The Rev. Kenneth Eugene Dennis Sr., who led Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Jackson Ward for three decades, has died.
Rev. Dennis’ family reported that he died Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at his Henrico County residence. He was 65.
Viewings are scheduled for 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, at Manning Funeral Home, 700 N. 25th St. in Church Hill. His funeral will be private.
A native of Miami, Rev. Dennis was called to the pulpit at Greater Mt. Moriah in 1988. He would have marked his 33rd year as pastor in June.
During his leadership, Greater Mt. Moriah joined with other Downtown churches in serving food to the hungry and homeless on a weekly basis and became a center for meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
A former chaplain for the Richmond Police Department, Rev. Dennis also coordinated grief counseling programs for families of homicide victims for a while.
After graduating from high school and serving four years in the Air Force, Rev. Dennis came to Richmond to earn his bachelor’s at Virginia Union University. He later earned a master’s in ministry from the VUU’s seminary.
Licensed to preach in 1980 while earning his undergraduate degree, Rev. Dennis started his career as a youth minister for five years at 31st Street Baptist Church in Church Hill where he also met his wife, Loretta H. Dennis. They married in 1986, she said.
“He was a beacon of light who loved doing God’s work and serving the Jackson Ward community,” Mrs. Dennis said. “He often described himself as the priest of the cathedral in the community.”
Well known within Richmond faith circles, Rev. Dennis drew headlines in 2004 after he crashed his car in Henrico County and was arrested for drunk driving and possession of cocaine. He went to rehab and survived an effort to oust him as pastor.
His longtime friend, the Rev. Ros- coe D. Cooper Jr., pastor of Metropolitan African-American Baptist Church, said that the personal challenges Rev. Dennis faced made him better able to deal with the challenges and struggles of those his church served.
He said Rev. Dennis “had a passion for the poor and oppressed and gave his life and ministry to their service.”
He also noted that Rev. Dennis was “a greater encourager.” Rev. Cooper said that when he left Fifth Street Baptist Church to found Metropolitan, Rev. Dennis allowed the fledgling church to use Greater Mt. Moriah for services and also began a joint ministry with him in Gilpin Court.
He said Rev. Dennis for 15 years also co- hosted with him the television program “Focus on Black Religious Life” and was an ally during Rev. Cooper’s tenure as general secretary of the National Baptist Convention.
Rev. Dennis was a past president of the Richmond Branch NAACP and a silver life member of the national organization.
He also served as a mentor to students in Richmond Public Schools, was an adjunct instructor at VUU’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology and taught classes at the Richmond, Virginia, Seminary, which awarded him an honorary doctorate for his service.
Rev. Dennis also was a member of the Henrico Ministers’ Conference and was an officer of the Tuckahoe Baptist Association and the Men’s Division of the International Association of Ministers’ Wives and Ministers’ Widows.
He also belonged to the Gamma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
In addition to his wife of 35 years, survivors include two sons, Kenneth E. “K.J.” Dennis Jr. and Kendall E. Dennis, his mother Susie Dennis, sister, Judy Ann Dennis, and three grandchildren.