Remembering Annabelle Pomeroy: An Open Letter to First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs Pastor Frank Pomeroy & Sherri Pomeroy…

Hello World:

Editor’s Note: Since I learned about the mass shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas, I’ve struggled about how to address this mass tragedy on this blog. What follows below is my attempt at addressing what is plainly an aberration from God’s perfect will for His people.  

Dear Pastor and Mrs. Frank Pomeroy,

A week ago, this very day, the simply unimaginable become a grotesque reality. Although 26 lives were taken (not lost because I believe those lives can be found in the bosom of Jesus), as a pastor’s daughter, I identify the most with Annabelle, your 14-year-old daughter. From various media reports, she loved your small, humble church and the people in it. Although the two of you adopted her, she was raised by the church, First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas. 

Although I am way past 14 (add 30 to that number), I remember what it was like to be a 14-year-old pastor daughter’s. Although I have two parents, my small church, Central Christian Church in southwest Atlanta, where I still attend, raised me too. As I grew up, I sometimes hated the extra scrutiny that came with being a pastor’s daughter, but I still reveled in the love lavished on me for that very reason. By the time I was 14, I had entered awkward phase where I wasn’t quite a little girl but not self-possessed enough to be a woman either. And I was teased because of it. My glasses were too big. I hadn’t discovered the most attractive hairstyle for my face yet. I was a bit fluffy. And I often couldn’t think of the cool things to say when more than one person was involved.

But all of that angst and self-consciousness melted away from the warmth of love and acceptance of church members as soon as I entered the church’s doors. The itty-bitty kids whom I towered over although I was short didn’t care that glasses covered my face, they could still see the love in my eyes as I picked them up and spun them in the air or tickled their round bellies. And when that didn’t work, Now & Laters or peppermints or anything sweet worked. The elderly people asked me how I was doing as they hugged me. Their hugs felt like worn soft blankets.  The adults my parents age took a personal interest in my development and gave me leads on new opportunities. One church member helped me to get my first paying job at 14 years old! And the kids my own age and bit older sometimes teased me too, but it was no more than the teasing you would expect in a normal family. When the world outside of the church’s doors depleted me, I could fill up on the love from my church family.

Below are some reflections I’ve come across about your daughter:

  • Annabelle, also known as Belle, loved attending her father’s church, so much so that family members said she would beg to sit in the front row — even when her parents weren’t there.  “Texas Church Shooting: Who Were the Victims of the Sutherland Springs Massacre?”
  • “She had to give me my hugs,” Rod Green said Thursday. “She was totally sweet, innocent and sweet.” That vision sticks in the mind of Green, a Vietnam veteran who says he never expected to see the kind of carnage in this small town that he saw in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. “Killed in church shooting, pastor’s daughter was ‘totally sweet’”
  • “You couldn’t go to Sutherland Springs Baptist Church and not see her,” Debbie Marx said. “She was always helping the Sunday School teacher with the small children.” “Killed in church shooting, pastor’s daughter was ‘totally sweet’”
  • “We will always remember that beautiful smile,” another person said. “These Are The Victims Of The Texas Church Shooting”

Now, as the last days of my parents’ ministry at Central Christian Church are being counted down (My father retires at the end of December.), I realize that my small church heritage is the biggest gift he could have ever given me. No material possession could ever match the spiritual riches invested me through the love of this small church. That is why at the head of this blog, I am pictured in the sanctuary of this small church. Everything I’ve become and hope to become can be traced back to what I learned there.  It is my foundation and my springboard. From what I’ve read about Annabelle, she felt the same way.

None of us will live forever in this realm and only God knows how much time we have here, but know that you could have given Annabelle nothing greater than the love she found within the doors of your small, humble church. I have nothing against megachurches or big churches, but there is something special about knowing everyone’s name, seeing them close enough to notice acne or the growth of a new gray hair and feeling compelled to go to everyone’s graduation, wedding and funeral. A beloved deacon that I’ve known since I was six years old passed away earlier this year, and I cannot think of him too long before tears congregate at the corners of my eyes. But I am comforted by the countless sweet memories I have of him from his large, soft hands to him telling me I looked pretty last October, the last time I remember seeing him in church before he came ill. 

I pray that your memories and the memories of members of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs of your precious Annabelle rush to your mind even as you grieve her loss. I’ve read that the church building will function as a memorial site today and this week rather than a site for church services. May all who enter the doors be surrounded by God’s love that overflowed there Sunday after Sunday despite the damage the devil inflicted there last Sunday…

With All of My Heart,

A Pastor’s Daughter

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs website has links to legitimate GoFundMe campaigns that have been created to support the families of the victims. One of those campaigns is the Sutherland Springs “Annabelle” Fund.  If you can donate, please do so.

Any thoughts?

Remembering the Life of My Friend & Soror Sherry “Elle” Richardson…

Hello World,

If you hadn’t noticed, I took a brief hiatus from blogging. About three weeks ago, just before Memorial Day, my husband and I took a quick road trip to Tampa, Florida for his birthday so all of my extraneous energy was directed to that impromptu endeavor. And then the day after we returned, Memorial Day, I learned that a dear friend suddenly passed away. So it’s been difficult to collect my thoughts, much less write them or anything else down.

