Single Mother Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins Was Expelled From Church, Now First Female Pastor of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church…

Hello World,

Happy Mothers Day to the all of the mothers out there! On this Mothers Day, I want to highlight Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins, who is the tenth pastor and first female to lead the nearly 95-year-old St. Matthew’s Baptist Church located in Harlem, New York.  However, 24 years ago she was expelled from the church because she was pregnant and unwed. Please read her biography below followed by my interview of her.

Pastor of Harlem’s St. Matthew’s Baptist Church, Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins received her bachelor’s degree in speech communications with an emphasis in journalism from Pace University and attained the degree of master of divinity from New York Theological Seminary.  She is currently a doctoral student at McCormick Theology Seminary as a Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Scholar.

Additionally, Rev. Jenkins has taught New Testament Studies and Biblical Exegesis at New York Theological Seminary, and serves as an adjunct lecturer of Cultural Diversity in the History and Philosophy Department at York College/City University of New York.  In addition to her pastoral and academic work, Rev. Jenkins lectures and facilitates workshops and seminars on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, Balancing Family & Ministry, Single Parenting, Mental Health & the Black Church, Women in Ministry and more. Rev. Jenkins is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the NAACP and is an advocate of both adults & children with ADHD.

She is also the author of the recently released book The Other Side of Through: Messages of Hope, Empowerment, Justice and Faith, a compilation of powerful sermons preached by Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins. A combination of devotion and ethnography, the sermons delivered with Rev. Jenkins’ unique style and humor capture the rich tradition of the African-American religious experience which comb the scriptures in search of the gospel that will break the yokes of oppression and injustice while offering hope and redemption.

As a pastor, she brings over 30 years of diverse experience gained in the corporate sector, academia and in faith-based settings.  Her experiences include modeling on the stage of the world famous Apollo Theatre, singing with the Grammy Award-winning Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir, working as on-air radio announcer, and serving on community boards, city task forces and various non-profit organizations.

Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins is the proud mother of Jordan Christopher Jenkins-Crandle.

1. How were you expelled from your church?

Yes, I was kicked out of the church. I was expelled from church. I did return eventually. I was pregnant, but I was 28 years old. I was old (laughter). I was a grown woman out of college. At that time, I was working for RJR Nabisco. It was a Fortune 100 company at that time. As a matter of fact, I had just handed in my resignation because I was traveling with Love Fellowship Crusade Choir. I was traveling with Hezekiah Walker. I remember we did the ‘Live at Morehouse’ album, and I was so sick and I was so tired. We did it in January. I had no idea I was pregnant and then I found out I was pregnant. I remember Bishop Walker. He wasn’t a bishop at the time, but he was so kind to me. I was lying in bed one day. I was just lamenting my life.  I had done so much but here I was at this point and time pregnant.

I remember Bishop Walker calling me because he was starting his church, and he asked was I able to help out with something. I remember I was boohooing. I said, ‘I can’t. I’m pregnant. I can’t do anything.’ And I will never forget. He said, ‘Lisa, don’t worry about a thing. Children are never a mistake. God has got you. God is going to keep your child. Know that I’m here for you, Love Fellowship is here for you. Don’t worry about a thing.’ He was just so encouraging.

But at my church, it was different. I wasn’t holding any leadership positions at my church Ebenezer Baptist Church in Flushing, Queens. I think I was singing in the choir but nothing else. My pastor said to me that I should stop coming for a while. This conversation was by phone. I don’t remember how he found out. It was all a haze. I remember not understanding what he was saying because certainly I was not the first female to be pregnant and unwed at that church. I do remember he said, ‘You’re starting to show and you’re not like the others.’ I remember being speechless. He said, ‘You’re one of the leaders.’ And I remember saying, ‘I’m not in leadership. I’m not holding any offices.’ He said, ‘You’re very visible.’

Later on though, he invited me back to the church a few weeks later after people had found out that he asked me to stop coming to the church. Because my son’s father was the minister of music and was still playing the organ at the church. My son’s father is a good person, but marriage was not an option or feasible. But my pastor never really apologized though. I did not go back right away, but I did go back. I was away from the church three or four months or so.

I eventually had my son in 1994 and my church was very welcoming. The next thing I knew the pastor that told me not to come to the church licensed me to preach the gospel three years later in 1997. He wound up saying that he did not know how to handle the situation because he thought there was a calling on my life. Again, he never apologized, but I took it for what it was: someone who grew up in a different era who although he wasn’t against women in ministry, but we live in a very patriarchal society.

