Sister Maggie L. Culp and her husband, the Rev. Robert A. Culp, react as Bishop Timothy Clarke of Columbus speaks. ‘All of us here today can give testimony for the impact he’s had on our lives,’ he said.
Over the past 50 years, the Rev. Robert A. Culp has made an indelible mark on the Toledo community.
As pastor of the First Church of God in the Old West End, the Rev. Culp has ministered to thousands of people, established missions overseas, led the Toledo chapter of the NAACP, founded a charter school, and started three homeless shelters, among other noteworthy achievements.
But for congregation member Dallas Russell, the Rev. Culp’s most impressive contribution is far more simple.
“He’s a person who never forgets your name,” the 68-year-old North Toledoan said Sunday, extolling the pastor’s ability to remember even small details from conversations with the members of his flock. “It makes you feel like you’re worthy, like you’re special to him. He’s a man of God, that’s for sure.”
Ms. Russell was just one of hundreds of people who gathered Sunday at First Church of God for a special service in honor of the Rev. Culp and his wife, Sister Maggie L. Culp. Family members, friends, followers, religious leaders, and local dignitaries all participated in over three hours of celebration marking the couple’s 50th year at the church’s helm.
The service included speeches by Bishop Timothy Clarke of First Church of God in Columbus and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), a video address from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, and a special program of music, dancing, and singing.
Lisa Culp leads the church’s Youth Praise Dancers during the three-hour celebration of her parents. Hundreds attended.
The Rev. Culp, 76, and Mrs. Culp, 75, became pastor and first lady of First Church of God on May 21, 1961.
They met at Anderson University in Indiana, where the Rev. Culp obtained a bachelor’s degree and a master of divinity from the school of theology. The university later awarded him an honorary doctorate. The couple have been married more than 50 years and have four children and four grandchildren.
Under the Rev. Culp’s leadership at the First Church of God, many congregations have been planted elsewhere in the country, and a mission compound was established in Haiti. He founded and serves on the board of the Academy of Business and Technology and the homeless shelter Family House.
He also founded the Sparrow’s Nest shelter for women and the FACTS House for Men, both operated by Cherry St. Mission Ministries. In addition, he orchestrated the purchase of the former Quality Hotel on Reynolds Road in 2004 and turned it into the Genesis Dreamplex. It is to become a retirement village.
The Rev. Culp is president of Covenant Community Development Corp. and is a former president of the Toledo chapter of the NAACP.
Mrs. Culp, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, taught for many years in Toledo Public Schools before becoming principal of the First Church of God Christian School for 20 years. At First Church of God, she also was a Sunday school teacher, missionary society president, vacation Bible school coordinator, and member of the educational board. She ended her career as principal of the Academy of Business and Technology. She was also the church organist for many years.
Bishop Timothy Clarke of First Church of God in Columbus addresses the congregation about the Culps. The couple’s 50 years of leading the First Church of God were celebrated at the church yesterday.
The Rev. Culp’s qualities are more than evident to Charlie Washington, 58, who credits the pastor with saving his life.
Now a dedicated church member and usher, Mr. Washington said he had been a drug addict living on the streets for 20 years. He met the pastor after he enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program set up by the Rev. Culp. Although Mr. Washington slipped back into the drug habit a few times, he eventually broke the chains of his addiction, thanks to the pastor’s love and patience, he said.
“He let me know that it was all right to fail, just to get back up and brush yourself off,” Mr. Washington said. “This is where I got my strength from. This is where I knew my pastor will not turn his back on me. I know he cares for people. I know he cares for me.”
The Rev. Culp’s family also praised him. His younger brother, Pete Culp, himself an active community member, said his sibling is someone he’s always looked up to. He said the Rev. Culp has been a spiritual person since he was young and began preaching at his family’s church in Sharon, Pa., at age 12. “He’s been a hero of mine ever since I was a kid,” the younger Mr. Culp said. “When you see him, you see God, you see Christ. You see the Holy Spirit.”
The Rev. Cupl and his wife said Sunday there have been many highlights during their 50 years at the church, but most of all they are honored by the support and love of their congregation.
“We’ve been privileged,” Mrs. Culp said. “They have helped me to develop. They have helped sustain us through the tough times and rejoiced with us in the good times.”
“They have rewarded us often, but this has just surpassed anything from before,” the Rev. Culp said.
Also celebrating an anniversary this weekend were Rev. Otis Gordon and First Lady Debra Gordon of Warren AME Church, who marked 43 years in ministry.