When my husband and I dressed up for church recently, we were not thinking about driving 30 minutes away to Manhasset. Since it was already 10:12 AM when we prepared to set out for a 10:00AM service 15 minutes away, we decided to attend the 11:00AM service of Mount Olive Baptist Church pastored by a long-time friend of ours.
Nothing to do with Coincidence!
As things turned out, I was able to see why my day started with me adding to a 2017 post that Facebook reminded me of the first thing that morning. My response read thus: “Teaching-to-the-familiar is an effective empowerment modality – even in spiritual places and spaces where we must leave the rest to God to touch the lives of his people with the intimacy and compassion that will invariably result in a 180° about-face turn for those who are ready. ” – A Sunday Morning Madonarism by Madona Cole-Lacy –
Upon close examination of that Sunday Morning Madonarism, I can see how my sentiments unwittingly captured the status quo of Mount Olive Baptist Church. I apparently had prepared myself to fully receive what was to come that day without realizing it!
A Warm Embrace
As he passionately discussed joy, spirituality, and attitude – among other concepts – it was obvious that this pastor was coming from a place of serious growth in the Spirit. For, my sentiments were that no one had anything on him – in the “for-real-way” he so seamlessly connected with his congregants. Needless to say, I felt completely at home as I related to his ingenious use of a dot-connecting modality to minister to his people! Yes, Reverend Corley’ s style of pastoring is quite engaging and embracing of his flock (and everyone else who happens to stroll in for that matter). As recipients of this unmistakable warmth, my husband and I should know! Pastor Corley did not miss a beat as he extended a warm welcome to us, as well as, other visitors in his own unique style. I could see that at Mount Olive Baptist Church everyone is treated with honor and dignity regardless of their political and community affiliations!
As he stripped himself of all encumbrances that could get in the way of relating to the congregation in an open and honest way, he shattered the perceived myth of what persona pastors must assume in the pulpit. It was clear to me that Rev. Corley does conduct business as the Holy Spirit moves him. In fact, at one point, I found myself resisting the urge to put my hand up and ask permission to respond to the joy this Pastor had exhibited and expressed as he shared with the church, in a most humble way, the wisdom he now extracts from reading the same scriptural passages he had read years ago. I cannot imagine that message went over anyone’s head in that sanctuary. The concept was clearly conveyed as was the understanding that pastors do indeed situate themselves for spiritual growth too – which once experienced, they celebrate with humility! I was almost tempted to shout: “Hallelujah, this is known as the evidence of spiritual growth – Just what we all strive for I” but I opted to whisper it instead.
After having accepted a church-wide invitation to join hands in prayer for a change of attitude that might create obstacles in our spiritual lives, something happened down the line that Jim and I, never in our wildest dreams, expected. I heard what sounded like: “I am going to go with the spirit and do something that was not planned.” I then heard, “this couple” … “cancer treatment” … “gas money” … “New Jersey” … “they have never asked” … “will not accept it” … and more. My reaction to the shock that a pastor would “let go, and let God have his way” by asking his congregants to minister to guests who, to them, were random visitors to their church, threw me for a loop!
I can vividly remember leaning against my husband in what must have been an attempt to fuse my whole being into his … to ensure that he was absolutely experiencing this totally unexpected act of kindness with me. I needed to convey my thoughts to him through ‘osmosis’ … “Do you hear what I hear? Can you believe that? Tell me this is not happening.” After all, we were in church and I had to be respectful of the ‘behave yourself rule”! This called for me to find a way to handle things in a much more tempered way.
Some might question why would I make a big deal over being ministered to in such a way by a church while the insightful will have already come to the obvious conclusion that if this were the norm in our experience, perhaps a handcrafted ‘thank you’ card would have done the job, rather than this expression of appreciation on what could likely be the world’s giant stage.
