You're right, that's a younger me in this picture. The youth and children are kids who were a few of the members of our church who were a part of our youth and children's ministry. The young lady on the end is Margi Taylor. She was the director of our youth ministry.
But this is also a picture of me getting in trouble!
This picture was taken on a Monday I believe, after we had celebrated our first Annual Youth Day after I became pastor. For those not familiar with an Annual Day in the Black church, it is a day in which a sponsoring ministry provides a special program (traditionally on a Sunday afternoon), with visiting churches, guest choirs and a guest preacher. And, also according to tradition, the offering goes to supplement the church's budget.
This is me leading our young people in breaking tradition.
You see, at that time, we really had no ministries that reached out to the poor. So, when people needed can goods, jobs, help with utilities, etc., we would refer them to other agencies. But we didn't provide any support to any of the agencies to which we referred people.
This is me making the decision that it had to change.
Our youth had raised $500 (remember, this is a small church, a little more than 25 years ago) on their Annual Day. I made the decision that the money should go to the Bethlehem Foundation, a non-profit started by another African-American church in Dallas which had helped our members, as well as others we referred to them. There were a few deacons and trustees who shared their 26 year old pastor's view. They were the young ones - the fathers of some of the kids in the photo.
So we gave the $500 to the Bethlehem Foundation. The young lady accepting the check (I can't remember her name, but she died some time ago), was a staff member there. They couldn't come on that Sunday, so they came Monday and we had a presentation with some of the kids whose parents brought them back for the presentation.
There were some older deacons and trustees who, shall we say, didn't get the memo. Seriously, they missed the meeting when we decided that it wasn't right to take advantage of the services and not support the agency. What was the rest of the week like with the older leaders?
"You mean you gave them the WHOLE $500?!", "Who did you ask, before you gave our money away?", "Why didn't you TELL us?"
It wasn't comfortable. But I endured. And I found out that the rest of the membership really appreciated the fact that we were supporting work that was helping the community and us.
It actually opened us up to a greater sensitivity to the needs of our members, and was the first of a great deal of work that changed the face of our community. We eventually put the Bethlehem Foundation in our budget, along with several other ministries. It was never enough money to suit me. Sometimes we weren't able to do everything we budgeted, but we were always aware that it was a part of our stewardship as a church. It was the beginning of a great 22 year adventure for us - and to be honest, we never missed the $500!
I'm actually glad I got in trouble that day. That was the best $500 we spent that year.
But no, it wasn't the last time I got in trouble!