Special to the South Florida Times

WEST PALM BEACH — He has worked with then President George W. Bush as founder of the National Center for Faith Based Initiatives in which churches implement programs to develop underserved communities. She opened the first black-owned store in the then popular Palm Beach Mall.

They came to the Palm Beaches and blazed a trail and for doing it Bishop Harold Calvin Ray and his wife, Pastor Brenda Ray, were acknowledged recently for leadership in the community and their impact on other ministers and pastors nationwide.

A community-wide two-day celebration honoring his 20th church anniversary, their 27th wedding anniversary and his 56th birthday took place over two days recently, culminating in a banquet.  

As a bishop, Ray oversees the Kingdom Dominion International network of churches, leading other pastors and their congregations spiritually and practically.

“I’ve had the privilege of traveling with him to Nigeria and I’ve seen firsthand the lives he’s impacted,” Bishop Randall Holts, senior pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, said during the banquet. Holts’ ministry is among

the Kingdom Dominion churches.

Pastor Brenda Timberlake, senior pastor of Christian Faith Center in Creedmoor, N.C., a close friend and colleague of the couple, spoke of the Rays’ ministry and their unwavering support for her during her husband’s battle with cancer.

“The Rays are two of God’s generals in the kingdom of God and they need to be celebrated by the people they’ve helped in the world,” said Timberlake, who said the families shared the same spiritual mentor, the long-time, world renowned minister, Oral Roberts, whom Ray considered his teacher and  spiritual father.

Before Roberts’ death in  December 2009,  he recorded a video tribute for a previous event honoring Ray, telling viewers he loved Ray dearly. Ray got his undergraduate degree from Oral Roberts University and received a law degree from the University of Notre Dame.

But it wasn’t ministry that brought Ray to the Palm Beaches;  it was law. He came from Texas to continue a successful law career as a malpractice attorney and it was while he was working with the successful law firm of mega-lawyer Willie Gary that, he said, he got the call – from God.

“The Lord spoke to me very clearly and said for me to stop making a living and start saving lives,” Ray recalled.

He said Gary was not surprised at his spiritual call but was surprised that he would quit a lucrative career to start a ministry from the ground up. Brenda Ray admits she was nervous about her husband’s walking away from a secure life and future in order to pursue full-time ministry.

But Ray was undaunted and the couple started Redemptive Life Fellowship in 1991, at first leasing various locations before they built an elaborate church on 19 acres of prime lakefront property in the heart of West Palm Beach.

Ray described it himself as a miracle. The property was under contract for $2.4 million and the church got it for $600,000, Ray said. “That could only have been God,” he said. Eventually, hundreds flocked to the new church.

Brenda Ray, who had a brief stint as a television newscaster, was also known for her business acumen and impeccable fashion sense.  She opened a store in the Palm Beach Mall on  Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. Her store became the first black-owned store in the mall.

But perhaps Bishop Ray’s greatest contribution in the community has come through his economic development programs. Under the auspices of Redemptive Life Urban Initiatives

Corporation, the church built 30 affordable homes for first-time homeowners in an effort to revitalize depressed neighborhoods. The Homes of Coleman Park, located in the Historic Coleman Park neighborhood, in the inner city are adjacent to West Palm Beach’s most crime-ridden street, Tamarind Avenue.  Ray says that’s no accident. He believes the development of new homes in the neighborhood would bring pride to residents and renewed hope for their neighborhood.

The church is also known for its youth efforts including hosting Midnight Basketball and its innovative youth initiatives such as its “Urban Invasion Tour,” a dance ministry that traveled extensively and performed at the White House.

Photo: Bishop Harold Calvin Ray