Monthly Archives: June, 2014

What Happened to Female Musicians in the Church?

by Robert Earl Houston

Let me preface this blog by saying I don’t have conclusive statistics on this issue. I’m just sharing my casual, personal observation:

What happened to the female musicians in the church? As I visit churches and conventions across the nation (baptist), I’ve noticed that men have dominated the black church musician field in sharp contrast to when I started played in the 1970s.

Many churches utilize a band concept that resembles a band of brothers. All wear black to kind of “fade into” the background. There may be a female director, but the band and directors have become predominantly male.

If you visit various black megachurches you will find that to be true. If you watch carefully those who are on TV, the musicians are male. Even the tambourine player is male.

If you go to a Music Workshop, you’ll notice that most of the writers who present are male. Even most workshops are headed by men. 

This is not a discussion about women in ministry. This is a discussion of women in music ministry.

At the church where my faith journey began, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon,  there were five choirs and only one man involved and that the choir director of the Inspirational Choir. All of the musicians were female.  When I joined New Hope, most of the music ministry leaders were female with a couple of exceptions. The largest church in the city, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, had only one male musician in their vast array of musicians and directors. When I first started pastoring, the first musician I had was female (my sister). In the 1990s when I moved to California, my musicians were predominantly female.

In the mid 1990s when I moved south to San Diego, that’s when I noticed a shift was taking place. Most of the churches had employed men as their lead organist. There were no female drummers. And choirs were becoming accustomed to male choir directors.

When I started attending GMWA it was dominated by female musicians initially, but that has changed dramatically. Even the National Baptist Conventions – most of them have now men leading their music ministries.

What does this say?

I think it says that we as a black church need to immediately invest in the music education of young females. After watching the BET Awards, there was an undercurrent that our females should be “on the pole” and “ain’t loyal” and that is farther from the truth. Our African-American males are in trouble across the land, but our young sisters are shying away from the instruments in droves.

I think it also says that there may sexism may play a part in this phenomenon.  Some pastors are stuck in the “let the women be silent in the church” era. Sirs, that era is long gone. Sadly, I know some pastors who have said privately, “I’ll never hire a woman organist – she’ll be a distraction to my members?” That’s crazy talk from a bygone era.

I also think it shows that Music Departments need to redefine their mission. No only should they focus on the Sunday (or weekly) ministry in performance, but they have to identify the young men and young women who have potential (I’m talking 7-10 year olds) and encourage (and in some cases pay for) musical lessons for their children. Studies are stunning – those who have an interest in piano/organ/music have a higher GPA on average.

I’ve encountered tremendous musicians across the country  – Margaret Douroux, Mamie E. Taylor, Lorene Wilder, Gilber Gill, Mrs. O.B. Williams, Virgie Carrington DeWitty, Dorothea Wade, Ruth Sauls, Patrice Turner, Twinkie Clark, Mattie Moss Clark, Willie Faye Inniss, Cheryl Houston, Helen J.H. Stevens, Patriece Reives, Letha Jones” (some who are gone home to be with the Lord. I pray that their collective legacy is not considered “back in the old days” when churches had female musicians.


Breaking News: NBCA, Inc. International Elects Dr. Samuel Tolbert President

tolbertMEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – The National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International has decided to elect a new president. The Rev. Dr. Samuel Tolbert, from Lake Charles, Louisiana has been formally elected after a period of voting. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, Sr., Chairman stood along with the election commission. The results were released as follows:

Dr. Stephen J. Thurston, Illinois -365 votes
Dr. Samuel Tolbert, Louisiana – 1,290 votes
Dr. George Brooks, Tennessee – 379 votes

Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. William Shackleford, Martinsville, Virginia

The Rev. William Shackleford dies at 66
Was pastor of St. Paul High Street for 27 years, active in area
Click to Enlarge
The Rev. William and Rebecca Shackleford are pictured in February 2013 at a reception honoring their service in the local area before moving to Hampton, where their children live.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

By HOLLY KOZELSKY – Bulletin Staff Writer

The Rev. William Shackleford, former pastor of St. Paul High Street Baptist Church in Martinsville and former Martinsville School Board member, died Wednesday.


