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Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Face in the Crowd?

Last week, in one of my classes, I was able to share information about UBFM. The class is Media in Ministry and one of the first assignments was to create a video about our ministry context. Of course, most of the people in the class had a video about their church. Mine was a bit different. The UBFM video is the product of that assignment. When my professor, Dr. Chris Davis, learned of the ministry he became curious. He is the senior pastor for St. Paul Baptist Church in Memphis. This is a large, African American church near Orange Mound. He asked me if I needed any jackets to distribute to the people we meet with on the streets. I said, “Of course, we can always use jackets.” “How many?” He asked. “How many would you like to donate” I replied. “How many do you want?” He asked in a louder voice. I said, “Ten?” “How about two cases of brand new Nike jackets, 24 of them?” “Yes!” I replied ecstatically. The Nike factory outlet sponsors St. Paul and they donate items to the church for ministry. Dr. Davis was gracious enough to involve UBFM in this ministry.

After I confirmed that we did need these jackets, I asked my professor when I could retrieve them. He said, “Come on Sunday, come to worship!” How could I refuse? I showed up to the church at 10:15 AM; worship started at 10:30. I walked in the door and was immediately greeted with a handshake. I told the gentleman that I was one of Davis’ students and I was visiting, as if he needed a tip that I was not a member… He said, “Yes sir, so glad to have you! Go take a seat on the front row.” I did, on the front row. As I suspected, I was the only white person in the sanctuary. Lets face it, I’m not just white, I’m very white. There I was, on the front row, white freckled skin, long spiked hair, and a long red beard. I can only imagine how many people were wondering if I were lost. Nevertheless, when the music started I fell into place. When in Rome, right? I started, clapping, singing, and shaking my ass. When the speaker spoke I nodded, looked at my neighbor, and gave an “Amen!” like I was a member. When Davis walked out he immediately pointed at me and shook his head. That little acknowledgement by the leader allowed the people to get a little warmer. I received several smiles after that. It was as if the nod was a queue for the people to know, “He’s with me.”

Davis’ message brought the house down. Everybody in that sanctuary was involved and it certainly felt like the spirit of Christ was present. I had to keep reminding myself that he not only does this every Sunday, but he does this twice, early morning and late morning, Sunday. Now, let me add, I was aware of how proficient of a rhetorician Davis was before this. He has been my professor for three classes and I have grown significantly from all of them. By this worship experience I learned that he is not only a skillful teacher, he is a celebrity in his community.

I have to say that Dr. Chris Davis has been a blessing in my life. This small donation simply reiterates how compassionate this man is. It is a blessing that I’ve had the opportunity to learn under him. I will also say, if you want a church encounter unlike anything you’ve experienced, go to St. Paul Baptist Church. You will find a large church with open arms regardless of your appearance.   


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