Julia Burruss: . . . she started singing at two years old.
Pastor Ruffin: Hey, ma. Let it go; let it go [laughter].
Mrs. Julia Burruss: Well, you’ve got to come back and check out the book!
Destiny – Pride: Okay. Are you married and do you have any children?
Pastor Ruffin: Yes I’m married to Pastor Rodney E. Ruffin. He’s the pastor of Elim Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland. No, I don’t have any children. All of the members of Greater New Saint Paul are my children – no matter what age they are. When they get into trouble, they sure act like it! But my husband has three children.
Destiny – Pride: Okay. You said your husband also pastors a church?
Pastor Ruffin: Yes, in Temple Hills, Maryland.
Destiny – Pride: How do you all flip flop back and forth at your churches?
Pastor Ruffin: We don’t. On Sunday mornings, or whenever we have service, we say “See you later,” like we’re going to work. We’ve been married now for nine years, going on 10 years. When we first met, and were getting married, everybody thought, of course, that I was going to close my church down to go and be the First Lady. I said, “Oh, no!”
Destiny – Pride: Let him come and be the First Man?
Pastor Ruffin: There you go! In actuality, he is the First Man when he comes to my church, and I’m the First Lady when I go to his. No. He saw the calling on my life and the ministry that I had and he never even expected me to stop doing what I was doing.
Destiny – Pride: Give us a highlight of your educational accomplishments. We saw your bio on the website. You made me feel so, so bad. I looked at myself and said, “Lord, I just feel like a wretched person.
Pastor Ruffin: Oh, no. But all of that happened because we had no choice but to get the education – go to school constantly; study and learn. That’s what I did.
Destiny – Pride: Okay, so tell us a little about it.
Pastor Ruffin: Like I said, I graduated from McKinley when I was 15. By the time I was 17, I had graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a degree in mortuary science, but I couldn’t get my license because I wasn’t old enough.
You had to be 18. From there, I got married; and divorced. I went back to school, but about that time I was trying to figure out what the Lord was doing with me. Then I started going to school for theology. I started at Washington Baptist College. I told my father when I was six years old that I was called to preach. He said, “Oh, you just want to preach because I’m preaching.” I said, “No.” He would have me read the bible to him all the time.
I ended up at Richmond [Richmond Virginia Seminary] and then Virginia Union University. I graduated with my Masters. Then I went to Eastern Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; graduated with a Doctorate. Went back to Richmond, another Doctorate – I just have issues! I love studying and I love reading. I’m working on a Ph.D. at Regent [Regent University, Virginia Beach] now.
Destiny – Pride: My gracious!
Pastor Ruffin: I just love reading. I love learning. I don’t ever come to the point where you can’t learn. That helps me to stay out of trouble, too!
Destiny – Pride: How did you get into Mortuary Science? Did you want to be a mortician?
Pastor Ruffin: Oh, that was my dream, to be a mortician and have my own funeral home because, when my father was pastoring, of course, he did a lot of funerals. They would come in all dressed up. I knew church and I knew dead people. I started to get interested in that. When I first told mother and father, they said “For real?” They looked at me like, “Dead people? Are you serious?” So I got into that and started working in a funeral home. I worked for 15 years in different funeral establishments.
Then I started working at the Alexandria Hospital, and the person in charge talked me into going to school for Pathology. I became an assistant pathologist. I was doing autopsies. That was my thing. I loved it!
Destiny – Pride: Name for us individuals who have been of major influence in your life and who have contributed to it to make you the person you are today.
Pastor Ruffin: Well first of all, my mother and father, without a doubt. And I’m not just saying that because she’s sitting here. That’s the reality, and I thank God for choosing me to come through those two people, because I realize it didn’t have to be that way. They have really been a great influence in my life. Like I said, when we were coming up as little kids, they were the worst people in the world. My father would say, “You hate me today, but you’ll love me after a while,” and he was right.
Dr. H. Beecher Hicks is a great influence in my life. I great preacher and mentor. He helped me in school.
Dr. Leonard Smith, we went to school together, but he’s always been an influence in my life. Mostly everybody who has been an influence in my life were males, except for one particular woman – Dr. Judith Talbert. She has definitely been a great encouragement to me.
