To my man, Rob.
To be honest with you, the question of “why” I would leave a 16 year pastorate to become Orthodox hasn’t come up too often. Oh, my church family was shocked and some tearful when I made the announcement within my sermon on December 1st. But, the ones who took the time to follow my post on the church and my personal blog saw this coming. I posted an icon with each of my manuscripts. What good Baptist preacher does that? And my excursion to the St. Moses the Black Conference in October was pretty much a sign that it was a matter of time before I stepped down. Even those who didn’t go online heard the wording of some of my prayers and thought there was something different. “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal Have Mercy On Us” doesn’t sound quite like “God Is Good All The Time and All The Time God Is Good.” They knew I was different. The surprise was that I would actually move to that different perspective.
Most people seem to accept that God has called me to do something different. I am going to miss them, and they will miss me as well. But, most ministers today don’t stay but maybe 5 or so years in their first pastoral assignment. I was at Trinity for 16+. In this day of pastoral scandals and suicides, I am walking away from the pulpit with nothing to be ashamed of and not in a coffin. There are no hard feelings between myself nor anyone in the church. Plus, there is a solid core of active members, some in their 20’s. So, leaving when I am doing well and the church is doing well, is not a bad thing.
There have been some concerned voices that I was going about this unadvisedly. But, that is the good thing about the St. Simon’s Order blog. Anyone who has read my post over the past year and a half knows that my move to Orthodoxy was a work in progress and that I am not going into the ancient faith with some sense of looking for greener grass on the other side of the fence. Heck, I will be picking up a part-time gig to make up for my lost pastoral salary. Plus, when one of my trusted advisers is a pastor who has known me since my childhood and taught sociology and served as the dean of the chapel at a university, no one can say that I haven’t put any serious thought into making this change.
True, this doesn’t make sense. Why would an African-American pastor who is well loved and respected walk away from his pulpit to join a predominately white church in a city that is over 93% white 50 miles away from home? Because the church that I am joining is every bit as African as it is Arabic and European. St. Basil Antiochian has people from different ethnic backgrounds. I am reclaiming a part of my African heritage and helping to end the fact that “Eleven o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America” (Martin Luther King “Letter from Birmingham Jail). As I explained in the sermon a couple of Sunday’s ago, Peter asked to step out of the boat. Jesus told him to come. This conversion is my stormy sea to step out on. In the end, Jesus calmed the storm and led them all safely to the other side. No, I am not getting a lot of “whys.” I am getting a lot of “we will miss yous, God bless yous, and good lucks.”