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In the Spirit with Pastor Perry Slaughter

Pastor Perry Slaughter sits by the pulpit of this home church: Valley Harvest Ministries in Dublin.

 

By WILLIAM PAINE
william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Pastor Perry Slaughter has quite a voice. When he takes the stage with the Praise and Worship Team at Valley Harvest Ministries in Dublin, his rich baritone voice adds both a sense of depth and heartfelt emotion to the music. Even so, Perry’s performances are not meant to draw attention to his musical talents, but rather to bring those in attendance closer to the Spirit of God.

“I’m not considered the one that sings that well,” said Perry with typical humility. “Most people don’t know this, but my wife Teresa is an accomplished singer. My brother Phillip travels all around the world as part of the ministry. He is what I would consider professional. I’m amateur.”

Singing runs in the Slaughter family, as does a strong sense of faith in God.

“I grew up in a Christian home,” Perry related. “Dad was called to the ministry when I was about eight or so. He drove every Sunday to Bramwell, West Virginia, where he pastored Jones Chapel United Holy Church. As far as our vacations, we were going to conventions and convocations and meetings. Growing up in the church, we were very active, even on the district level. So we were traveling all over.”

“Dad was a very hard worker but during that time we were poor,” he added. “We didn’t know we were poor, but looking back I know we were poor.”

Perry G. Slaughter was born and raised in Pulaski and graduated from Pulaski County High School in 1976. He went on to earn his Associates Degree in Electronics at NRCC and swiftly found work at White Motors in the summer of ’79. A year later he was laid off, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he soon found work at Kollmorgen in Radford, where he still works today.

“I went in as a tester and I would test the product before it ships out,” recounted Perry. “I worked in operations for a couple of years and then went to engineering and that was around 1983. So, I’d work for different engineers in the electronics department.”

What do they do at Kollmorgen?

“We make servo drives that can be used with anything with motion control,” Perry explained. “We’ve got them on military platforms and in bottling plants. Some of the motors and drives have been on the moon!”

“We sell mostly to Original Equipment Manufacturers … machine makers,” Perry continued. “So, we try to be their motion solution. We’re not high volume but we’re definitely high tech. It’s kind of like a high end job shop, but we used to do a lot more customization of our products than we do now.”

Perry’s dad eventually become a senior elder at his church with more than 30 pastors under his purview. Meanwhile, Perry and the rest of the family lived and worshipped in Pulaski at the Pentecostal United Holy Church Pulaski.

“I married my wife Teresa in 1981,” Perry recounted. “Her dad was from Pulaski but she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and didn’t much like Pulaski. She was a city girl. She was like, you have to go to Roanoke to go to a mall around here! But I just refused to live in the city.”

Perry has always been deeply involved in his church and his enthusiasm did not lessen with age.

“I was very zealous,” said he. “I was not a minister but I was very involved in the ministry of our church. We were traveling and doing stuff at the same time Teresa and I were starting a family. But I was gone a lot and for Teresa, I was in a very adulterous relationship with the church. For her, the church was the other woman!’”

Here, Perry Slaughter paused, as a wave of emotion swept over his face.

“I was very immature as far as being a husband and a family man,” he admitted. “So, it got pretty bad for us to the point of almost divorce. It almost came to that.”

In 1992, Perry’s father stepped down from pastoring the church in Bramwell and by August that same year, he became pastor of the Pentecostal United Holy Church Pulaski. After more than what Perry calls an “amazing” year, his father passed away in November 1993.

“After dad died, I stepped up my game and accepted the call to ministry in 1994,” Perry recounted. “I was going and doing and excited about it … but my family life was horrible. I was doing everything I could do to serve God but I had the order wrong. It’s God, family and church. I had God and church on the same level. It wasn’t that my zeal and desire to serve God wasn’t true and genuine, but I just didn’t have the priorities right. I finally got a revelation on that.”

“We got a new pastor after my dad died,” said Perry. “And he was preaching out of Ephesians and I all I can tell you is, I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me and he said, ‘You are released from here’ and I felt this weight that I was carrying was lifted off of me.”