Destiny – Pride: Is that Pastor Talbert?
Pastor Ruffin: Yes! Yes! She has definitely been a great encouragement to me. In the ministry, she has pushed me and encouraged me. She’s always been there for me. Anything you need, she has been there for me. And Dr. Freddie Davis. My pastor, of course, he has been a blessing in my life. I think those are the major people.
Destiny – Pride: You are the pastor of a Baptist Church, so I’m pretty sure that you are of the Christian faith. Tell us about your faith and how it has factored in your life’s decisions.
Pastor Ruffin: Without a doubt, I believe in the teachings of the Baptist church, which basically believes in the Word of God. Based on that – God speaking to me through the Word – I lead the church. I lead the people of God. I try to live by the Word. Not saying that I’m perfect, but I live by the Word. I’m able to stand up and preach what I preach without shame. Without worrying about somebody saying “she’s not doing that.” Basically, my whole life is centered around the Word of God. If He doesn’t speak to me, if He doesn’t guide me, I can’t do it.
Destiny – Pride: I was looking at one of your sermons on Youtube . . .
Pastor Ruffin: No, no. That’s not my fault!
Destiny – Pride: I started to give up money to the computer. You wouldn’t think that all of this comes out of you!
Pastor Ruffin: I don’t either. I look at it and I say, “Oh”! Very animated, right?
Destiny – Pride: Yes. What was it that led you to the path of ministry? You said earlier that you were six years old when you felt the pull. Was this some type of epiphany or something?
Pastor Ruffin: Definitely. It was God speaking in my life. At six years old, I started to feel the move of God in my life and in my heart, and I started asking my father questions to confirm what I was feeling. Another thing, my brother and my sister were preachers then, so he thought I wanted to preach because they were preachers. Then, further along, I’ll never forget when I was sleeping, I heard my name; somebody was calling me. I would get up and go ask my mother and my father, “Did you call me?” They said no. I’d go back, and the same thing happened – three times. Daddy didn’t say anything; I just went back and laid down. Then I would dream about these scriptures to read. I’d wake up and read the scriptures. They were the same scriptures teaching about how a preacher should live.
One night I was at a revival and the Lord spoke to me. I was sitting in the back of the church. I said, “I’m going to get out of here,” because we had been in there for a while and it was about 12 o’clock at night. They were shouting and stuff – it was a Pentecostal church. I was sitting in the back of the church. All of a sudden the Lord said, “I don’t know why you’re sitting there. I told you to preach!” It was just like I’m talking to you. I jumped up. I ran out into the street, right on Georgia Avenue and New Hampshire. I ran up Georgia Avenue, and the people in the church ran after me because I was running in the middle of the street. I fell down on my knees and I didn’t see anybody but the Lord. He was telling me that I didn’t have a choice: “Now is your time.” They brought be back into the church and I said that I was going to preach. That’s exactly how the Lord spoke to me.
Destiny – Pride: Oh, my gracious!
Pastor Ruffin: I didn’t have a choice! In actuality, prior to that – believe it or not – I was a shy person. You couldn’t get me to talk.
Destiny – Pride: But once you’re open . . .
Pastor Ruffin: That’s what they all said. When I told my mother, the first thing she said is, “You can’t even talk.” I told my brother, he asked, “Are you saved?” I told my sister and she moved to North Carolina. Nobody believed that I could have ever been called to preach.
Destiny – Pride: Tell us about the work that you are doing at Greater New Saint Paul Baptist Church.
Pastor Ruffin: Our church is a, I guess I would say, a peculiar church because our church is not for everybody. Our church is for people that want change. When I say “want change,” people have come to a time in their lives where they say, “I really want to change my life for the better,” because I preach for change. For good change, to help and encourage people to become all that they can become. Believe it or not, there are many people that don’t want to change; they want to “talk” change, but they don’t want to make the effort. We have a slogan at church that says “Only the strong survives,” because everybody can’t take it. I’m going to tell you the truth. We accept everybody, no matter what their status, their state, or their sin. But we believe that God is able to help you become who He wants you to be. That’s our greatest ministry. Our mission is just loving everybody, and making sure that everybody that comes through that door feels the love.