At a time in the making of world history when leaders, servers and most people in-between, get to pick and choose to whom, when, how and where they could offer the embracing and compassionate qualities of humanity; an overture such as this deserves to be highlighted – perchance someone in need of an organizational, community or family adjustment of attitude toward their fellow man/woman or child, should read my take on this matter. The message here calls for us all to keep striving to exercise integrity in the execution of our obligation to keep the flame of humanity burning. My thinking on why the spirit of humanity ought to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind reads thus: “This is what intellectual legacy ought to be about – navigating life with full awareness of the fact that when we pass on, the lesson plan of our life will live on to inspire others “to be and to do. ” – A Madonarism by Madona Cole-Lacy-
A Madona Rant
Connecting the dots of this awareness to the act of kindness of the Pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church and its members gives us joy, faith, and hope that all is not lost. I want to again say to Pastor Corley, “There was no chance, I would have refused such an act of kindness that I know had to have come from such a healthy place … not after the prayer for attitude adjustment that you prayed for those of us who felt we needed it.” It is with humility that I ask you, the reader, to join me in developing and maintaining a new spiritual attitude. My new attitude calls for me to not question God-Sent overtures like this one. It also prompts me to never allow negative vibes from friends and foes to threaten my resolve to contribute to the well-being of humanity – even in the absence of plenty! It restores my willingness to openly ‘thank and cheer,’ and to pray for a continued pay-it-forward mindset of gratitude.
What would Jesus do?
Although most of us know that Jesus’ mission on earth included reaching out to and blessing random strangers with the hope that “those who have ears” … and eyes would follow in his footsteps; we have, unfortunately, since subjected this lesson to multiple interpretations and watered it down to suit our own agendas. As I lift up and acknowledge, with much gratitude, the less-than-a-handful of exceptional, kind and gentle souls in our life and the collective lives of those in need of a giant spiritual embrace, it would be hypocritical of me to not also share an observation that is usually suppressed (for fear of reprisal) by most who have unfortunately experienced it: More often than not, people in general (including family members, “friends” and church-going people) tend to alienate rather gravitate toward the afflicted in their circle of friends and associates. This ultimately ends up with the creation of a new category of second-class citizens who are now on the outskirts of the circle of relevancy – namely, the “the sick and shut out” who are left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, this response to those going through trials and tribulations of any sort is quite pervasive in a “what’s in it for me” society, and one that knows no bounds. For even those who can no longer operate at the level of expectation that those around them are accustomed to seeing and receiving do not escape this. They do not escape the net of aspersions and made-up stories that will satisfy the need to know why they don’t go”, “why they don’t give”, “why they don’t do” etc., rather than position themselves to be “fishers of men” through their words, thoughts, deeds, and actions. Church-going folk will know what I mean!
Check out this post on what has worked for me and my husband.
In summary of the lesson learned on that day, I offer the following:
“We can pretty much determine how fruitful our efforts to plant seeds of love and humanity will be, based on the attitude with which we approach our farm or garden from the on-set. The fact that leaders project their biases and preferences on those they are called to lead and serve with their selective embrace or lack thereof is not lost on us! This emotional ‘yo-yo palaver’ wears unsuspecting victims down after a while and makes a mockery of the institution of leadership and humanity. “– Madonarism by Madona Cole-Lacy –
A perfect way to conclude is with the parting words of Pastor Corley about what blocks spirituality.
- “Envy” …. as in that which “will cripple our spirituality”.
- “God wants contentment, not resentment.”
- “Selfishness … as in “it is not about you”.
- “Jealousy … that cripples the soul.”
- “Sins of omission and commission.”
- “Condemn and not Reclaim.”
A wonderful experience and lessons to live by! Thank you, Pastor Edward Corley and Mt. Olive Baptist Church for this rich experience.
A Message to You from Madona Cole-Lacy If you have read what I have had to say up till this point, I presume it is because you have connected one way or the other with what I have had to say. Kindly use the comments box to respond or react to this commentary.