2. How did you receive your call to ministry?

A lot of people will tell me that they were called to ministry. I never tell anyone I was called to ministry. It was something that was validated by other people always. Other people in the church, mothers in the church. My previous pastor’s wife. I was always asked to speak, preside at banquets. I was always asked to introduce people.

So there was a Youth Day coming up. It was 1995 or 1996 I think. And my pastor called me and said, ‘I need for you to speak for Youth Day.’ I said, ‘Sure, not a problem.’ I said, ‘Is that going to be before the preacher or after the preacher?’ He said, ‘No, I need for you to speak.’ I said, ‘Well, who is going to be the preacher?’ He said, ‘There is no preacher. It’s just going to be you.’ I remember just standing there because I was on the phone. I wasn’t comprehending because in my mind, you have to have a preacher.  I said, ‘What is this? I thought you said it was Sunday morning. Is this an afternoon event? Is this a banquet?’ He said, ‘It’s Sunday morning service and it’s Youth Day. I need for you to be the main speaker. You’re going to speak from the podium from the lectern on the side. But when it comes time for the Word, you’re going to be it. ’ And mind you, this is two years after I had my son. I said, ‘Okay.’

I remember getting of the phone and I remember calling, we call her Ya-Ya. God rest her soul. Her actual name is Percynthia Brown. She was one of the mothers of the church and I called her because I was confused. I said, ‘Ya-Ya, Pastor just called me and he wants me to speak. But he says there is not going to be a preacher.’ She said, ‘Baby, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. God has a calling on your life.’ So I spoke. It was a great service. The message was well-received. We had a wonderful time in the Lord.

And shortly after that, Pastor said, ‘I want you to have your trial sermon. How do you feel about that?’  By that time, on my own,  I was already going to a Bible institute in the community. Also, there was another church that had a Baptist institute that I attended. This was not for preaching or professional ministry.  This was just to learn more about God on my own. I have always been a learner and a reader. I was reading the Bible at 2 a.m. in the morning on my own.

So I had a trial sermon on the last Sunday in October in 1997. It was a packed house. My sermon title was ‘The Least Likely.’ It was based on 1 Samuel where David was the least likely to be chosen to be the king of Israel. Out of all of Jesse’s sons who were kingly, David was in the back with the sheep and the prophet said, ‘Is there another? Don’t you have another son?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I do but he’s out in the back. But you don’t want him. Look at my other sons.’ Samuel said, ‘No bring your son from the back.’ So he was the least likely.

So from there, God just made a way. Whenever I went places, my son was with me. I had a collapsible bassinet in the trunk of my car.

3. You also credit your church mother with helping you with your calling to ministry to ministry. Is there anyone else who helped you as well?

My actual mother Lucy Mae Jenkins. She had me at 49 years old. They told her I was a tumor. And they told her that she should not have me when they found out that I was not a tumor. They told her she needed to have a medical abortion because it’s going to be dangerous for you. She said, ‘No, that’s not going to happen.’ She lived long enough to see me pastor my first church Blessed Trinity Baptist Church in Harlem. She had my brother at the age of 17 but after that, she had no other children until she had me.

4. Now that you’re a pastor of a church, if you had a woman to get pregnant in your congregation who was in leadership or just any woman, how would you deal with that?

How would I deal with that? I would be loving to her. I would do what Hezekiah Walker did and say, ‘God loves you.’ I would ask her what she needs. Is she okay? I don’t know how to answer that because to me it’s like breathing. Like when someone is going through something, you say, ‘What can I do for you?’ Is there anything that the church can do for you? Do you need support?’ And she may be fine. She may be vice-president of a corporation with a family behind her or she could be a single mother on public assistance living in projects around the corner.

The Bible says that we are supposed to be kind to one another and that we aren’t supposed to gossip. That there shouldn’t be adultery. That we clothe and feed the hungry. The Bible tells us lots of things that we do not do. The church is full of people who treat each other in nasty ways but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about someone who has gotten pregnant out of wedlock which needs to dealt with compassion. We need to make sure that the person’s needs are taken care of and that they continue to be reconciled to Christ just like all of us when we wake up in the morning and we have things happen to us throughout the day that might go against the will of God. I’m one of those people who is beyond this nitpicking about which sin is worse.

I would never tell someone not to come to church. Are you kidding me?

5.What about if they were in leadership?

Depends upon what the ministry is. If they were a preacher or pastor, I would counsel them. I would hope they had enough humility to do what is necessary for their own sake, for their own spiritual well-being. If you are in a leadership position, I should not have to sit anyone down. I would leave that to God because God will deal with that. Because there are some times when we all need to take a retreat or a sabbatical whether you’re pregnant or not.

