Not at ALL What You Thought

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Legitimate Ministry, Bastardy and Sore Feet

So this week, my church held its annual Holy Convocation. Simply put, we invite all the churches from our organization, and everybody else who will come, to enjoy what we think is the best: preaching, teaching, singing, dancing and fellowship. The sound level, despite (or, maybe, because of) the most expert tweaking, was deafening. Seriously. I sat down after helping to sing during praise and worship service, turned to a fellow tenor and said, “I think I’m deaf.” He responded, “What??”

Apart from that (and the sore feet, which I’ll get to later), it was a pretty cool convocation.

I enjoyed the preaching. The theme this year was “Legitimate Ministry.” So all of our* preachers/teachers talked about what made legitimate ministry legitimate. At least three separate pastors used the word bastard from the pulpit. Makes sense to me: in order to discuss legitimate ministry (and legitimate ministers), you might wanna talk about what it is not.

• It is not the new “prosperity doctrine.”

• It is not substituting “God told me” for true knowledge/interpretation* of the bible.

• It is not ignoring what your community needs.

• It is not believing yourself to be a law unto yourself.

It is sacrifice. It is getting a degree in theology (if you can). It is remembering that the word minister really means “servant.” It is submitting to accountability. Anything else, especially the “law unto yourself” stuff, is bastardly. Or so my pastor* and his colleagues said, in their several messages. I enjoyed them greatly.

I enjoyed singing. At one point, the choir was singing, a beautiful song called “Sovereign God,” and I had the soloist part; then, the choir started its part. The singers sounded so good, I almost dropped the microphone. I yelled, “Y’all SINGIN!” at ‘em and pretended to give ‘em a group slap. (Our director gave me the fish eye and admonished me telepathically: Could you please just pick up the mike and do what you do? Please.) I finally remembered to do what I was supposed to be doing, and everything went fine. That was Wednesday night, and I really believe that was the best singing we did the entire week. Others disagree, but I don’t care what they think.

We’ve had a guest minister over the choir for the few months leading up to the convocation, Pastor John Walker, from Fayetteville, North Carolina*. Pastor Walker is hilarious, intelligent, and extremely serious about the gospel (and by that, I do not mean the music some people sing). He taught us about dynamics and execution; he fussed at us; he threatened us; he preached to us; he prayed for us. At the end of the choir rehearsals, we were ready to be legitimate ministers (of music).

But while I was watching for Pastor John Walker’s dimple, Juice and Goobs were falling in love with Pastor Walker’s wife, Pastor Lorna Walker. (She used the word bastard twice from the pulpit.) That woman is a pistol, she is. When she gets tickled at something, she laughs –often right then and there, often in the pulpit. She tells the unvarnished truth when she speaks. She studies and researches, so when she speaks, she knows what she’s talking about. She jumped up and down and flung a handkerchief around, like a little kid, after introducing my pastor before his message. She and her husband* are probably in their forties, but she looks younger every time I see her. My daughters are smitten. First Goobs then Juice asked for personal introductions to her, and, after that, the woman acted like they were her favorite people in the world.

So you know how I feel about Pastor Lorna.

I enjoyed teaching. Kinda. The convocation had morning sessions. My pastor paid our LLC to hold a three-day mini-workshop on “Compassion Fatigue: Dealing with Difficult People.” Nearly all the pastors, and many other ministers, participated in the workshop, all three days, and we had a ball. My best friend’s husband made everyone participate in an art project, a metaphor for how ministers interact with church members. My best friend’s mama (who has a Master’s degree in counseling) and her mama’s colleague (ditto) offered counseling exercises and information on how to deal with difficult people.

I got to find scenes from movies (Spanglish, Ray, Waiting to Exhale and The Gospel) to exemplify four* different types of difficult people. And I sang. I had so much fun, I should've been payin Pastor.

But, in the end, we realized that we –ministers-- are Difficult People. We –ministers—have to work on our legitimacy. We –ministers— have to strive to avoid bastardly lives.

C’est la vie, yes?

And my feet hurt. At my church, women wear pumps (often with 2+-inch heels) and fancy dresses and shoes; men wear comfortable shoes and sensible suits. What's up with that? The choir was in uniform, a different color outfit (yes, from your own collection of church clothes) every night. We didn't have to buy special clothes for the convocation, but my feet won't be the same (although I studiously avoid 2+-inch shoes) for days. Days, I said.

Also c'est la vie. I'm lobbying for a "dress down" day next year.

*This year, we didn’t send out for “famous” speakers. We satisfied ourselves with messages from ministers of our own organization. It was an inspired idea.

*As one pastor put it, “hermeneutics and exegesis.”

* "The Honorable Bishop blah, blah, blah."

*Our organization, including the folk we call our covenant churches, exists mostly in the south south -–Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina—- but we also have a new church in Massachusetts and one in Maryland.

* They sit nearly everywhere together with his arm around her and her head on his shoulder.

* Not exhaustive.

Dear Jesus, my brother, help us always to behave like members of Your family.


  • At 4:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Sounds like you had an fabulous time and you're recharged in spirit if not in body for the coming year.

    That's what it was supposed to do, right?

    Sounds like a success to me.

    But sore feet? Evil.

  • At 4:37 PM , Blogger Gine said...

    YES, sore feet is a mighty evil in the black church.

    And an unnecessary one.

    It needs must be exorcised.


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