Teresa had no qualms about this and the Slaughter family set about finding a new church family.

“I was confident that I heard from God but I just didn’t know where God wanted us to be,” said Perry. “I didn’t care if it was a black church or white church or whatever but we went to one church in particular, where I knew they were uncomfortable because we were a black family. It wasn’t that they were rude, but you could just tell they’re not comfortable with us being there. And then I went to some of the black churches but again there was no witness.”

“But that first Sunday that we came to Valley Harvest Ministries, Pastor Steve preached a message that seemed directed towards us,” Perry continued. “I told Teresa after the service, ‘God knows exactly where we’re at.’”

“So, I had a family meeting,” Perry recounted. “My daughter Jackie might have been 12 and PJ, our son, was about 15. PJ said, ‘When we come in here to Valley Harvest, our color doesn’t mean anything to these folks. They’re real. They’re genuine. They’re not phony.’ I got to know Pastor Steve better and the messages were right on point with us and my wife concurred.”

By August of 1998, the Slaughter family had become members of Valley Harvest Ministries in Dublin. A couple years later, Perry became the first person of color to serve on the church’s board of directors.

Meanwhile, Perry Slaughter kept rising through the ranks at Kollmorgen, where he attained a supervisor’s position in 1995.

Though never pastoring a church himself, Perry had long thought that if he could support his family adequately, he would one day be able leave his job and become a full-time preacher. He even told his superiors at Kollmorgen of this aspiration.

“My boss wasn’t a Christian, but he observed me working with my team and he said, ‘What makes you think God didn’t call you to be where you’re at? There’s people here that would never walk into a church but God has you here to be there for Him.’ He was more spiritual thinking that I was!”

About a dozen years ago, Edmond Kirtner, a fellow member of the church board of directors, suggested that Perry Slaughter become an Associate Pastor at Valley Harvest Ministries. Pastor Steve Willis agreed.

“They voted right there and I became Associate Pastor of this church,” Perry recounted. “When I talked to Pastor Steve about it, he said, ‘Perry don’t worry about it. Your gift will make room for you.’ My dad used to say that all the time. When they brought it to the church, they pretty much gave a standing ovation. Maybe it affirmed what I already knew, but I said ‘I’m home. I’m home.’”

Even so, the style of music and the service itself is much different than in Perry’s previous experience.

“The worship style here is docile compared to what Teresa and I grew up in,” said Pastor Perry. “The biggest thing you see here is raising hands, but people danced and shouted and even ran in the Spirit in the church I grew up in. But I’ve assimilated and I think that’s a great thing because we have people coming in from all different types of backgrounds. People are coming to experience God and what He wants to do through them and what their purpose is.”

Even men of strong faith sometimes need affirmation.

Several years ago, Perry was driving to work when a wave of emotion brought him to tears.

“I said, ‘God, I just need you to affirm me,’” Perry remembered. “I know I’m not dotting every I and crossing every T, but David didn’t either and you said he was a man after your own heart. And I said ‘God, all I need to hear you say is, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

Some weeks later, Associate Pastor Kip Worrell says I need to talk to you and he takes me down the hall,” Perry recounted. “He said, ‘I had a person in this church come to me who was convicted because they were prejudiced.’ He said, ‘This person knew that this was not right, as a believer, to have these prejudiced feelings towards black people but he prayed about it and asked God to help him get over his prejudice against blacks.’”

“That guy has been watching you the whole time he’d been here,” Worrell said to Perry. “I want to tell you the reason God was able to change his heart was because you were able to model Christ in your life to enable God to be able to change his heart relative to his prejudice.”

“I turn away from Kip to walk out of the room and he called my name and said, ‘The Master wants me to let you know, Well done, good and faithful servant.’ When God speaks to you in a way that’s undeniable … it’s those moments in time that let me know that I was where God wanted me to be and doing the things he wanted me to do. ”

“William, you couldn’t give me a million dollars for that … and it’s not Perry Slaughter,” said Pastor Perry. “When people compliment me and I see that spirit of pride rising up, that’s when I hear, “’They’re not seeing you, they’re seeing Him.’”

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