Shackleford was the pastor of St. Paul High Street Baptist Church for 27 years before he and his wife, Rebecca, moved to Hampton in February 2013. Their two children and two grandchildren live there. 

William Shackleford, 66, had lung cancer for two years, his wife said. That was the reason he retired from St. Paul High Street, she added. 

He died at home, where he had been under hospice care for a week and a half, she said. 

Shackleford was active in this area. He was the Martinsville School Board’s first black chairman. He was a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge Board and was chairman of its Planning and Programs subcommittee. He was an Advisory Council member of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministries and a past president and current chairman of the board of the Baptist Sunday School and B.T.U. (Baptist Training Union) Congress of Virginia, where he was the president and chairman of the board. He also was past president of the Virginia One Church One Child Minority Adoption Program. 

Rebecca Shackleford said she and her husband had been living with their son while waiting for their house in Martinsville to sell. Her husband had been writing a third book. 

“He hadn’t finished it,” she said. “He had jotted down an outline.” The inspirational book was about “life preparation,” she said, adding that her children may finish the book. 

His first two books are “The Sin That Will Keep Many People Out of Heaven” and “Replacing the Fallen Angels.” 

The Rev. Thurman Echols of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Axton said Shackleford was “a dear friend and colleague of mine.” Their children grew up together, and the two men “worked in the community together. Our churches fellowshipped together,” he added. 

Shackleford also “was involved with a number of organizations that made an impact on persons who did not even go to church,” such as the school board and Grace Network, Echols said. 

“He made a great impact on the community with his involvement with the children,” Echols said, referring to Shackleford’s work with summer enrichment programs. 

Both men served together on a number of boards. Shackleford was secretary of the Virginia Baptist State Convention, of which Echols is the president. The two attended national Baptist conventions together as well, Echols said. Shackleford also was part of the National Baptist Convention with Foreign Missions, the National Baptists and the Hampton Ministers Conference. Each has been a moderator of the Smith River Missionary Baptist Association. 

Echols said he last saw Shackleford last month at a convention in Williamsburg. 

Zeb Talley, the principal of Patrick Henry Elementary School, said Shackleford was “very much an advocate” for children. 

As a member of the school board, Shackleford “was very concerned about the quality of the teachers selected,” Talley said. 

“He did a lot of things out of (the church) for kids,” Talley added. He welcomed students who were in trouble at school to spend time at the church doing school work. “You don’t get that often. … His church had open arms to a lot of those kids, and for me that’s the ultimate: Giving to some kids who can’t necessarily give back right now.” 

Rebecca Shackleford was “really a good partner. She worked right alongside of him,” Talley added. 

Talley and Shackleford often served together on planning committees for Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, which were held regularly at St. Paul High Street, Talley added. 

Deacon Harold Campbell said he had known Shackleford since he (Campbell) joined the church in 1989. He was shocked to hear of the former pastor’s death because “he’s always been a rock. Everybody else gets sick, but Rev. Shackleford was always the healthy one.” 

Campbell said he met Shackleford shortly after Campbell lost a son. “He really saved me. I was having a hard time” dealing with the loss, he said. 

There was no limit to the lengths Shackleford would go to for a church member, Campbell said. “If he had a member who was sick, it didn’t matter where they were, he would go visit him.” He went on a few trips with Shackleford to cities as distant as Columbus, Ohio, and Philadelphia to visit former members who had moved away and gotten sick. 

“You could call him any time, day or night, and he was right there on the spot,” Campbell added. 

Shackleford also was an excellent teacher, he said. “He could teach a class, and when you left that class you had a full understanding of everything he was talking about,” Campbell said.

Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. M.A. Byrd, Roselle, New Jersey

ROSELLE, NJ – The Borough of Roselle mourns the loss of another great individual in our community, Rev. M.A.Byrd. Pastor of the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church located at 1002 Rivington Street, in Roselle.