Destiny – Pride: There are quite a few ministries listed on Greater New Saint Paul’s website, and among them is a men’s ministry titled “Men With Stamina and Strength.” Tell us a little about that.
Pastor Ruffin: The men’s ministry is centered around – without exposing anybody – helping people to be delivered from their addictions, and to make them as strong as they can be. I tell them all the time that they have to be strong to be under a woman pastor. That’s the first thing that I let them know: “That’s the strength in you, because you’re secure in who you are.” That’s what I teach them.
One year – and it was so funny – I brought in men pastors to teach a workshop. The men pulled me aside; they took me down to the fellowship hall. They said, “Pastor, we need to talk with you.” I said, “About what?” They said, “We need to talk to you.” They left the male pastors upstairs. I said, “What? What’s going on?” They asked, “Why did you bring those guys in here?” I said, “Because I thought you all would relate to them.” They said, “No, you’re doing a good job,” and they really got an attitude! I said, “Well, I thought that was what you all wanted!” I had been sitting in the back of the church while they were having this big workshop. They said, “No. We don’t want that.” I said, “Oh. Okay,” and I had to go back and tell the pastors, “They don’t want you all here.” It was hysterical!
I teach them about being fathers and men from the woman’s perspective. What a woman is expecting. I tell them all of the secrets of women.
Destiny – Pride: I can understand.
Pastor Ruffin: Sometimes – and I’ve heard them say this – sometimes, they forget that I’m a woman and they start talking to me like I’m one of their buddies. They’ll call me up and say, “Hey Pastor. Do you know what happened? This woman . . .” I’m cracking up, laughing to myself because I just minister to them. And I think that’s the greatest thing about our men’s ministry.
Destiny – Pride: Okay. Now I want to you to tell us about some of your other major ministries and outreach programs, but I want to combine that with another question: In your years in ministry, what is your view of the world today, and where do you see us heading? This is more of a commentary versus just a question: We are seeing the church make not necessarily a “U-turn,” but maybe an “S-turn” in trying sometimes to adjust the gospel. Dr. King talked about it in 1963 when he gave his “Knock at Midnight” speech. He talked about how the church has lost its direction and its mission. So tell us, number one, about some of the other programs you might have and then address where you think the church is today and your feelings about that.
Pastor Ruffin: Well, basically, as I was saying about our men’s ministry, mostly all of our ministries – women’s ministry; youth ministry – are more of an “in-reach” than an “outreach.” We stabilize the people that are there and when we get to the point where they need more, I’ve learned how to direct them to other churches that have major ministries going on.
I am a “hands-on” pastor. I take time with them. I guess that might be a shortcoming, because we have that love and that family setting, whereas they not only call me “Pastor,” but they call me “aunt,” or whatever else, to replace that void that’s in them. In that, it helps them to become better people, and that’s what we strive to do. Not just have them come to enjoy church, but to receive the Word to change their lives for the better.
With that being said, I believe strongly that a lot of the churches are more out to please people than to please God. As I said, “Only the strong survive” is about pleasing God, and in that, preaching the truth of the Word. We don’t condemn anybody, but we tell you when you’re wrong and when you’re right. That’s what I emphasize at church. You don’t come here for me to lie to you. Whatever your situation is, I’m going to show you in the Word. We do everything based on what the Word says. If you can’t show it to me in the Word, or have a scripture to find out what you’re doing, then we don’t do, because I believe that the church is coming closer and closer to being judged by God, for lack of doing what God says do.
Our church is not about entertainment. It’s about change. It’s about love – from wherever you are.
Destiny – Pride: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
Pastor Ruffin: I would agree “so far” since I just had a birthday.
Destiny – Pride: And I’m not even going to ask you what birthday it is.
Pastor Ruffin: I will tell you. I will tell you. It’s my 50th birthday and I was traumatized by it . . . at first! I screamed. But they gave me this big birthday celebration, my husband did. It was so shocking! Over 300 people came out to help me celebrate. I said, “What are you all doing here? You told these people how old I am?”