6. What have been the blessings and challenges of being a single parent and minister?

Childcare and making sure that his needs were taken care of. But I did have a very supportive network. When I traveled  to preach or went some place to lead a study, they knew that I had my son with me. Sometimes, he would sit with the First Lady or if I had someone that came with me, my son would sit with that person. It was challenging but doable.

7. Any advice for single parents?

A lot of single parents are praying for a husband or wife to assist them, but my prayer is that God’s will be done in your life and that you be strengthened and encouraged in your singleness and for whatever God has in store for you, knowing that God is able to do all things. I remember when my son was younger, I would pray for a partner, but I realized it was for the wrong reasons.  I would say, ‘I wish I had someone to help me take this garbage out. I’m so tired.’ ‘I wish I had someone to help me rake these leaves.’ ‘Oh my goodness, it’s snowing outside. I need someone to help me shovel this snow.’ ‘I need someone to help me get up in the middle of the night and change diapers.’ But God is our help. And when I think back, those were really selfish reasons. The right reason is that God would send someone who is necessary so that His will would be accomplished in both of their lives.

Paul says that it’s not sinful to be single. If you are single, then you can devote more of your time to the Lord. And if you’re married, your time is devoted to your spouse.

I’m very comfortable in my singleness now, but if it’s God will to be married one day, then absolutely. But I love walking into an empty house each day!

For more information about Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins, go to her website: lisadjenkins.org.

Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers out there 🙂

Any thoughts?

7 Negative Things I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving Eve…

Hello World,

Y’all, my family is going through a storm, one of those pop up thunderstorms that we didn’t see coming… But God is still good, and I know that I know that I know that He will bring good out of bad or positive out of negative as is noted in Romans 8:28! And I’m still thankful! At this time of the year, Thanksgiving Eve, it is appropos to compile the obligatory gratitude list…I am thankful for my health, spouse, family etc….Yes, all of those are definitely true, but according to God’s word we are to:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:1

This means that God expects us to be thankful for even the negative things that He has allowed in our lives, but we have hope in all circumstances, negative and positive, because:

We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

So with those two verses in mind, I decided to turn my gratitude list on its head and praise God for what I originally thought was negative, but God it turned into positive (And I need these reminders on today!)…I’m going all the way back to childhood…Come with me 🙂

bible verse1. Not Being a Popular Kid and Bordering on Being Chubby For Most of My Childhood…I guess I’ve always been self-conscious which doesn’t work well on the playground…If someone asks you to play with him or her on the playground, and you rehearse your answer before you reply…You will probably not be the most popular kid…You will be probably be among the weirdo kids…Or if you would rather watch the Brady Bunch [insert whatever show is popular now] with a snack instead of go outside and play kickball, you will probably be among the chubby kids…But not being the most popular, kinda chubby kid made me develop my inner qualities like compassion and kindness because I wanted to be treated without compassion and kindness…AND now that I’m adult, I have no illusion that I can just sit around and preserve my sexy…Good thing to know when you’re over 40…I have to eat right and work out…no excuses…God knows best…

2. Getting Into the Honors Program at Howard University, But Not Receiving Any Scholarship Money…Like many of my friends who spent our high school years watching a “A Different World” or attending Atlanta Football Classic games, I just knew I would be attending an HBCU (historically black college or university)! My chosen HBCU was Howard University in our nation’s capital. I had visited Washington D.C. when I was in the seventh grade, and I vowed I would return there as a college student…But it wasn’t meant to be…Although I got into Howard University and the school’s Honors Program, I didn’t receive any scholarship money…It only made sense that at point to go to the school where I had three scholarships…The University of Georgia…a dreaded HWCU…LOL…To my surprise, I had a blast in college, pledged the most wonderful sorority (Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.) in the world and got a great journalism education without worrying about being hampered by the debt I would have surely incurred had I gone to my “dream school.” God knows best…

3. Becoming a Christian, and Then Losing My Friends…When I decided to give my life to Jesus Christ and no longer depend on the fact that my father, my uncles and grandfather were pastors, I expected my life to get better…After all, if I know God, the creator of the universe, how could anything go wrong? We cool like that…I was wrong…so very wrong..Many of my friends didn’t understand why I spent more time than the obligatory Sunday morning in church or chose not to go to certain places…I cried and I cried I felt so alone…But it was during those moments that God got me alone that I got to know Him…Many of those friendships have been restored as time has passed…but I still know how to depend on God alone because of that time…God knows best…

