He is a Reverend. A Doctor of Divinity. A licensed social worker. A veteran of the U.S. Army. An adjunct professor. A grandfather.

On Sunday, Rev. Dr. Allen J. Sims added another role, pastor of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. A packed house celebrated the installation of Sims as the church's 29th pastor. Its most celebrated, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, had been its 20th pastor.

The classic church building (1877) is in downtown Montgomery at the intersection of Dexter Avenue and Decatur Street, just two blocks south of the state capitol building and in full view of the capitol steps. The church and congregation have experienced history inside and parades marching by outside.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the church hosted gatherings of organizers inside for the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955) and the early days of the civil rights movement. Nowadays, parades still pass by outside the church on Dexter Avenue, the main street of downtown Montgomery, but they are mostly parades for ceremonial events: The Turkey Day Parade (Thanksgiving); the Camellia Bowl; the governor's inauguration every four years; the state's bicentennial (2019) and others.

Rev. Sims told his new congregants Sunday, "I'm humbled, I'm grateful, I'm very thankful for God – that he allowed me at this time to shepherd this flock. And so, I'm just overwhelmed with joy. And I appreciate God. We want to welcome everybody and anybody, no matter what your status is in life, you are welcomed here at Dexter."

Sims previously served as pastor at churches in Marion, Abbeville and Montgomery. He is also an adjunct professor at Selma University's Ministry Training Institute.

Sims is a native of Montgomery and served in the U.S. Army after being commissioned as an ROTC graduate.

He is married to Marcella Tolver Sims and has five children and six grandchildren.

Sims' goal for his service at the church is "to let people know in the tri-county area that we are not a museum – that we are a living, thriving church."

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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