Minister: Despite rumors, I’m not stepping down

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2013

Let Robert Canant be the first to tell you –  he has a past.



He can speak with authority about alcohol, drugs, and the accompanying lifestyle, because he’s lived it.

“I’ve been saved for 20 years, and clean and sober for 25,” he said on a recent weekday. “And these rumors that are going around, they hurt me worse than anything.”

As the anticipation of arrests being made by a cold case task force investigating the 1994 murder of Nibby Barton increased, someone linked Canant’s name to the investigation. The rumor spread so rapidly, even District Attorney Walt Merrell asked Canant to work with The Star-News to stop it.

That rumor mill has had Canant terminally ill, stepping down from his pulpit, and arrested for murder. All of those rumors are false.

“I am not sick,” he said. “I love my church and I love my congregation. And I ain’t no murderer.”

Asked where he thinks the rumors are coming from, Canant shrugged his broad shoulders and speculated.

“The devil has been mad at me a long time,” he said. “I served him so long, and I was good at it.”

But when his life changed, it really changed.

“God saved me good,” he said. “He saved me to the bone.”

When he was called to the ministry, he said, he had to learn to read the Bible.

“I was called to ministry,” he said. “I was first called to teach a Sunday School class” at Antioch Congregational Church. When he took the class, it had three members. Within three months, there were 53 kids there.

“I spent a lot of time studying,” he said.

These days, he pastors New Song Community Church, just past Hart’s Country Store on Antioch Road. He holds services at 10:30 on Sunday mornings and at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

On Wednesdays, the focus is on youth, and he’s not sitting at the church waiting for a congregation.

“I go in these drug houses and get them,” he said.

The church runs three vans all afternoon to get young people to Wednesday night services.

“We have them from four years old and up,” he said. “We feed them supper, and then they listen to me. I don’t preach to the old folks on Wednesday night. They are my cornerstone and I thank God for them. But it’s about the kids.”

In the years since his life changed, he said, he’s gotten everything he ever wanted. And while he might be a bit unorthodox, of one thing he is certain.

“We’re all level at the cross,” he said. “Just let me preach the gospel and lead people to the Lord.”