I have had the pleasure to participate in not one but two recent installation services for new friends and colleagues of mine who have recently begun their pastoral tenures at sister Baptist churches in the Triad.
The first was the service of installation several weeks ago for Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, the new Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue, right down the street here in Winston-Salem. Rev. Ford and his family come to town from Cambridge, Massachusetts. A whole crew from their former church were present for the service of installation, making sure to give a good-natured ribbing to the folks of FBC for calling Rev. Ford to North Carolina. The sanctuary was filled, and I was but one of dozens of robed ministers there to bring greetings and to celebrate the joining of pastor and people. Rev. John Mendez, longtime Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist, exhorted the church to take good care of their new pastor, the spiritual watchtower for the congregation. He challenged Rev. Ford to make some holy mischief in the name of Jesus, encouraging him to speak out for justice and equip his people for God’s work of love in the world. As the pastor of ‘the other First Baptist Church’, I gave thanks for this new partner in town, and look forward to our churches continuing in mutual love and shared calling to bring about the kingdom in downtown.
The second installation happened this past Sunday for Rev. Timothy Peoples, the new Senior Pastor at Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point. Rev. Peoples has become a friend through our shared work in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship life, and I am delighted to be one of many fellow CBF pastors to welcome him to the Triad! Differently from First Highland, Emerywood’s calling of Rev. Peoples is a historic first for our Baptist family — a predominantly white church in the South calling an African-American pastor. You could almost feel the glass ceiling tiles falling around us that day, as this barrier for pastor and people has now been broken. As mutual friend Rev. Jason Coker reminded the gathered community that afternoon, this calling is now changing the world! Rev. Peoples’ benediction each week became the grounding for a two-part sermon I shared with my dear friend and colleague, Rev. Alan Sherouse, in preaching for the service: “As you go, go with the God who creates you in love, grace, and dirt from the ground. Go with the God who breathed life into you. Go out into the world and exhale.”
In these resurrection days when the breath of Christ upon ordinary people propels them into the world to proclaim good news, I give thanks for these fellow pastors who are exhaling a mighty sacred wind right here around us! I count myself among the many who are inhaling deeply, stilled and stirred by them, but by no less than the Spirit of God.
Together in the work of Love,