But here I am, back at a blank page, ready to reveal the ruminations I’ve had since my friend and soror Sherry “Elle” Richardson passed away, two weeks ago today, on her birthday.

This is how I looked when we first met. Yes, I was a geek at first 🙂

I met Sherry in 1992. I was a freshman at the University of Georgia in Athens, and she was a transfer student and sophomore. I met her along with another girl whom she had befriended before they met me. The three of us were fast friends, initially bonding over our desire to not be there at all. LOL! The three of us didn’t want to attend a white school, plain and simple. All devotees of “A Different World,” we were hungry to experience a historically black college or university, an HBCU, for ourselves. We wanted the funky marching band, the opportunity to meet our own Dwayne Wayne, Shazza Zulu or Julian Day (dependent on your taste in men), the endearing yet tough tutelage of black professors and the adventures that unfolded in dormitories teeming with people who looked like you but were from everywhere. Instead we were the minority, one of a few black faces at a school where we expected to learn but we couldn’t guarantee much else. But over time, we grew to love our historically white university and all that went with being a Georgia Bulldog in Athens at that time.

If college was a trip and it was, then Sherry was my travel agent. We had so many adventures together! A sheltered preacher’s daughter, I longed to party a la Ariel in “Footloose,” and Sherry was the perfect partner in partying. We practiced dancing in the mirror before we could “shake what your mama gave ya” in parties at Memorial Hall, where most on-campus parties were held! And if we felt like it, we ventured to Atlanta and partied in clubs all over town too. Our belief was it we weren’t dripping sweat when we left a party then we hadn’t partied.

But Sherry wasn’t all about partying though. We both wanted to establish ourselves as leaders on that colossal campus. One of the ways that we concocted to do so was to pledge a sorority. We noticed that most of the black women who seemed to be leaders were members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, plus they won all of the step shows and looked good doing so. Since she was a year ahead of me, Sherry was ready to pledge, but as a freshman, I wasn’t quite ready or qualified. Sherry decided that one of the ways that she could get the attention of the Deltas was to take part in the Miss Black University of Georgia pageant, which was sponsored by the sorority. Not only did she take part, she won the competition! I’m sure you can guess what happened after that. And when I was ready to pledge the following year, 1995, she successfully advocated for me to become a member of our illustrious sorority.

Partying in Atlanta after we graduated from college…I got better with time fortunately…

After she graduated in 1995 and I graduated in 1996, we kept in touch. In fact, I introduced her to many of childhood friends who promptly loved her as much as I did. In fact, some of these friends hung out with her without me at times. One of our first adventures as brand new adults was a girls trip we took to Jamaica in 1997. It was such a heady experience to travel with your girls on your own dime! The four of us belted out our rendition of TLC’s “Creep” over and over and over again at a karaoke spot one night. I remember shutting down a “hole in the wall” club another night. One day, we watched a brave friend jump from the cliff at Rick’s Cafe in Negril. We called the trip the “Girl Dems Sugar,” a song by Beenie Man that we heard repeatedly wherever we went on the island. And since Sherry was a film producer by profession, she filmed our adventures in a beautiful video that I have to figure out a way to see now since no one has a VCR anymore.

On the Metro in D.C. on Inauguration Day (don’t ask me why I have on pink and green?!)

Speaking of a VCR, fast forward years later, in 2009, several of us caravanned from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to see the inauguration of President Obama. It was amazing that Sherry, one of my first friends at an institution where I feared I would be lost as a minority, and I witnessed the inauguration of the first black president of this country together. We bought thermal underwear, hand warmers and more to brave the bone-chilling temperatures on the mall that memorable day and shed it all to stun at the Southern Ball that night.

At the Southern Ball, one of several balls that President Obama and First Lady Obama stopped by…

And then in September 2012, we were back in Jamaica again as one of our friends, a childhood friend who now claimed Sherry as one of her besties, was getting married on the island. We were roommates, and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up in a way that is sometimes hard to do as adults with jobs and other responsibilities. As we were there for a wedding, we discussed what love and marriage meant for us and pondered what that would look like for us as women nearing 40 years old.

At my book release party in 2012…

That next year, 2013, I helped Sherry celebrate her 40th birthday at a Hawaiian luau-themed party she had a her home. A month later, she came to my Southern tea-themed bridal shower followed by my wedding in August of that same year. As college students who lived down the hall from another one another, we saw each other every day. Naturally, as single women staking our claim in our chosen professions following college graduation, we didn’t see each other every day anymore. But we saw each other pretty regularly when our extended group of girls got together to explore the city from brunches, Memorial Day picnics, sisterhood retreats (which she created) at various homes and destinations, the “Sex and the City” movie premiere and more.

But I must admit, when I got married, I cocooned myself in newlywed bonding and didn’t avail myself to random hanging as much as I once did. I noticed the same pattern among friends who had gotten married before I did so I realized it was normal although not always advisable for maintaining friendships. When I heard the news of Sherry’s passing, I realized it had been quite some time since I had seen my friend…I only hope that Sherry knew how much I treasured my friendship with her over the years although recent life events dictated my time.

