by Robert Earl Houston
AUGUST 14, 2013 – Kentucky has suffered a tremendous loss in the homegoing of Dr. Joseph McDowell, pastor of the First Baptist Church Utteringtown in Lesington. Dr. McDowell passed away yesterday, August 13, 2013, following a brief hospitalization.
I met Dr. McDowell shortly after I moved to Kentucky in 2009 during the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky session in Bowling Green. Matter of fact, I just dined with him at our annual session in Louisville. I’ve had the privilege of preaching for him at his church and he preached for us in 2012. My associate ministers were so impressed by his presentation that when they purchased a robe for me it was a duplicate of the robe he adorned in the pulpit (pictured on the left).
He was beloved in the General Association. He came from a generation that produced pastors that are now among the ranks of the senior sages of Kentucky. Dr. McDowell pastored several congregations before coming to FBC Utteringtown, which is the rural part of Lexington, and he was a no-nonsense pastor. He was a trainer of preachers, several of whom are either pastoring or on staff at other congregations.
He was called “Dad” or “Pops” by many of the pastors in the General Association. He was not the type to continually talk publicly. He would sit in a meeting and if he spoke, you had no doubt what was on his mind, and then he would recoil and sit there just as calmly as he had before he stood up. He was Kentucky’s “E.F. Hutton” – when he spoke, you listened.
He had every right after putting in the years that he has to send his money and rest in his hotel room, but Dr. McDowell was at every session. He never sat in the back. He strolled up to the front and took his place. Perhaps that was born from his era – he took his place during the civil rights struggle and told us stories about his part in those marches, struggles and boycotts. He was attuned spiritually, but also socially and he was tireless when it came to the plight of African-Americans.
He was a churchman of the highest order. He loved worship. He loved church. He loved his district work, his state work, and even the national work. He was one of the people that you looked forward to hanging out with at the convention and preachers would crowd around him to hear what he had to say. He went to the Pastors’ Retreat in southern Kentucky and he attended the classes and you could see groups of preachers around him. He had a contagious spirit, a sly smile, and he could always wade through a conversation and get to the main point.
I don’t think there was a young or younger preacher that he didn’t try to help. Even if his assistance was rebuffed or rebuked, you could never say that Dr. McDowell didn’t try to help. His mission was to pass on the legacy of preaching and pastoring to the next generation.
He was a family man and loved his wife, Sandra, and all of his family members. Jokingly, he stood Sandra up at FBC Frankfort and announced “I just wanted you all to know that this pretty woman belongs to me.” We all knew that they loved each other deeply and we love them both.
When I preached for him, I was impressed with his hospitality. He was attentive to every detail and I remember remember walking into the basement for the meal and there were tables of food – enough to feed an army. “Rob, get all you want and if you need to take a plate home, we’ll take care of it.” I remember how loving the church family was and how well my members were treated. It was worth the drive.
At the last session of the Association, Dr. McDowell told some preachers about his experience at FBC. “Man, it was unfair. Houston got up and had all of his young adults to stand, and called them up to the choir stand and they sung that place happy. Then he put me up. It was so unfair.” But what he didn’t tell was that he preached us CRAZY that day and we were so blessed just to be in his presence.
Last night, I called a few pastor friends and one in particular stood out. He had known Rev. McDowell over 20 years and he broke down on the phone and for several moments just cried and cried and cried. That’s symbolic of how we all have reacted to Pops’ homegoing. This, in the words of “The Godfather” movie, is not business, it’s personal. We loved Dr. McDowell.
One of the pastors reminded me of something last night: “Houston, when you get our age (over 70) you realize that you could go home at any moment.” It’s very true. It also means that those who loved you also understand that as much as we’d love to have someone around forever and ever – the Lord always has the final word, and we’re all on His timetable. So, as the old saints used to say, “we bow to the will of our Heavenly Father, who is too wise to make a mistake.”
I’m quite sure, without a doubt, that this will be one of the largest preacher funerals in recent memory in Kentucky. Dr. McDowell didn’t pastor a mega church, but he had a mega personality and presence. He did what most pastors do every week – preach, teach, counsel, and lead his people. FBC Utteringtown loved their pastor and he loved them as well.
