In his 41 years as member and pastor of his Anacostia church, there has been a world war, civil rights struggles and major social upheaval, but the Rev. William Winston's preaching has held fast to God and the Bible.
Staying away from political or social issues has kept the congregation at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church from splitting and has kept them from "getting made at me," said Winston, 86, who has been associate minister at the church for the last 31 years.
And whether young or old, male or female, members of his congretion love him.
"He lives the way he preaches," he's "jolly", and "dynamite," several church members said.
The congregation at Matthews Memorial pours attention on him. Despite Winston's protests, they recently honored him for the third time with a testimonial dinner. Some young people call him "Daddy."
"He's so dedicated and consecrated," said Dorothy Jackson, a church member for 18 years.
"He's always trying to do something for somebody, helping how he can, sharing what he has," said Philip Rollins, 53. "I've never seen him angry at anything or anyone."
Gladys M. McKenzie, a church member for as long as Winston, said, "There's just something in him you love. When you leave him you leave happy."
McKenzie said Winston has been especially helpful to the youth of the church. "He encourages you to go ahead. If you want to go to school, he says, 'You go ahead and go to school! Don't let anything get in your way!'"
When Winston arrived at Matthews Memorial in the 1930s, the church consisted of a rickety building with no pews. He and the handful of other church members went door-to-door selling chicken and chitterling dinners for 35 cents to raise money for pews, and eventually a new church.
Most of the church members at that time were receiving welfare, said Winston. Members of the congregation who worked, including the pastor and Winston, usually held unskilled jobs or labor supervisory jobs with the government. But, he added, most owned their own houses then.
Shortly after joining the church, Winston began teaching Sunday school and later received his "calling." He spent the next four years working full time and attending the Washington Baptist Theological Seminary at night.
Back then, Winston said, he usually ministered to people on family matters. "People never talked openly about racial discrimination or social issues," he said. While he preached sermons about brotherly love, he never advocated activism.
"It [racial discrimination] was going on everywhere, you just accepted," Winston said. "Christians as a rule don't spend their time thinking about injustice. We know it exists, but people should get out there and make the best of it."
Winston said sticking to traditional religious teachings, even in the midst of blatant discrimination, "has never been a problem to me. We just don't preach about those things.
"I guess you'd call me a pacifist. Some people have called me an 'Uncle Tom.' But I had to play that part to eat."
Winston said that "when you start talking about other things [other than religion] you get somebody mad at you. You have to keep politics out of religion!"
Winston doesn't like to talk about discrimination he's experienced, and when he does, he usually tries to justify the injustice.
"I've been discriminated against in jobs like sweeping or brooming. Unemployed whites would always get the jobs. But I guess the discrimination was rightly so. I never got a chance to go to college, so I couldn't demand a good job. But I'm not made at anybody."
"My mother who lived in Washington gave me away when I was 6 months old. A lady walking down the street saw my mother holding me in her arms in a doorway. I guess my mother was having hard times; the lady liked me and my mother gave me to her."
He lived with the woman in Gordonsville, Va., until he ran away when he was 9 or 10. "She was a cruel woman," said Winston.
Then Winston was taken in by a white farm family that he recalled was considerate of him. He worked "from morning until night," and ate gravy and bread from a pan by the fire, and sometimes horse corn from the barn.
But the farmer drove Winston away several years later when he failed to collect money from a customer while minding the farmer's bootleg business one day.
After working for two more families, Winston joined the Army and eloped with Helen, his wife of 62 years.
They worked as servants for "well-to-do" families in Georgetown and Virginia. Later, Winston took a job as an "unskilled laborer" with the government and shortly afterward visited Matthews Memorial Church for the first time with one of his friends.
Winston said the only thing that has changed at his church in 41 years is its finances. "We don't have to beg for money. We just pay. Our young people are fairly good livers and now they're footing the bill." CAPTION: Picture, The Rev. William Winston relaxes at his apartment in Southeast Washington. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post