By Rev. Shakira Sanchez-Collins
Twin sisters, the Rev. Alethea Scott-Winston and the Rev. Dr. Alesia S. Ford Burse, are both pastors focused on the ministry of the gospel and service to their local communities.
The twin pastors made history when Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson appointed them to churches with the same name: St. James. The Rev. Dr. Ford Burse is the Senior Pastor of St. James AME Church in Orange Park, and the Rev. Scott Winston is the Senior Pastor of St. James AME Church in Clearwater, Florida. These appointments mark the first time in the history of the AME Church that twins have pastored churches with the same name at the same time.
Both of them have had fruitful careers within the church and within their respective communities. The Rev. Dr. Alesia Ford Burse spent her early career focusing on research of the elderly and their quality of life. She was instrumental in starting the Gerontology program at Edward Waters University to serve the aging and senior citizen community. One of the few Applied Anthropologists in the United States, the Rev. Ford Burse, has worked in community development at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for over twenty years. Through her work, she has impacted the lives of many families, companies, and schools.
The Rev. Alethea Scott Winston currently serves as the Vice-Chairperson of the Social Justice Ministry for Pinellas County. In this capacity, she works closely with local city officials to encourage schools to embrace Restorative Practices to reduce school suspensions that disproportionately impact students of color. She is also on the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee for Pinellas County, through which she advocates for policy changes that make affordable housing more accessible and equitable.
The Rev. Ford Burse answered her call to the ministry first and thus served as a role model for her twin, who entered the ministry later. Since then, they have supported each other throughout their ministry journeys. Throughout their ministries, they both have had several accomplishments. For example, the Rev. Ford Burse led the construction of two churches and developed several programs and ministries, and the Rev. Scott Winston renovated churches and created a social justice-focused ministry that has greatly impacted her community.
“God has taken care of us from birth to adulthood,” Rev. Scott Winston said. “God has allowed us to live our dreams to become ministers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church serving the Lord with gladness.”