Services are pending. When they are announced, I’ll update this blog.
by Robert Earl Houston
For the last few weeks and most noticeably in Frankfort and now at the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky session in Louisville, I have been walking with the assistance of a cane. It actually belongs to one of my deacons who was kind enough to allow me use of it during my cancer surgery recovery. It’s a beauty. A brass plated hame, “Bubba Stik” with the words “Made in Texas by Texans” on a plate at the tip.
Believe me, I’m not using it as a fashion statement. It serves a purpose to help steady me because even though it’s been over 2 months since my surgery, my foot still has an open wound, although 80% of it is now closed (thank God). It also helps me to get up and helps me sit down. I’ve learned how to walk with the cane and it helps me distribute my body weight evenly when I try to get from point A to point B.
Having this “Bubba Stik” has taught me three spiritual lessons (did you expect any less? – smile) that I want to share with you:
FIRST, THE CANE IS MY TESTIMONY
This cane is symbolic to me as the testament of my testimony. It has been amazing this week that many of my fellow delegates were not even aware that I had been through a bout with cancer. I guess you assume that people talk, discuss and share – but there were many, many people who were surprised to see me not walking through the hallways fast and spry, and instead they see me walking cautiously with a cane.
But this cane represents that where I am today is not as bad as what I’ve been through. I’ve gone from those words of my physician “I’m sorry, but you have cancer” to prep, surgery, post-surgery, and now recovery. The cane was not present or needed for the first four items, but for the recovery, it’s helpful. And it’s actually the last milestone for my ordeal. When this cane is no longer needed, then it will signal that my recovery is completed, my healing is done, and I can look forward to moving about as usual.
SECONDLY, MY CANE IS MY DIPLOMA
I sat in awe of Dr. Thomas H. Peoples, Jr.’s sermon yesterday at the Association’s Men’s Convention and he was talking about the Completeness of Christ vs. the Incompleteness of humanity. One of the things that struck me, coming from a noted Christian theologian as Dr. Peoples, was this statement: “the more I know about Christ, the more I discover that I don’t anything.”
What Dr. Peoples was alluding to is that even as we discover more and more about God it puts a highlighter upon our lives and we find out that we still don’t know all about and nor will the Lord allow us to know as much as He does.
Here’s the application – the cane represents the information that I have picked up about several things during this process. I’ve learned more about cancer, melanoma, congregational care of their shepherd, gracious thanksgiving, humility, spousal care, doctors, operating rooms, and even more humility than I have in the first 53 years of my life. This cane is my diploma – not in an advanced degree, but in the practicum of life.
This ordeal has taught me empathy. This ordeal has taught me the power of prayer. This ordeal has taught me total dependence upon the Lord. This ordeal has taught me to release myself to the Lord and to prepare for that eventual day when this body and soul will have a permanent separation. Every time I look at the cane, it reminds me that “I’m stronger, I’m wiser, I’m better, so much better.”
THIRD, MY CANE IS NOT UNIQUE
My cane is “purdy.” I mean it stands out in a crowd. It’s been called “wow” and even by some friends as a “pimp stick” (only a friend would tell another friend that). And I will admit, when I see others with canes, I look at their cane to see what it looks like, etc. It has drawn my attention, because I too am on a cane.
I was really excited, in a strange way, that nobody else in Frankfort had the same “Bubba Stik” that I have. I went to Cincinnati for the Gospel Music Workshop of America for a day and again, no one else had the cane that I have.
But then I came to Louisville and one of the men in the Laymen’s Department walked right up to me and yes, he had a “Bubba Stik” as well. Not only that he began to compare our two canes – mine was of a darker wood and his was lighter colored. He said “you have an older stick.” We laughed and walked away and then I thought about what this stick represents, what I’ve been through and the logical conclusion was there: “you’re not the only one who’s going through what you’re going through.”
Sometimes we have this feeling that “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” when in actuality, there are people all around us who have gone through or going through what we’re experiencing right now. I had an infirmity, a melanoma and I’ve had this week people walk up to me, especially those who read my article in The American Baptist Newspaper or on this blog, and tell me that they too have had skin cancer. One brother walked up to me and told me that he’s had it twice on the top of his head. Even a sister walked up to me and said “I just found out about it and I’m going to have the same surgery.”
