BY C.S. HOWARD
Pastor Porter addresses the congregation. Photo Credit: Thomas Sarasota Herald Tribune
Sarasota native Reverend Henry L. Porter, II became the new pastor of the Westcoast Center for Human Development on Saturday, June 18, 2016. He accepted the torch of spiritual leadership from his father, Bishop Henry L. Porter, who founded the Westcoast Centers and pastored at the headquarters for 45 years.
Bishop Porter started The Sarasota Community Choir in Newtown in 1969 while still studying at Florida A&M University. This choir became the Westcoast Gospel Chorus of Florida, a touring team of ministers and singers. Bishop Porter received the call to full-time ministry while completing doctoral studies at Yale University. Now, just shy of his 50th year in ministry, Bishop Porter has preached on several continents, traveled to dozens of countries, served as overseer of churches domestically and abroad, and founded a K-12 school the Westcoast School which is entering its 32nd year of educating students.
Pastor Porter has served with his dad in the ministry all of his life, in one capacity or another. He is a graduate of the Westcoast School and Fisk University. He has served as assistant pastor for the past eight years, and is looking forward to taking on the office of the pastor while his father is still here to give advice. Pastor Porter looks forward to engaging a new generation of young believers, their families and anyone looking for a fresh approach to Christianity.
Speaking on continuing a ministry which began decades ago, Pastor Porter stated, “You cannot detach the engagement of the next generation from their culture; they have to be connected in a culturally relevant and culturally meaningful way. In the New Testament, Jesus used parables to speak to an agrarian people, which proved to be an effective way to speak timeless truths.
“For so long Christianity has been concerned about the afterlife, and not this life. Every generation needs to be introduced to Christ in a language they understand.
On receiving the torch, Pastor Porter said, “There is always value to a living predecessor; he can help you avoid pitfalls. So many times in the African-American faith tradition, the successor starts out at a disadvantage because there was never a mentorship process; there is a power vacuum. It’s good that at our church we were never left with a power vacuum. My father, our predecessor, had the foresight to groom someone to stand in his shoes. He was very, very kind to us, and we are very blessed.”
Bishop Porter will continue to minister on a broader level. Evangelism with a global thrust, prison outreach, and expanding his music ministry, are among the ways he plans to use his time.
The new pastor gives a blanket invitation to the community: “Those who have taken a cursory look before, should come look at this church again. Maybe you have heard of Westcoast before, maybe not, at least come give us a look, Sundays at 11. Give us a try.”
Pastor Porter and his wife, Helena, have two young children. Westcoast is located at 403 N. Washington Blvd., in downtown Sarasota. For more information, or specific prayer needs, call (941) 365-7543.