By K. Levek
For the past 33 years Reverend Earnest D. Lyles has dedicated himself to the ministry of God. Lyles is the senior pastor of Brighter Day United Methodist Church, one church in two locations (Congress Heights Campus and A.P. Shaw Campus).
Brighter Day held a two-day celebration for Pastor Lyles, commemorating his years in the ministry. On Saturday evening a service of celebration was held at the Old Congress Heights School and featured guests from around the country who came to honor Lyles.
Bishop Edward Barnett, who attended the celebration service, said Lyles was called to ministry because God has anointed him with order. “When you get in order, the anointing of God begins to flow,” Barnett said in his remarks about Lyles. Barnett further stated that Pastor Lyles had mentored him in his journey to ministry and gave him great accolades for the work he has done not only in West Virginia, but here in the southeast community.
The program also acknowledged the role Pastor Lyles’ wife, First Lady Alyce Lyles played in his life and the ministry of the church. Lady Lyles was born in Senegal, West Africa and has led a life of ministry, first working as a Program Supervisor with United World Mission, where she taught French and Wolof (the local language) to missionaries. She and Pastor Lyles met in 1999 while she was working with the United Methodist Church as a mission consultant/coordinator. During the appreciation service she said, “I love my husband. He is a man of God and for the last 15 years he has shown me what true leadership is.”
The service celebration took the audience back in time to Lyles’ early days in ministry. Through a series of “Remember When” segments, various ministers like Bishop Barnett and other friends and loved ones recalled the great history of Lyles dating back to 1954 and through the present. His various guests who recalled his history included Dr. Martina Matthews, Fern Williams, Reverenced Kate Murphy, Elisa Savoy, Reverend Derek Shackelford, Reverend Vernice Carney, Tony Allen, Jimmie Jenkins and Reverend Gerald Dickson of Newark, New Jersey. Reverend Dickson of Beulah Bible Cathedral brought his church’s choir, who sang at the appreciation service and at the 11 o’clock worship service on Sunday, where Reverend Dickson preached.
During the Sunday service Reverend Dickson praised Pastor Lyles, noting that he had put his retirement on the backburner to continue “the will of the Lord.” He said the Lord “gives seed to the sewer” and that Lyles has shown through his work that he is committed to growing Brighter Day Ministries.
His pastoral journey has come full circle, in that he is back where he began. As a young man Lyles began attending A.P. Shaw United Methodist Church and became involved in many church activities where he was elected as chairperson to the church’s administrative board. Later he was selected as an assistant pastor of the church while he was attending Howard University’s School of Divinity. It was in 1980 when he accepted the call from God to begin full-time ministry and became the Assistant Minister of A.P. Shaw Methodist Church, under the late Reverend E.W. Stevenson.
In 1984 he became an ordained deacon in the Baltimore/Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. No stranger to serving as pastor at two churches, after he was ordained in 1984, he was appointed by Bishop Wertz to serve as the pastor of both Asbury and Mt. Zion Churches in Jefferson County, West Virginia and later ordained an elder in the same conference. During his leadership at Asbury, Lyles grew the membership four fold and expanded and/or created over thirty ministries. From 1984 until 2004 Lyles served those churches as their pastor.
Twenty years had passed since Lyles first began in the ministry and he began to think about retirement, but God had another plan in store for him. Just as he was leaving Shepherdstown, the new church site of Asbury, he received a call from Bishop Felton E. May, asking him to return to his roots, A.P. Shaw. And Lyles began serving as the pastor July 1, 2004. Two years later his leadership expanded to the Congress Heights campus and eventually merged together in 2010 to form Brighter Day Ministries.
Not only has Lyles been committed to growing Brighter Day, but he has shown through his travels that he is planting seeds abroad, in Ghana and Sierra Leone of West Africa. There is the El Shaddai International non-profit, where Pastor Lyles is the President/Executive Director. The Ghanaian project is building an elementary school near the capital of Accra and the Senegalese project is building a women’s skill center, where local women can come to get training on skills needed to be self-sufficient. Their Senegal project also hosts a micro-credit program so that entrepreneurs can get financing to build their own businesses.
Reverend Derek Shackelford, who attended the Saturday evening appreciation service, said that Pastor Lyles has been a giant in the ministry. He said it is “hard looking up to midgets when you know what a giant looks like.” For Lyles, a man of modest stature, he said “It’s all for the will of God that I do what I do.” While he appreciated his church, family and friends celebrating his 33rd year in ministry he said, “there is always more to do in the kingdom” and he says he is committed to doing more.