It was like the Lord confirming in my spirit, you’re not unique because of what you’re going through, you’re unique because of the way God handled it.
Because there have been those who told me stories of those loved ones who did not make it or faced very serious amputations or treatments. I’ve heard the ghost stories of those who had the same cancer in other areas of their bodies and required removals and amputations of organs.
My disease was not unique, but my deliverance was. Thank you Lord. So when I look at this cane, made in Texas by Texans, I understand that it’s not the only cane they manufactured, not the only cane with a brass hame (handle), and not the only cane with the black tip. The cane is not unique, and I’m not the only one going through something.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
LOUISVILLE, KY – This week I am a delegate representing First Baptist Church at the oldest and largest assembly of African-American Baptists in our state. Better known as the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky.
Kentucky has a unique system that may be one of a kind in the nation. It’s not a state convention, it’s a general association, composed of district associations and churches from throughout the Commonwealth. As an organization, it is not affiliated with any national convention. Therefore, you have churches that are from six different stripes – independent (no national affiliation), National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International, and Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. Not to mention some churches are aligned with Southern Baptist and American Baptist.
This General Association has its own objectives. It has three main focuses – Simmons College of Kentucky, which is now led by Dr. Kevin Wayne Cosby; the American Baptist Newspaper, of which I serve as Chairman of the Board; and the State Home Mission Board, which is led by Dr. Bernard Crayton. All three of the objectives are based in Louisville and the General Association operates a headquarters building near downtown Louisville, which houses the American Baptist Newspaper and the State Mission Board. Simmons College is located nearby on its historic campus.
Our Moderator is Dr. A.E. Reid, who is completing his tenure of four years and he has presided in probably one of the stormiest periods in GABIK history. When he became Moderator, the Association had just suffered a schism over the issue of women and women in ministry, and frankly, operational issues. The issue of women in ministry has been a particularly thorny issue and it resulted in the formation of another, much-smaller group, which is mostly comprised of older pastors. Not only that, the Association was deep in debt, and many people wondered if Simmons, the American Baptist, and the State Home Mission Board would even survive.
But this moderator, Dr. Reid, has demonstrated a loving care of the Association as Moderator that is rarely on display. Each year he logs over 15,000 miles traveling the state by car, to show his concern for the Association – at funerals, local associations, meetings, planning sessions, etc. He has preached for me in the pulpit of First Baptist in Frankfort and when I was sick, he called to check on me – which is not unusual because every now and then, he gives me a call and says “Son, I’m just calling to check on you.”
Working with Dr. Cosby, Simmons College has made tremendous strides and now is becoming a viable entity due to partnerships with the business community and the University of Louisville. Today, students can not only attend college, but the entrance threshold is accessible to low and lower income families. It still remains the training ground for young ministers seeking a career in full-time ministry.
Dr. Reid’s love of our American Baptist Newspaper has kept it afloat. Under his leadership the last three years have been some of our best fundraising years and now we are preparing a transition to electronic media that will keep our paper cutting-edge.
He has presided over a revamp of the State Mission Board, which for years was led by the late Dr. Robert Childs, who was also editor of the American Baptist Newspaper. Now a new group of pastors and leaders are seeking to serve Kentucky churches.
Not forgetting that the State Youth Convention, the Youth Matter to Christ march, has its genesis under Dr. Reid’s tenure and the Youth convention pilot project is alive and well.
For many of us, his greatest achievement will be the fiscal achievements. We met one year shortly after we were told of our financial condition and he presided as the body came together and made pledges and paid off the indebtedness of the General Association. This is not to say we’re rich. This is to say that as of today, we have no outstanding debts, no liens, no foreclosures, and we can say we are out of debt.
Dr. Reid’s Georgia-Tennessee-Kentucky style is just what we needed at this time. No leader of any group has 100% support of everything – but he has been able to lead us across this chilly Jordan of a critical point in our history, brought us together, and has been an encourager, a father, and yes, challenged us to do better.
