Our little church in western North Carolina is quite the jewel: twenty-one years old, now, and thus legally free to do what we want and small enough to respond to the demands of the day.

And the days are demanding. COVID brought on a lot of that, pushing some people out the door for good and locking up others in their home. So, we launched a Sunday morning broadcast and doubled our numbers … from 20 happy souls in the sanctuary to a grand total of 40 scattered in a half dozen states. We don’t know whether all of them are happy, but we are and that counts, too.

Our broadcast ministry, if we can call it that, started with a Samsung phone I was not using. A public-school teacher brought with her a two-foot, flexible boom no longer in use at the school. To make our apparatus mobile, we commandeered an unused wheelchair from some storage corner in the church. We attached the boom to the chair and the camera to the boom, and BOOM—we were in business, broadcasting to Europe and Indonesia, but mostly up and down Interstate 26.

This Sunday I will be in Missouri (see the Pat Reeder column elsewhere in this newsletter) and, instead of securing a substitute preacher, I am going to jimmy-rig my friendly I-phone and preach to my people from afar. I’m not going to describe the low-class way we are setting up this operation, but in yet another way we are adapting to the times.

What I will miss is the banter with our musician of record. He plays the piano on Sunday morning and most of the people who tune in to our world-wide broadcast ministry do so to hear him play.  I’m not sure they are even aware there is a sermon on the schedule.

He is a great guy, this musician at church, and he is a gay guy: or so he says, especially when he is talking about his husband who is at home ailing from chronic illnesses. I wouldn’t know he is gay if he had not told me. Nothing about his looks, dress, or behavior would give me a clue. And when he told me I had no reaction: not on the outside and not on the inside.

Because he is the Music Director of our little church, he scheduled a young man to sing one Sunday last year. Something about his looks, his dress, and his behavior made me think he was gay; and then he told me the short version of his journey.

“Both my parents are Pentecostal preachers. When I was a teenager, I was on the road to Pentecostal preaching myself. I was the young preacher boy.”

I resonated with all that. If you substituted Baptist for Pentecostal, you would have my own testimony. Only his took a sharp turn.

“When I came out,” he said, “all that blew up. My parents didn’t like it, and my church pushed me out.” He went to New York City to study voice and theater, then came home to North Carolina to take up jazz singing in the clubs and coffee shops of Asheville, Hendersonville, and the wider mountain region.

“This is the first time in ten years,” he said to us, “I’ve sung in church.  My mother is delighted.” And so are we. He is sweet, and his face is filled with smiles all the time. His jazzy voice has gradually taken on the sounds and sights of a true gospel singer. He blesses us and we bless him, and that is the way it is supposed to be.

Did I say that he is a black man? I must have forgotten. Mostly I don’t even notice just like I don’t notice he is gay. And I don’t care, really, except in the sense that I rejoice that our little church is home to such people, that the long-standing practice in White Protestant churches of the South to reject blacks and gays is a thing of the past in our little church.

Did I mention the women? I am set to become the pastor of this little church. They are going to drop the word “interim” from my title. I’ve been preaching here for one full year and that is long enough to discern if it will work. I will be the first male pastor in the history of the church.  How about that??

One way to summarize what goes through my head is this: my forefathers in the faith were wrong about blacks, wrong about women, and wrong about gays. I’m sure we today are wrong about a slew of things, so we must be humble about all this. But we are surely right about the two gay guys that pray with us, sing with us, and love the Lord with us each Sunday morning.

And that’s just fine with me!

(June 2022)

Published On: June 8th, 2022 / Categories: Commentary /

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