“When you talk about a leader that impacted a community you think of Rev M. A. Byrd. When you think of a person who remained a role model for all of us, you think of Rev. M. A. Byrd. When you think of a Pastor who guided you through many troubled times, good times and just any time, you think of Rev. M. A. Byrd. Words cannot express how dedicated this man was to my life but to the overall community of Roselle. He made me who I am today and I thank you Rev. M. A. Byrd. I love you! Rest in peace! You will always be my solid rock! Rest easy my leader! I will miss you until we meet again. Let’s all continue to prayer for First Lady Gloria Byrd, the Byrd Family and the Bethlehem Baptist Church family!” (by Mayor Jamel C. Holley)

Posted June 24, 2014

Homegoing of a Saint: Pastor Samuel P. Pettagrue, Jr., Birmingham, AL


BIRMINGHAM, AL (EDITED) – The Rev. Samuel P. Pettagrue Jr., who was pastor of Sardis Baptist Church in Birmingham from 1971-2006 died on Sunday, June 25, 2014. He was 71.

Sardis Baptist grew from a small congregation to more than 3,000 members while Pettagrue was pastor.

The Birmingham City Council passed a resolution of condolence today. Pettagrue was a civil rights activist in the 1960s and worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, noted his attorney, Richard Jaffe.

Sam Pettagrue mugshot.jpgThe Rev. Samuel Pettagrue Jr. (File)
Jaffe said he hoped people would remember Pettagrue’s lifelong service to the community.

“He should be seen for the good that he did for so many people, mostly poor and disadvantaged,” Jaffe said. “He really did live a life of service.”

Before coming to Birmingham as pastor of Sardis Baptist Church, Pettagrue was the youth pastor at West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta. There, he was a key assistant to Abernathy in civil rights activities.

He was the first chapter president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham, said Yvonne Lowery-Kennedy, daughter of civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery.

“He’s done so much in this city,” Kennedy said. “There are so many young men he inspired that are now in the ministry.”

Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Tony L. Jones, Lexington, Kentucky

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.19.54 PM
The homegoing service for the Rev. T.L. Jones, former pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church,
Keene, Kentucky will be held on Monday, June 30, 2014 at Imani Baptist Church,
1555 Georgetown Road, Lexington, KY. Visitation is from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Service begins at 1:00 p.m.


JONES Rev. T.L., 64, husband of Arlene Jones and son of Mildred
and the late Scott Jones, Jr., went home
to be with the Lord on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.
He retired from Kuhlman Electric.
He was a member at 1st Baptist Versailles and
was the former Pastor of Macedonia Baptist, Keene, KY, for 33 years.
He is survived by Audrea (Matthew) Brown, Hollie (TC) Walker,
Anthony (Betsi) Jones, Tony L. Jones, Jr.,
and Timothy Harris.
Service 1pm Mon,
Imani Baptist Church.
Visit 11am. Arr. O. L. Hughes & Sons.

What Happens If You Lose?

by Robert Earl Houston

Photo on 6-19-13 at 10.01 AMAs previously noted, the election season of most of the traditional National Baptist Conventions is about to converge upon us beginning with the Presidential election of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International next week in Memphis, Tennessee.

The NBCAI will be first; Then in August, the Progressive National Baptist Convention will meet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to elect a new president for a two year term; Then in September in New Orleans, Louisiana, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. will elect a new president. Then in 2015, (if memory serves me right), the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America will vote.

The campaigns are in full-gear. I have a few observations after listening to some discussions and it boils down to one simple question:

What happens if you lose?

I would love to hear, for once in my lifetime, the losing candidate of a national baptist election to say these words: “I want to congratulate the winner and assure him and the convention of my loyal support.”

Unfortunately, in recent convention history a phenomenon has developed negatively. Let’s walk through it.  I’ll use my name as an example, but remember, I have NEVER ran for National Office (and have no desire to):

Dr. Robert Earl Houston decides to run for national president. I then assemble a campaign team, including a campaign director, meet with various state leaders, raise (or borrow) money, then devote myself to running, showing up in various venues, and then conduct a campaign that may not be holy and always ethical. I may have to utilize some “bulldogs” in the trenches to try to deter, destroy and defeat the integrity of either the sitting president or those who are candidates as well – and yet be at arms’ length enough away that if my campaign gets called on it, I can say “I didn’t say that.”

