Pastor Robert Blake puts the parishioners at Vernon Chapel AME Church at ease by being very down to earth and relatable.
That’s so important. Many of them are going through a difficult period in their lives, whether it is from the water crisis or other issues plaguing many Flint residents. His guidance and listening ear are needed to help them through.
Blake says his life experiences taught him humility and the reality of God’s grace. Therefore, he feels compels to demonstrate grace and patience with others, even as others showed both to him in a period of his life when he was addicted to drugs before he became a pastor.
Growing up in a Christian home doesn’t necessarily mean you grow up to be a Christian. Each person must decide for himself or herself. – Pastor Robert Blake, Vernon Chapel AME Church
Blake grew up in a Christian home. His father was a preacher’s kid. His mother was a strong believer, and his grandfather was a pastor. Blake is a fourth-generation pastor. However, he concedes growing up in a Christian home doesn’t necessarily mean you grow up to be a Christian. Each person must decide for himself or herself, he says.
He recalls as a child a special aunt and uncle who would come visit the family from Philadelphia. They would always call him the “preacher boy,” but that was something he could not envision at the time.
Growing up in Ann Arbor, he chose a different route. He got caught up with the wrong people and did the wrong things in high school and later in college at the University of Michigan. He led a lifestyle of getting high and thoroughly loved it.
“Whatever the greatest weed was, I had to have it. Whether it was Columbian red or gold or hash or whatever it was,” says Blake.
Ironically, he was never too far from church and lived a sort of a double life.
“I would get high on Saturday night, but rarely missed church on Sunday morning,” he says. His mother had drilled into him that whatever her children did on Saturday, they were to be in church the next day.
“Throughout high school and college, I smoked just about everything you could smoke, but deliverance did come. I just thank God my pastor and family never gave up on me.” – Pastor Robert Blake, Vernon Chapel AME Church
After fulfilling that command, Blake says he would go home after church and get high. That was his primary life focus.
“Throughout high school and college, I smoked just about everything you could smoke, but deliverance did come,” says Blake. “I just thank God my pastor and my family never gave up on me.”
They were always asking him when he was going to change his ways and answer the call to ministry.
It took some time for the answer to come.
He worked at the General Motors transmission plant at Willow Run for 30 years and was an addict during that time. He would wake up in the morning and get high. Then he would go out and get high at lunch time. He would ride home and get high, and then get high again upon arriving home. He would get in the shower and then get high after that.
That was his life.
“I may have been raised in the church, but I got saved in the plant,” says Blake. “I accepted Jesus as my savior while at work. I have not smoked cigarettes or marijuana ever since.”
That led him to the ministry. He took to the call to lead St. Luke A.M.E. church in Highland Park and later felt the call to come to Flint.
The church provides services such as Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) to help those who suffer from addiction, as Blake once did, overcome their struggle.
Struggling with his own addiction gave Blake a humble heart that never forgot what God’s grace did for him. It changed his life so he could help others change theirs.
Editor’s Note: Vernon Chapel AME Church is located at 5802 Dupont Street, Flint, MI 48505. They can be reached at (810) 785-5721 or by visiting their facebook page