“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
― Donald Miller
One of the best things I have discovered as a pastor is that relationships are more important than missions, money, movements or any of that other good stuff. As a church family, we are multi-faceted not monolithic and it is our charge to “love one another.” Through constant worship and praise, fellowship, and changing dynamics we discover who each of us really are. I’ve pastored several churches and the most memorable things are the people I’ve associated with. I remember Mother Stokes at Rock of Ages; I cherish her because she adopted me when my mother died in 1994. I remember Annie Ruth Jones, Woodlawn CME Church, she was loyal to me even when she knew I was wrong; she ensured I had space to grow and develop. I remember Barbara Harris, Jones Chapel CME Church who was diagnosed with stomach cancer, but God healed her to the astonishment of her doctors. I remember Paige Perry, Trinity CME, as she weeped and worried that her mother would die; but God lifted her mother up off that hospital bed and she still lives today. I remember Mother Cornelia Ingram, St. Paul CME, and Betty Henderson, Trinity CME, who held my foot to the fire and made me accountable. And my Assistant Pastor (:-) Sister Marianne Acee, St. Paul CME who could get a plan activated much quicker than I could. Sister Patricia Brassel, Lane Chapel CME, continues to teach me many valuable lessons about relationships and I am so glad to have a big sister like her.
Men were also formative in my journey as pastor. Gene R. Dean, Larry Anders, Earnest Jarrett, Kenneth Wells, Alvin Jackson, Ronald Turk, Joe Cornelius, Theron Winzer, Willie Bradford, Jr., Green P. Lewis, Dr. Joseph Carter, Nathan Jones, Herman Lewis, Larry Anderson, Willie Prather, Travis Griffin, Malachi Cook, and the many other strong men of our church. Al Devin Jackson, a young boy whom God gifted to play the piano who had never touched a keyboard, but who prayed and God answered the need of the church for a musician. Now he’s young man leading music ministry at several churches. Bishop Joseph C. Coles, my 1st bishop who ordained me deacon and prophesized over my life and ministry. Bishop Otha H. Lakey, who sheltered me in the time of a storm and who became my father after my biological father passed in 1991. Bishop Thomas L. Brown, Sr., my present bishop who showed the confidence of the church in my integrity by recommending me as Conference Treasurer. These men taught me to be strong, courageous, and fair; they leaned in the trenches with me and helped me navigate through dark and deep waters. The list goes on and on. My point is the people of each church where I have served helped in my personal development in so many ways.
In reflection, I cherish the relationships I’ve had over the years. They have been more meaningful than any success in missions, money, or movements. These people and others have been instrumental in teaching me how to love myself and God’s people. Relationships matter; and when you view people as you should, each person you come in contact with has something to learn from you and something to teach you. Never discount the value of any relationship you experience; they all matter! What a blessed life I’ve been priviliged to experience thus far; and the best is yet to come!