Of course, I have to have a slogan. Let’s see . . . How about “Robert Earl for Prez” – that’s catching. I need a marketing strategy, website . . . oh yeah, gotta raise more money, because the cost of running for a national office can reach six figures. I have to make sure my wardrobe looks “presidential.” Gotta have a media team – to reach out to the younger pastors and to look hip (even though a national convention has not had a president under 40 since PNBC did so in the EARLY 1980’s) to this newer generation, I need a media coordinator, a “twitter-er,” a web designer, videographer, photographer, and maybe I need to release a “fresh rhema word” everyday to draw in younger preachers, because you know younger preachers value flash over ethics.

Then the day of the election comes and the delegates cast their votes. I make sure that the photographer takes the photo of me emerging from the voting station. I’m going to walk the hallways all day and prepare for the announcement along with my team. Of course, they are going to surround me at the microphone, current leadership be damned. 

The announcement comes. My palms are sweaty, I step out just for a second so I can look great at the announcement. I sit there and then the announcement is made . . . I just lost.

Damn. After all that work, energy – matter of fact, I raised more money in running than the national convention raised in foreign mission giving and home mission combined. My slate of officers, where I promised some of the pastors intricate roles in the Houston administration, is now history. And I am pissed off that the collective convention could not see the vision that I saw for leadership. They’d rather choose the one who won by a legitimate vote instead of the one who had the great campaign, multi-media, twitter, instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube (after all of those commercials I authorized).

So, I get up, and signal for everyone following me to walk out of the hallway and we are not coming back. Let’s see how they do without me and all of the churches and pastors who have committed to me. Let’s see how much money they raise now. Let’s see how many mission projects get funded now. Resurrection of Bishop College? Won’t happen now. Because when we leave, nobody will come to the convention. The convention will be a hollow shell. And the new President and his campaign staff and convention leadership can all go to hell, as far as I’m concerned. I might even meet with my supporters later this week and maybe we’ll form a new convention or call it a conference or fellowship. THE END.

Even though the story is fictional, the reality is that this scenario lurks in the background and histories of all four conventions. Yes, it can happen in National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. Yes, it can happen in the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. Yes, it can happen in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and yes, it can happen in the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America. The truth of the matter is this – it has happened before and God help us if it happens again.

What any losing candidate should do is:

a.  Swallow your pride and congratulate the winner, (shake hands, hug) immediately, on stage. Right now!

b.  Ask to address the audience after the winner speaks and say to the body:

“Brother President elect. I ran for the office because I wanted to see substantive change in our Convention. However, I yield to the will of God, who has spoken through these voting delegates. I am disappointed, but above everything, I am a called man of God who understands that a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. Therefore, I want this convention and this President to know that we are not nor never been enemies. We are brothers who met somewhere at the cross. And I want all my supporters and delegates to stand and as the late Dr. A. Louis Patterson would say “Appreciatively applaud OUR president – I said OUR president. And we aren’t going anywhere. We shall support you and your vision for this convention, to be the best of our abilities.”

c.  And the winner needs to consider utilizing people who supported the losing candidate in positions as well. Winning a convention and going to war with a segment of the convention doesn’t make sense. There are gifted people who supported other candidates – it doesn’t mean that just because they didn’t vote for you that they are less gifted or won’t support you as well.

Otherwise, we will not have to worry about the government or Southern Baptist or Full Gospel or American Baptist or GUF destroying us – we’ll do a fine job all by yourselves.


Vacant Church: Rushing Spring Baptist Church, Tarrant, AL (Deadline: Unknown)

Rushing Spring Baptist Church Tarrant

Vacant Church: Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Indianapolis, IN (Deadline: July 31, 2014)

Little Bethel Baptist Church Indianapolis

Vacant Church: Antioch Baptist Church, Bedford Hills, NY (Deadline: September 1, 2014)

antioch baptist church bedford hills


by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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