He assembled around himself a “Moderator’s Team” which is almost the “Dream Team” of leadership. With the support of Dr. C.B. Akins, Dr. Crayton, Dr. Michael Rice, and Dr. Porter Bailey, he has covered the spectrum of age, experience, and successful pastoral leadership of these gentlemen that make us proud to be Kentucky baptists.
Last year, for the first time in 147 years, a female, now sits in the Executive Board of leadership in the General Association. This is a great accomplishment and signals a new day in Kentucky. He has brokered peace between pastors and last year we had an historic “rap session” that allowed pastors of all ages to come together in a casual-free wheeling forum.
Last night, a PACKED house of constituents filled the ballroom at the Hyatt Hotel to say “thank you.” I haven’t seen a denominational leader receive gifts from such a wide spectrum of supporters in my life. Dr. Reid, who has a larger-than-life personality mixed with the seasoning of time, has made him worthy and due of all of these gifts.
Now that we are across this stormy sea, a new day is about to dawn in the General Association. Dr. Cosby will be making announcements tonight relative to Simmons’ future. We’ll hear Dr. Reid’s final address on Wednesday evening. And then on Thursday evening I hope to make some announcements regarding our newspaper. All of our announcements are made possible by the past support and vision of Dr. Reid.
Thank you Dr. Reid and thank God for the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky.
by Robert Earl Houston
Where art thou? . . . (Genesis )
I’ve been “blogging” off and on for several years. Recently, I discovered a way to combine several of my enterprises, namely “Homegoing of the Saints” which puts a spotlight on those African-American pastors who go home to be with the Lord; the “Vacant Church List” which was the first listing for African-American Baptist pulpits online (and I’ve done it without charge or entry fee for years); and then I’ve put out several notices, etc. and developed a fairly strong following. Since being on WordPress since late last year, I’m approaching 250,000 visits. God be praised.
In recent years other pastors have been regularly blogging – H.B. Charles, Jr. has an excellent blog and leans heavily on preaching themes. Dwight McKissic has an excellent blog as well and he “gets after” Southern Baptist Convention issues and is one of the leading SBC bloggers. Kip Banks, General Secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention recently started a blog and there are other brothers out there blogging – but to my knowledge, that number is less than 25. Shaun King’s Shaun in the City is one of those mind-stretching blogs and he is very transparent in his church planting saga.
Where are the Black Pastoral Bloggers?
The purpose of this blog today is to encourage African-American Pastors to blog. Blogging is to participate in a form of social media that is more probative than a 140 word tweet or a quick flash on Facebook. It’s not expensive – there are free sites available and many internet providers are available so you can personalize the site even more with your own name (which I recommend).
The diaspora of African-American pastors should be reflected in the blogosphere. Pastors who are in the rural parts of the nation, I believe, are just as significant in their struggles, triumphs, etc. as those who pastor mega-churches. Those pastors who came before us carried to the grave pieces of wit, wisdom and experience that I know would have been a blessing to this generation. You can participate.
I would love to post and re-post articles that I’ve discovered from those of African-American hue. I think that our experiences are just as real and profound as MacArthur, Stanley, Piper, Stetzer and others. Matter of fact, I ran a search for “best pastor blogs” and maybe 1 or 2 blogs of people of color were even mentioned.
It’s because we have a story to tell that we’re not telling. We have great minds, great talents, great experiences that should and need to be heard.
I’m not a mega pastor. My congregation (on roll) is around 700 members or so. We don’t have one church in multiple locations. We have our issues like everyone else. But blogging for the pastor gives you a discipline in word construction, sentence structure, and analytical thinking that enhances your pulpit presentation. Trust me on that.
Just a word of warning – blog but don’t vent. Never take to the national stage your local church issues. If “Sister Sally” is kicking your tail in business meeting, don’t make her a national issue. If “Brother John” just cussed you out last week, don’t make him a national celebrity. In other words, be careful what you blog about – if it’s murky to you – it may leave room for a church member to misinterpret what you were trying to say.
I will make this promise to you – if you have a blog or know of a blog that will be helpful – I will make a link to it from my site – and if you have one, I hope you will do the same.