At a friend’s bridal shower…

Although I am a committed Christian, I cannot pretend that I have an inkling as to why God chose to call my friend away from this earthly realm. Since her homegoing, as I’ve walked throughout my house or driven somewhere, found myself saying, “Imagine Sherry is no longer here?” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve experienced the passing of friends, family members and church family, but it doesn’t make it easier or predictable. These experiences only emphasize that life is truly a transitory state. We should savor all that this life, though temporal, has to offer, but most importantly, we have to be saved or become a Christian to go to Heaven, which lasts for eternity.

So that’s all I have except to say I will miss and love her forever. And I thank God I knew her…

Rest well Sherry…Save a seat for me in eternity…

Any thoughts?


What We Can Learn from the Life & Death of Bishop Eddie L. Long…


bishop eddie long book coverHello World,

Do we deserve to be judged by the best of what we accomplished in our lives or by the worst of what we did or did not do?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself since I heard V-103’s Larry Tinsley, host of Sunday Morning Praise, announce the death of Bishop Eddie L. Long while I drove to church Sunday morning. While I took part in my church’s service in which the focus was racial reconciliation and honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I knew that a corner of my mind was pondering the life and death of Bishop Eddie L. Long. And once church was over, my mind was free to organize my random thoughts about what had I heard.

For many, Bishop Eddie L. Long,  pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a black megachurch in Decatur, Georgia that once reportedly boasted 25,000 members at its zenith was a man who not only transformed his church through his pastorate but the city of Decatur and beyond through various programs assisting prisoners, drug addicts, the homeless and more. Over the years, many of my friends and associates were once members of the church. I remember hearing him on V-103 years ago when he delivered empowering messages during the “Inspirational Vitamin” of The Frank and Wanda Morning Show, and I interviewed him once for a magazine article I wrote about domestic violence in the church.

But what about the convincing allegations of four young men who accused him of targeting them through the black church’s now defunct LongFellows Youth Academy and cultivating sexual relationships with them 7 years ago in 2010? As we all know by now, the allegations were never aired out in a courtroom but instead a settlement out of court was reached between Bishop Long and these men. A settlement does not necessarily denote guilt but given the egregious actions Bishop Long was accused of and his declaration that he was going to fight these allegations, guilt does not seem like an unlikely conclusion in this case.

So what lives matter more? All of the lives of people Bishop Eddie L. Long positively influenced during his life or the lives of the four young men whose lives will be forever linked to Bishop Eddie L. Long?

Now there will probably be some who read this blog post and say, Who are you to judge? Only God can judge? And to those I say, yes, I agree. Only God can decide if you go ascend to the glory of Heaven or sink to the abyss of hell. But there are many verses in the Bible that encourage us to make assessments and act accordingly…Below are a few…

Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright. Proverbs 20:11

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

I’m not putting these verses out there not to condemn Bishop Long. I’m simply putting them out there to say that God encourages us to assess and act which is a form of judgment but not the same as the judgment in which God determines our final home. Life is nothing if not a series of lessons and we would be wise to learn from those who have completed their journey ahead of us.

In pondering what I have learned from the life and death of Bishop Eddie L. Long, I have come to a few conclusions…

  1. The gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to impact an entire community and beyond. As my father, who is a pastor, says, “People really do need the Lord.” There are some out there who think that what happened with Bishop Eddie L. Long is an indictment of the black church or church in general. I say to you as long as you judge (or assess) the Word of God by imperfect human beings, there will always be a reason to doubt the Word of God. Pastors are sinful people. Christians are sinful people.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23And here’s the thing, I haven’t seen sins ranked in the Bible …Anyone from a murderer to a student who cheated on a test has committed a sin and yet is still eligible for entry into Heaven if God has forgiven them. (Although we all know that some some sins naturally have more consequences than others.)Don’t get it twisted. Judge the Word of God by the Word of God. A pastor may lead you to God, but he or she is not God….
  2. All lives matter. All of the people who continue to sing the praises of Bishop Long to those who cannot see past the sexual allegations of the four young men matter. The paradox of this statement is that whatever group you find yourself in or even if you are somewhere in the middle, each person is valid and should be treated as such. If you were helped by the ministry of Bishop Long, who am I tell that help did not matter. And on the other hand, you absolutely cannot disparage the young men who claim they were victimized by Bishop Long. The word of God says that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents in Luke 15:10. If we believe in the God of the Bible, we see that each and every person is valuable.
  3. Bishop Eddie L. Long is dead, but you are still alive. For all of our commentaries on Bishop Eddie L. Long whether on social media or in whispered conversations, Bishop Eddie L. Long is only God’s business now. In Luke 9:60, we are told to, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. What I interpret that verse to mean is that if you are alive, you have to get on with your life. If you are a Christian, what are you doing to proclaim the Word of God? As my father said when we briefly discussed Bishop Eddie L. Long on Sunday, “we are only here for a brief time.”

So as far as the answer of my original question is concerned, I guess it is truly up to to the person who is making the judgment…What say you?

Any thoughts?