St. Peter’s Church and World Outreach Center’s Bishop James and Rev. Joyce Hash will be celebrating their 25th anniversary as pastors of the mega-
church and their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend.
St. Peter’s, which has 4,200 members and sits on a 79-acre campus on Old Lexington Road, tends to do things big, and the double anniversary celebration is no exception. The couple will renew their vows during a 5 p.m. gala Saturday at the Benton Convention Center, and on Sunday, services at the church at both 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. will feature a string of special guests, including the Hashes friend, Bishop T.D. Jakes, who will headline the evening service. Entertainment will be provided by Joshua Rogers, Jessica Reedy and Crystal Aikin – all winners of BET’s popular gospel talent show, “Sunday Best.”
Rev. Hash, who oversees the church women’s ministry, said she and her husband have not lost one ounce of the zeal for ministry that they brought with them to the Twin City more than a quarter-century ago.
“I love what I’m doing,” she said. “I think if you have a passion for it, it makes it much easier, and I’m not saying it’s all easy, but I think if you have a passion for it, you can do it better.”
For the Hashes, the anniversary is a celebration of a lifelong journey together. Both are from Wytheville, Va., where they were childhood sweethearts who married straight out of high school in 1962. While raising four children, they both worked and attended bible school in Tusla, Okla. The couple relocated to North Carolina after Bishop Hash graduated from Rhema Bible Training Center and Rev. Hash graduated from Victory Bible Institute.
Bishop Hash’s late father, Bishop Rueben Hash Sr., was a pastor and General Overseer of the Church of God Apostolic. The elder Hash had moved to Winston-Salem in 1968 to become pastor of a then fledgling St. Peter’s, which at the time sat on Highland Avenue in the building that is now the Best Choice Center. Bishop Hash, who became the church’s associate pastor, stood at his father’s side as they built the ministry. In 1987, after Bishop Rueben Hash retired, his son was elected to replace his as pastor. The Hashes used their spiritual gifts to transform St. Peters, which had only about 300 members when they took over the pulpit.
By 1990, membership had exploded so drastically that the church had to relocate to its current location, though, in the beginning, the campus was not nearly as vast as it is today. The church underwent an expansion in 2001, adding its Family Life Enrichment Center, The Heritage Place apartments for seniors and other structures.
“I don’t think it’s so much something I did, I think it’s something God did,” Bishop Hash said of the church’s wide appeal. “I try to teach a simple word or a simple message that applies to every phase of life.”
St. Peter’s has managed to become one of the few racially diverse places of worship in the city. While most of its congregants are black, the church boasts members of 14 different nationalities. It enhances its global appeal by supporting missions around the world. A row of flags at the church’s entrance represents some of the nations members have touched. Inside, a series of plaques identify the 52 churches that St Peter’s has helped build around the world.
The Hashes have tried to make St. Peter’s a home away from home for members and the community. The 78,000-square-foot Family Life Enrichment Center has a cafeteria, basketball courts and exercise facilities; there are classrooms and a bookstore in the 68,000-square-foot Family Worship Center; and the church’s We Care House feeds and clothes more than 500 families each month.
“I think the church is responsible for the whole man: spirit, soul and body,” Bishop Hash said.
The Hashes said to make sure congregants don’t feel lost at St. Peter’s, they encourage members to meet in smaller groups of 10-15 throughout the week for Bible study and fellowship.
“If people join a large church and they don’t make a friend eventually, they will just drift away,” said Bishop Hash. “People have to feel their community, and that’s our way of building a community within the Lord’s church.”
The Hashes are quick to share the credit for St. Peter’s success. The church has a dedicated staff of more than 30 and a team of reliable volunteers that keep the engine churning.
As they look to the future, the couple expect the church to keep growing. St. Peter’s is currently working to attract and keep youth through college ministries, high school clubs and a mentoring program.
The Hashes, who share adjoining offices at the church, are together “99 percent of the time” according to Rev. Hash. Their union, which has produced four children and nine grandchildren, some of whom work at St. Peter’s, is still solid as a rock. When asked about the secret to sustaining a 50 year marriage, Bishop Hash had a quick response.
“Your wife is always right,” he said with a boisterous laugh.
The couple said that listening and communication are vital to a good marriage, as is perseverance.
“There are going to be situations in life, there will always be opposition in everything you do, but through the mercy of God and loving one another, you stay together, you stay together,” said Rev. Hash.
For more information about the anniversary events and/or the church, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.spwoc.com” www.spwoc.com.