By Margo McKenzie, Special to Our Time Press
On Sunday, December 4, 2016 Pastor Adolphus C. Lacey ordained his first minister at Bethany Baptist Church–Minister Shirlene “Faith” Holman, the first woman to be ordained there.
The day began with an 11:00 o’clock sermon by Rev. Al Sharpton entitled, “We Faced Giants Before”, which could have served as the theme for the day. He told the congregation not to fear a Trump Presidency. A look back at history reveals a litany of giants: slavery, Jim Crow, illness, debt, discrimination, etc. If these giants can be slain, so can others.
Across the country, where women dominate in attendance, leadership positions and financial support, the Black Baptist Church, though at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, “has largely been (ardently) opposed to the ordination of women ministers or deacons,” wrote Lacey in “Pastor’s Pen” (Church Bulletin, December 4, 2016). Consequently, Min. Holman had to slay giants of doubt, discouragement and gender discrimination while waiting for her calling to be recognized.
Although she was called to preach in 1998, it took this long-term Bed-Stuy resident eighteen years to get to ordination. In the meantime, however, she served as prayer partner, encourager, teacher, director, liturgical dancer, worshipper and more. She acquired several degrees, including her Master’s of Divinity from the New York Theological Seminary.
Recognizing her service and commitment, in the same week that Hillary failed to shatter the glass ceiling of politics, Rev. Lacey announced to the church that Min. Holman would be ordained on December 4. Min. Holman underwent a four-month study and a forty-five-minute test of the Baptist Catechism to qualify.
The December 4th worship/ordination service reflected Rev. Lacey’s ongoing message of inclusion and diversity: a liturgical dance choreographed by Marie Datruche, featuring two male ministers, female children and young adults who scurried and swayed to gospel singer Donald Lawrence’s “Beautiful Feet”, a musical salute to those who preach the gospel. The Bethany choir inspiringly harmonized the classic, “A Mighty Fortress”. Pipe organ, drums, piano and guitar joined in and Remnant Praise (young adult choir) continued to elevate the atmosphere with Kurt Carr’s song “Jesus, We Reverence Your Name”. Both choirs were led by renowned director Deah Harriott.
Rev. Lacey reminded Holman her number one job is preaching, and the Ordination Council (“Council”) represented by Rev. Daryl G. Bloodsaw of First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, delivered its report. The Council of fourteen ministers tested Min. Holman on her conversion, call to the ministry, convictions, beliefs, doctrinal principles, articles of faith, Baptist policy and procedures, and pulpit etiquette. After careful deliberation, they found that Min. Holman was “well-prepared and thorough, conveyed heartfelt belief, welcomed additional teaching, displayed sincerity and love for God and seriousness about the ministry”, and they concurred that Minister Shirlene “Faith” Holman should be ordained to the gospel ministry. Deacon Victor Alvarez motioned that the church accept the Council’s report, and Deacon Jerome Young seconded. A rousing standing ovation with shouts of “Yeah” and “Amen” offered unanimous church-wide confirmation.
“I never thought I would see this day in my lifetime,” said Bethany member Maxine Anthony, “but I’m glad I did”.
Reverend Holman’s daughter, mezzo-soprano Sheherazade Holman, heightened spirits even further with her heartfelt delivery of Andrae Crouch’s “My Tribute”.
Despite Holman’s wait Rev. Lacey said, “We don’t embrace the day with any belligerence, not pulling down any pastors”. He then referenced I Corinthians 3: 5-10. In the text, Paul planted in the lives of the converted while Apollos watered. In like manner, Rev. William Augustus Jones planted seeds at Bethany while Reverend Jasper Peyton watered. Also at Bethany, Rev. Peyton planted and Rev. David Hampton watered. Ultimately, Rev. Lacey planted though Rev. Goodall may have watered. Regardless of who plants or waters, “God causes the increase”. Rev. Lacey was signaling Holman’s ordination was a cause for celebration only.
Grateful for the leadership and support of Pastor Lacey, Rev. Holman will seek to model her ministry after the example of Rev. Dr. Sharon Codner-Walker, director of Pastoral Care at Downstate whose approach to the ministry as a woman resonates with her. “She serves with love, care and concern and handles opposition with grace.”
(Margo McKenzie is a retired educator and freelance writer.