4. Losing My Job Right After I Bought My First Home…I must admit I was frantic when I lost my job at a newspaper months after buying my first home…Up until that time, I had been living with my parents and while I paid for my own bills like for my car, clothes, etc., my parents didn’t force me to pay rent or anything although I was a college graduate…All of a sudden, I had to pay more bills with less money…During that year or so, I was depressed…I ignored some bills…I took some jobs beneath my education just to get by…But I also had time to explore my creativity like taking a class on “The Artist’s Way” and seeing a career counselor…And when it was all over, I learned that God was my resource not that job…I learned that I didn’t even want a traditional newspaper job anymore…God knows best…

5. Wanting to Get Married at 30 Years Old, Only to Get Married a Month Short redof my 40th Birthday…My mom got married when she was 30 years old…Why would my life be any different? Well, chile, what I did I know? As it turns out, nothing at 30 years old…I had to date some good ones, some bad ones, some crazy ones, etc. before I was finally ready for the man God had for me…Those 10 years were heartbreaking, but they were also precious…a gift of human experiences…I wouldn’t want to go through them again, but I learned so many things about myself and other people that only be taught in the classroom of life…Plus, those years fueled my writing life like nothing else…As any writer knows, pain is the best inspiration…God knows best…

6. Taking Seven Years to Get a Book Deal…In 2002, I had an idea to write a memoir about developing a personal relationship with God, and in 2003, I began trying to get a publisher for my book…It wasn’t until 2010 that I got a book deal…Yes, seven years after I started…But it took all of that time to show me the book needed to include other women and not just me…When I became a Christian, I searched bookstores looking for Christian life books written by black women…I found one or two here or there, but I knew there needed to be more…Once I got some Christian living under my belt, I wanted to write one for a black Christian woman who, like me, wanted to know how other black Christian women walked out their faith…What I learned by being rejected over and over again was that I needed more experiences than just mine…My book includes the testimonies of 24 women in ONE book…This is so the book I wanted for myself years ago…God knows best…

7. Taking Seven Years To Get a Book Deal…Yes, I know already wrote that…But I have more to share on this topic…In 2007, my dream publisher (I still walk around with the business card of the acquisitions editor of this company.) at the time was interested in my original memoir, but my book was ultimately rejected because I didn’t have a platform….I.Almost.Died…At least it felt like I was nearing death because I got so close to realizing my dream only to wake up to the cruel reality of life for an unpublished author…But I didn’t let that rejection stop me…I got busy on developing my platform…This blog was birthed as a result of that rejection…This blog has become a way that I connect to others across the nation and the world…a place to dream…a place to vent…an online history…I love it so…And it is one of the reasons that I got a book deal as I met former “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd, one of the women featured in book, because of this blog…

So what “negative” things are you thankful for today? Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

And if you need to praise God while you are going through the storm like I do, here is a song to help us do that!

Any thoughts?

Seven Reasons Why I Approve of The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr.’s Eulogy at Aretha’s Franklin’s Funeral…

Hello World,

I watched several hours of The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin’s funeral or homegoing (which word you choose is likely a reflection of your cultural origin) on Friday, but I must admit I missed the The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr.’s (pastor emeritus of  Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, Georgia) eulogy of the Queen of Soul on Friday. I mostly watched to hear some good ole black church saaangin and see who was there! Yes, I can be shallow like that. But as far as what the pastors and preachers had to say, I figured it would be what we always hear at funerals – some variation of the person was a good person or decent person, etc. (eulogy definition – a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, typically someone who has just died.) and a come- to-Jesus- while-there- is- yet-blood-running-through-your-veins appeal at the end. I’m in church every Sunday and when I was growing up that was every Sunday and Wednesday so I’ve been to many many church services and funerals/homegoings. But I’m not a preacher nor a pastor and don’t aspire to such a controversial calling but I probably could plan a pretty decent church service or homegoing if I was called upon to do so.

All that being said (written), that was why I didn’t pay attention. Some of you may wonder well wouldn’t that apply to black church saangin too. Probably but given the fact that this was the Queen of Soul’s homegoing, I figured the music would be on another level and it was. But I digress. So later on Friday, after this homegoing of all homegoings had finally commenced, I saw all kinds of chatter online regarding Rev. Williams’ eulogy.

From the AJC Article Pastor Who Delivered Aretha Franklin’s Controversial Eulogy Speaks Out:

“I need people to know that this eulogy was not reflective of God nor was it honoring to nor did it offer comfort to the bereaved or give hope for tomorrow. It was, in fact, trash. And as long as we don’t boldly call this out we are complicit.”

“Aretha Franklin was a mother of four black boys, two of them she had as a teenager. She was all set to bail Angela Davis out of jail. Raised money for the CRM. This eulogy is disrespectful to her legacy. I’m upset.

