Pastor wants God, not race, to be seen

The Rev. David Dawson runs the Pure Heart Word Center in Clovis. (CNJ Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The identity and ministry of the Rev. David Dawson are not built around the color of his skin.

“When it’s all said and done,” said Dawson, a silver cross and a whistle worn around his neck, “I want people to recognize that I was a child of God, not that I was a black man.”

In Clovis, Dawson, 44, is revered.

He runs a non-denominational church, Pure Heart Word Center, and coaches children in baseball, basketball, football and track.

“He’s one of the biggest players in the community,” said Clovis resident Pam Radford, whose 12-year-old son is coached by Dawson.

“He’s a big inspiration to my son,” she said.

Dawson’s reputation as someone who cares spreads fast, according to his wife, Gerri.

Even strangers call his cell phone, sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late at night, she said. They stop him in the supermarket, in bookstores, on the street, she said.

“Everyone says, ‘You can call D. Dawson for help. He’ll do it. He’s always there,’” his wife said.

“He’s like the big, teddy bear coach,” she said.

Dawson’s willingness to help is rooted in a memory, he said. He saw a pastor turn away a parishioner who needed help.

“That triggered (me),” he said. “I vowed never to put anyone off.”

His faith came early, he said. He is the son of evangelists and the second of seven siblings. As a boy, he traveled with his father, who was in a gospel band. He slept in pews while his father preached and sang.

These days, Dawson does the preaching and singing. He is working on his second album and has pulled hundreds of people into his church.

The reverend is bothered when racism seeps into religion.

“Go into a church, and I guarantee white people will tend to sit with white people and black people with black people,” he said.

Being black in Clovis used to be harder, “(but) we still got a ways to go,” said Dawson, who was born and raised in the plains town where roughly 7 percent of the population is black, according to 2005 U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

“Sometimes it seems like there’s a blanket here — a shade of racism,” he said.

“A few ignorant people still think that if I shake their hand, it (being black) will rub off on them.

“(Some pastors in Clovis) would cringe if their daughter brought home a boyfriend of another race,” he said.

As others cling to racism and drag it into religion, Dawson works on keeping his promise — to help those who need help — and tries to let it go.

“The Holy Spirit ain’t white or black,” Dawson said. “That’s what I stand for (the Holy Spirit).”