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Thou Shalt Welcome Your New Pastor!
by Allan Appel | Sep 4, 2013 1:06 pm
Posted to: Religion, Newhallville, News From The Pews
Thou shalt not commit nostalgia or gossip. Thou shalt not compare him to his predecessor or expect things to remain the same. Thou shalt bake cookies for him every week until he begs you to stop.
Those and other “Commandments for Welcoming a New Pastor” were relayed to members of one of New Haven’s leading African-American churches as it heard the first sermon of its charismatic new leader, Rev. Timothy L. Jones.
Rev. Jones took the pulpit Sunday at morning worship services at Community Baptist Church at Division and Shelton. He is the 67-year-old church’s sixth pastor.
He assumed the pulpit from a popular minister and community leader, the Rev. Jason Turner. Turner stepped down in February to return to a position in his home state of Tennessee. Community Baptist launched a nationwide search for a new pastor. (Click here for Rev Turner’s remarks on the Newtown massacre and here for a story on his “hoodie sunday” sermon on the death of Trayvon Martin.
“You’ll know him when you find him,” Turner had advised Janie Holmes, head of the pastoral search committee.
That person emerged after a review of c.v.s and DVDs of sermon performances by 60 candidates: Jones, a tall 2004 Amherst College grad with regal bearing, handsome wife and two little kids, and an almost PhD from Boston Theological Seminary. He preached his first sermon on Sunday before a full house of worship at the 350-member church.
Rhythmic clapping and spirited “Amen!“s punctuated the gospel hymns as Rev. Jones sang along, and cheered on the 15-person chorus, drummer, and the music ensemble
Occasionally he also checked the text on his Zoom Android device.
That caught the attention of one of the church’s older timers, Billy Tappin. Sitting in the second row, Tappin said he liked the energy and youth of the new pastor.
“Things are changing. They used to [just] have the Bible, and that’s it,” said Tappin, who works as a school crossing guard at Canner and Whitney.
Tappin and other congregants read Rev. Brian McLaren’s humorous “Ten Commandments for Welcoming a New Pastor,” printed in the day’s celebratory program.
Hebrew Etymology &
How to Mime a DJ
The congregants quieted down as Rev. Jones took to the podium and began an agile homiletical ride with his congregants.
First he told them his inaugural sermon text was to be Psalm 96 because it announces a “new song,” meaning a new season for himself and for Community Baptist.
His by turns erudite and down-to-earth sermon journey centered on verse three of the psalm, “Declare his glory among the nations.”
Jones noted the Hebrew word in the verse for “glory” is “kavod.” The word’s root derives from the adjective for “heavy.” Proclaiming glory means carrying responsibility, to be good and to evangelize, he sermonized..
“The children of Israel knew something we need to be reminded of today. We need a new song, not a new melody or tune or lyrics, not just spicing things up. God is calling us to write a new song together, ” he said to applause rippling across the sanctuary.
“God’s glory is more than splendor. The Hebrew word derives from ‘heavy.’ It means God has a burden for people to carry. God has a little weight he wants us to throw around on his behalf.”
Dropping into a different argot, demonstrating a flexibility to speak in the language of the graduate student he is) and then the young party-going young man he had once been, Jones added: “God is calling for the remix. Take the songs and testimonials of the past, and move forward” with them.
“We may all dance a little different, but it don’t matter as long as we’re on the dance floor. ... Somebody does the mashed potato, another a line dance. ... As long as you dance to the music of the Lord.”
Jones brought the house down by miming being the DJ at a Holy Ghost party where “the King is always the best DJ. He always plays the song you need to hear.”
New Haven & “Black Flight”
After the sermon concluded, the various committees of the church showed their love with an outpouring of gifts for Jones and his family. It seemed like Christmas in September.
The ushers’ committee gave him a suit case (humorously) in case things didn’t work out. Other gave maps of New Haven, books, and gift certificates galore for his wife Nelly and kids Sofie and Ezekiel. The medical committee offered a fire extinguisher in case he encounters a problem when baking the chocolate chip cookies for the congregants. The Save Adults Looking for Saved Activities (or SALSA) Committee handed the church’s “first family” purple flowers.
Jones, who is 37 years old, grew up in a generations-old Baptist family in Richmond, Virginia. He is leaving a youth ministry in Springfield, Massachusetts. Among the most important songs he wants to sing through Community Baptist is reaching out to more young people and building on the Newhallville base of the church.
He envisions working out from what he called “concentric circles,” increasing the visibility, for example, of the “Hope Corner,” the several-times a month pantry the church operates at Dixwell Avenue and Henry Street.
Jones said he was drawn to the “community” in Community Baptist Church. He is finishing his PhD on how historically black churches can speak to communities that may be increasingly Latino.
He called a concern of young preachers like himself “black flight” from cities to suburbs.
After embracing dozens of people and receiving their good wishes, Jones found a group of young people lingering beneath one of the stained glass windows toward the back of the sanctuary.
“I hope you’ll come back,” he said to them. “We’re going to have things for you [here]. I’m a student like you. Maybe I’ll borrow your library card.”
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I wish Rev. Jones and his family the very best as they become part of such a vibrant community of faith.
Two descriptions in the article greatly trouble me: “leading Black Church” and “sermon performances.” What constitutes a leading Black church or any church for that matter? Is not the value of a church greater than the professional profile of its members?
And while the sermonic delivery of many Black ministers tends to be more charismatic than others , it is in no way a performance. It is the deliverance of a message grounded in Biblical teachings and shaped by the command to preach a word that allows congregants to navigate contemporary challenges sparked by historical realities
The Black church has diminished.The Black church, which used to be the center of the Black community, used to stand for something. The Black church, once the source of the Black voice in society, has become less and less relevant to the struggle for Black power because too many preachers have been compromised by ego or materialism, i.e. money.The way I see it, money, power, influence and greed have altered the game and have raised the stakes for an already troubled community.Preachers today make money that would probably, if he were alive, blow Rev.Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.’s mind.The community is in shambles, and the church, which used to lead the way, is less and less relevant to the forward progress of Black people.This is exacerbated when Black preachers are focused on building the biggest church with the largest congregation – as if this is a contest. This is most troubling to me.Instead of being leaders, too many Black preachers are in the pulpit for the wrong reason.
So often I have been disappointed because we have not received the cooperation of the church. So often the church in our struggle had been a taillight, instead of a headlight——-DR. KING (from the Autobiography of Dr. King)
We have a right to look to the church for leadership, because the church is suppose to be the moral protectors of the community. You have some ministers that are afraid to take a vocal stand, because they fear losing a church, and some people are willing to stand up and lose a church and be damned if necessary, but I’m afraid we don’t have enough people committed—-DR. KING (interview with Mike Wallace,1958)
From the perspective of performance theory, preaching is indeed a type of performance: a religious, rhetorical proclamation before a body of people. The term tends to be thought of pejoratively, as if to say any performance is an act, a fiction, a means of entertainment. But we can read “performance” very broadly, and I think it is appropriate to do so in this case. In so many ways, performance is what human beings do as a matter of daily life.
In any event, I wish my dear friend Rev. Jones all the best as he embraces a calling in the New Haven community I have come to know and love so well over the years.