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Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 7 p.m.

Pastor Jerry Hatter continues to lead the congregation at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Ypsilanti for two decades

By Ann Dwyer


The Rev. Jerry Hatter is celebrating 20 years as pastor at Brown Chapel AME Church in Ypsilanti.

Melanie Maxwell I

Reporter's note: The story has been updated to correct information that was obtained from a bio that was provided by the church in regards to the number of years the pastor was married to his first wife.

What is the secret to lasting as a pastor at the same church for 20 years?

“I have not been told to leave,” jokes the Rev. Jerry Hatter, pastor of the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) Ypsilanti.

But there is some truth behind the jest. Every year, bishops decide which pastors will preside over which churches. And every year for the past 20, Hatter has received a certificate saying that he will stay at Brown. Hatter keeps every certificate he has received in a picture frame that sits behind his desk.

In that time, Hatter has been recognized by U.S. Rep. John Dingell in the Congressional Record, has helped get a new, larger sanctuary built and also cultivated a devoted following.

Among them is Chana Hawkins. She was one of the first two members baptized by Hatter and is now a steward at the church.

A defining moment for Hawkins was when Pastor Hatter asked, “Who would you rather be, Peter or Judas?” For her, it was a question that has helped her define her faith. “I have been fed here spiritually,” she said.

Another long-time member, Lorenzo Odum, says that Hatter “takes away the complication” of the faith. “He’s not perturbed to explain further. In fact, I think he loves it.”

Hatter and his congregation use their faith to help support their community. They work with such outreach programs as S.O.S. Community Services. They help feed the underprivileged with their Good Samaritan Outreach program and also run a foundation that provides grants to community programs such as Dress for Success and the Dispute Resolution Center.

Born in Haynesville, La., Hatter credits his aunt and uncle for teaching him about the love of Jesus. They raised him after his mother passed away when he was young.

Hatter received his M.B.A. from the University of Detroit in 1976 and worked for 23 years at the Ford Motor Co. He also earned a real estate broker’s license and a CPA certificate. But throughout the years, he remained active with the AME church. In 1992, he graduated from Ashland Theological Seminary. His first appointment as a pastor was for Brown Chapel and has never ministered at any other church.

Hatter has five children with his first wife of 40 years, Mary. He remarried after she passed away, and now he and his wife, Gwendolyn, are grandparents to 21 grandchildren.

While Hatter says he still has much to do at the church, such as reaching out to younger generations, he understands that remaining at the church is not his decision to make.

“If the Lord says so, I’ll go.”


Ricki Lee

Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

This Church as well as most Churches in Washtenaw County are open to everyone. Visit sometime, you will be well received....and blessed.

Sarah Rigg

Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Nice job on the story, Anne, and to Melanie Maxwell: great shot! Love this photo.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

Is this church for Africans only, or are other races welcome? The name would have be believe I wasn't welcome.


Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 5:44 a.m.

The current year is 2011, not 1964 (the year congress outlawed racial segregation), and not 1968 (the year segregation of Methodist churches was ended). This means there are no churches or religious centers, Methodist or otherwise, which do not welcome people of every race and nationality possible. The word African in AME should not lead you to believe you are not welcome, but lead you to at least consider the meaning of the word or even look it up online. Why would that word lead you to believe you are not welcome? I live within walking distance from an AME church in my neighborhood, they are very welcoming and have an array of visually different people at their events. I also live near the Ann Arbor Chinese Christian Church, which has many different races and nationalities attending their services. Never once did the word Chinese in their name lead me to believe I wasn't welcome because of being another race.


Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 4:04 a.m.

Absolutely not, this church is not only for Africans or African Americans. Brown Chapel as well as the rest of the AME churches worldwide are open for everyone. The term African in African Methodist Episcopal represents the heritage and the History of the Church. Over 200 years ago, a man by the name of Richard Allen was at a Methodist church where he was not allowed to pray. Eventually after putting up with the oppression, Richard Allen and others went to Philadelphia and founded a church where they could truly worship, this church became known as the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This is the History of the church and the reason why African remains apart of the name. You can visit any AME church, at any location and see a variety of different people worshiping. Overall, the AME Church is a denomination that is diverse and welcomes diversity from the congregations to the clergy. No matter what your background is, you will be welcome with open arms at any AME Church.