But since I hadn’t taken it in for myself, I had no thoughts on it. However, my mother told me my father, pastor emeritus of our church, Central Christian Church in Southwest Atlanta, approved it. So I was like, “Uh oh, if my father likes it” but many people that I “know” online don’t like it, there must be an old school/new school dynamic at work.

So finally this morning, I watched it and I kept waiting to be outraged, incensed at the implications and or Trump thread throughout the tirade, but I just wasn’t. Maybe if I had a theology degree as many people who have criticized the message do, maybe I would feel differently. But as a lay person with my own mind, I didn’t mind at all what Rev. Williams said. So below is not the thesis of a theological scholar and I highly respect them, but I respect my thoughts as well.

  1. As a student of history, I love a good history lesson. As a friend of the Franklin family who knew Aretha Franklin’s family and even delivered her own father the Rev. C.L. Franklin’s eulogy, the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. offered a very knowledgeable perspective about how the Queen of Soul even came to be. I thought it was beautiful that this man who preached the gospel had enough insight to know his daughter did not have to confine herself to gospel music. Williams described in great detail how on one occasion, Rev. C.L. Franklin preached a gospel sermon in an auditorium in Memphis followed up by his daughter’s blues performance.
  2. Rev. Williams talked about how her iconic voice likely was developed. It was born of pain. The best artists of all kinds have gone through a measure of pain. And if you haven’t gone through pain, it’s hard to identify pleasure. In fact, pain and pleasure are twin souls and the most evocative of artistic expressions reflect both of them. Rev. C.L. Franklin’s home was a broken home and he was forced to raise four children on his own. It wasn’t the ideal situation, Rev. Williams noted and surely there must have been some pain felt along the way. It is likely that Aretha Franklin drew from that pain to sing the blues. I mean she made her first album at 14 years old! She was also 14 years old when she gave birth to her first son.
  3. A lot has been said about how Rev. Williams criticized single mothers when the Queen of Soul was likely a single parent for some time. I didn’t see that. He was saying a two-parent household is the optimum environment in which to raise a child. He was not saying that if you are a single parent, your child is doomed to fail nor was he saying that children from two-parent households always fare better than children raised in a signal parent household. We all know situations where that is not the case. But he was saying if it indeed took two people to form to a create a child, why wouldn’t it be optimum for then those two to raise that child? Now there are situations where that is impossible, but that is the model. Also, he wasn’t saying that aren’t any black fathers in the home, but we all know that this a problem that needs addressing.  (In addition, there are many single parents who have chosen to adopt children and that is a choice that should be commended.)
  4. And there are others who believe that Rev. Williams criticized the Black Lives Matter movement. How Sway? He was saving that black lives do matter. And they matter whether we police officers take them or we take them. Yes, police officers shouldn’t kill innocent black people but neither should we. Now, I will admit I don’t like the phrase “black on black crime” because most people when they kill other people kill people from their own race so there is “white on white crime,” “brown on brown crime” and so on. But since his audience was largely black, he was directing to his words to black people. We can support the Black Lives Matter movement AND support eradicating unjust murders in which both parties are black. In fact, it would be pointless not to do so.
  5. Now about his message about the virtues of segregation versus integration. Many of us have said that when black people had to depend on each other, we were more prosperous in terms of creating and sustaining our business models. I’ve never lived through segregation and based on what I’ve learned, I have no desire to do so. But also from what I’ve been told by those who have lived during both times, a certain cohesiveness has been lost in the name of progress.
  6. Speaking of black communities, many people do walk around like zombies on all manner of mood enhancers (drugs). Now, there are other communities who are experiencing this as well (Hello opioid epidemic!) but he was directing the message to the audience. Why is that so upsetting? This remind me when one child is scolded and the child comes back with, “Well, he is doing wrong too” in reference to his brother. That may be the case, but that doesn’t negate your error either.
  7. Back to my first thought. Rev. Williams is the same age as Aretha Franklin when she died last month. Do you not think she didn’t know him? They must have grown up together! That funeral was eight-hours long with dignitaries far and wide but in the end a preacher who had eugologized her father was the one I would dare to say she and the family chose. I know the Queen of Soul belongs to the world, but she was a human being first and she (they) chose him. In sum, all I can say is if you like it, I love it. Who am I to criticize whom you chose to deliver your eulogy?

That’s all I got.

Also I want to note that this is NOT a case of the whole “touch not my anointed” thing in which people are scared to criticize and critique long-time and revered clergymen. NO ONE not even the clergy is above criticism and critique which is what happened with the priests who were allowed to commit pedophilia for years in the Catholic church…

Watch the whole thing for yourself below. What are your thoughts?

Any thoughts?