And so when I got past that, I began to look at it as another beginning of a new era in my life. My greatest accomplishment is, I guess, to see the change in the people who have come into our church. To literally see the transformation from when they first came to how they are now. That we can laugh and talk about, “Man, when you first came in here . . .” And then I’d make them talk out loud about what it was. Then, every year in December we don’t have church “meetings,” we have church “conferences.” Everybody has the opportunity to share why they are at the church. To hear their testimonies and to hear what they’re saying. I don’t know whether they say it because the others ones say it, but most of them say it’s because of Pastor. Every time they say it, I get smaller and smaller. I thank God for them, but it makes me feel that this is such a weight – to hear people say, “I’ve changed my life because of one person. I think that’s my greatest accomplishment. To see people acknowledge that.
Another great accomplishment is when I received a Volunteer Service Award from President Obama, the first black President of the United States.
Destiny – Pride: What year?
Pastor Ruffin: 2012.
Destiny – Pride: In your young life of 50, what would you, at this point, consider to be your greatest disappointment, if there is one in this illustrious time?
Pastor Ruffin: I really cannot say. That’s why I said in the beginning, my name is Regretta, meaning “No Regrets.” I don’t hold on to stuff. Now I’ve had some stuff – being a woman pastor at a Baptist church. In actuality, I was the first woman to be called to a Baptist church in DC, but that was never acknowledged because it was a small church. But other people got credit. So I’ve had some stuff, but I’ve gotten past it. I preach about that. You don’t ever forget, but you get past the pain of what somebody has done to you. So I can’t really tell you what’s been my biggest disappointment – other than not having money.
Destiny – Pride: Do you have any hobbies or activities that help you to relax?
Pastor Ruffin: Golf. I play golf. I love golf. Music and reading. I love reading. When I was working in the hospital, I took so many classes. I took one class that had 16 books for that one class; so I had to learn how to walk and read. I learned how to do my job walking through the halls reading books and that really helped me to love reading. I used to love riding motorcycles, but that doesn’t happen anymore.
Destiny – Pride: Do you have any final thoughts or insights you would like to leave with our visitors?
To see the video of Pastor Ruffin’s response
To read her response, continue below.
Pastor Ruffin: Well, I’d like to thank Destiny – Pride for making me Spotlight of the Month. I’m so excited about that. Most of all, I want our visitors to know that we are a ministry about change and that if that is who you are, desiring to go into the next level of your life, and allow God to take you to the next level, then we are the place for you. We are excited about what God is doing to people – in the lives of people individually and collectively – and we are here for you and we know that one day, the Lord is coming back looking for a church without a spot or wrinkle, and we are on the corner of 13th and Ingraham Street to get out the spots and the wrinkles so that when God comes back, He’ll be pleased with us.
Destiny – Pride: Pastor Ruffin, Destiny Pride truly appreciates your being our November 2013 Spotlight of the Month. We have learned a little about your life’s journey and the wonderful work you’re doing at Greater New Saint Paul Baptist Church. We wish you the best in your ministry there and as well the ministry of your husband, Pastor Rodney E. Ruffin, at Elim Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland. Again, Pastor Ruffin, thank you very, very much.
Pastor Ruffin: Thank you.
* * * *
In addition to the ministries addressed by Pastor Ruffin, Greater New Saint Paul Baptist Church has numerous other ministries, including its Women’s Ministry; Senior Ministry; Companion Care Ministry; Youth & Young Adult Ministry; PK Ministry (Pastor’s Kids); Young Adult Ministry; MVT Ministry (Most Valuable Teens); Single Citizens Ministry; Music Ministry; Hospitality Ministry; Intercessory Prayer Ministry; Marriage Enrichment Ministry; New Members Orientation; Missions Ministry; Communications Ministry; Christian Education Department; Pastor’s Aid Ministry; Armorbearers Ministry; Movie Ministry. Visit Greater New Saint Paul’s website [click here] to find out more.
|Greater New Saint Paul Baptist Church|
1300 Ingraham Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20011-3604