One final word – this is not to demean other races – that’s not my purpose. My purpose in this fast-changing African-American led church, is to encourage pastors (not laypersons, not associates) but pastors to share their views.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – Rev. Joseph R. Sams, pastor and builder of the New Covenant Baptist Church and fervent supporter of Simmons College of Kentucky, went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday, January 8, 2013. His homegoing services were today, Saturday, January 12, 2013.
Rev. Sams is survived by his wife, Cathelma; two daughers, Allesandra (James) and Alexandria; and one grandson, Derrick Anthony.
Visitation was held this morning from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Services began at the Church at 11 a.m. and Dr. Kevin Wayne Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church and President of Simmons College of Kentucky was the eulogist.
In lieu of flowers the family respectfully asks that donations be made to the S.J.S. College Scholarship fund of New Covenant Baptist Church.
The homegoing Service for Rev. Darrell Rollins will be held at Green Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Dr. Carl J. Jones is the pastor.
The Visitation will be Monday, January 7, 2013 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Homegoing Service will be Tuesday, January 8, 2013 beginning at 11 a.m.
Rev. Rollins was the former President of the Hospital Chaplain Association. He was born March 13, 1938 in Ironton, OH and attended Southern Baptist Seminary (M.Div., ’71).
He served as Pastor of several churches – Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Proctorville, OH; Bethel Baptist Church, Maysville, KY; West Broadway United Methodist Church, Louisville; Wesley Chapel, Carlisle, KY; Grundy Chapel, Burkesville, KY; and Muir Chapel Christian Church, Louisville, KY.
At the time of his death his was an Associate Minister of Green Street Baptist Church, Louisville and Phillips Memorial C.M.E. Church until his illness.
Rev. Rollins’ civic pursuits include being the Chaplain at Kentucky State Reformatory and Luther Lockett Correctional Complex. He served as a consultant for the University of Louisville Human Studies Review Board. He served on staff of Signature Health Care since September 30, 2010.
He enjoyed studying military history, playing the drums, and serving as a choir director.
He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Sis. Barbara Rollins; Children, Kenneth and DaRalle; Granddaughter, Bianca.
Thank you Pastor Charles E. Burton and the people of Second Missionary Baptist Church for an awesome three nights of Revival. It was my privilege to be your evangelist for this year and tonight – wow, what a crowd! The sermon, “Don’t Let Your Past Mess Up Your Future” (Acts 9:26), was received very well. The Gospel Choir from FBC sung us crazy – thank you Lord for dedicated singers and musicians!
In our text is a prime example of the past attempting to destroy the future. The subject of this text is Saul, who you probably know better as the Apostle Paul, the Church Planter Paul, the Pastoral Advisor Paul, the Shaper of Young Preachers Paul, the Doctrine Gatekeeper Paul – but in the ninth chapter of Acts, he is simply Saul. But he is Saul in the midst of transition.
Born Saul of Tarsus, he was anti-Church, and anti-Christian. He started out on the wrong foot theologically. He was trained by others to hate Christianity. He held the coat of Stephen as he was stoned to death. He grew up, educated and foolish, rich financially and poor spiritually, smart but defiant, systematic yet wreckless. He spent the bulk of his younger years hating the church.
Let me say to all of us one thing that’s plaguing the church today – some people don’t like the church. They don’t appreciate the church house, the church preacher, the church ministries, the church goals, the church worship, the church meetings, the church evangelism efforts – they just don’t like the church. I also need to say thank God for the church.
Thank God for preaching preachers and singing singers and praying deacons and trustworthy trustees and matronly mothers and off the hook young people, ministering missionaries, excited young people, praying saints, Sunday School teachers, Bible Study students, prayer meeting people and tithing members – yes, thank God for the church. Because it was the same Church, the same God, the same Jesus, the same Holy Spirit, that Paul resented, hated and persecuted that God hand delivered him to.
I’ve come to find out that some of us are in the church today after having uttered those words, “when I get grown, I’m never going to church.” However we found out, just like Paul, that the same things that we hate wind up being the same thing that you serve.
Who hated the church, but now love worship.
Who hated the preacher, but now love preachers.
Who hated to carry a Bible, but now love the Word.
Who hated being in church all day, but can’t wait to get there.
Who hated all that noise, but now shouts all over the place.