Faith Matters: Preachers to sing, play at New Jerusalem Baptist

By Terry Robinson

Advocate staff writer

the Rev. S.C. Dixon
the Rev. S.C. Dixon

Good preaching is music to the ears of the Rev. Van Smith Jr., a minister for nearly 30 years.

Smith also enjoys good music, having taught music in Iberville Parish schools for 34 years before retiring in 1994.

Smith will once again bring together ministers to showcase their musical prowess at the 10th annual Preachers Musicale set for 4 p.m. Sunday at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, 1627 Thomas H. Delpit Drive, Baton Rouge.

“Pastors from across the city — many of them are gifted as soloists as well as preachers — come and sing. Some play instruments but most of them do solos,” said Smith, who also pastors St. Peter Baptist Church in Plaquemine and Zion Traveler Baptist Church near New Roads.

Among the preachers scheduled to perform are the Revs. Henry J. Brown, S.C. Dixon, Leroy Taylor, Gerard Robinson, Rayfield T. Iglehart, Perry Wright, Donald Ray Sterling, Thomas Bessix, Lee Wesley, Fred Jeff Smith, George Pierce, Melvin Rushing, Raymond Allen, Richard Rayborn and Sterling Wright.

The New Jerusalem Choir will open the program. The emcee will be Gail Lawson.

“They’re excited to come,” Smith said. “These congregations come to support their pastors. Each pastor supports each other. It’s not really a competitive thing. It’s more of a fellowship. Of course, everybody wants to do well, but we exalt each other.”

Smith, who started playing piano in church at 4 years old, said music is a vital part of the worship experience.

“It creates a spirit of excitement ... it sets the tone for everything, even for the sermon,” he said.

As much as he loves the music, Smith preaching should always be the No. 1 priority for the preachers.

“When I go to church Sunday, my emphasis is on the Word, preaching the Word,” he said. “(The congregants) are coming to hear a sermon, not a solo. Our mission is to preach the Word.”

He added, “Singing should not be a priority over our peaching. They don’t elect us or call us to be singers or a choir member. If by chance we’re gifted in that area, we will do it.”

Southern (Choir) exposure

The Southern University Gospel Choir got a short but impactful taste of the Essence Festival on Sunday in New Orleans.

The choir sang backup for Erica Campbell of the gospel group Mary Mary at the McDonald’s 365 Black Awards ceremony at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center as part of the Essence Festival. The choir joined Campbell for the hit song “A Little More Jesus” from her debut album.

“It was a good experience to be able to personally meet with so many celebrities,” said Marcela Ratcliff, the Southern choir director and a senior vocal music major from Baton Rouge.

Besides adding to choir members’ résumé, Ratcliff said the ceremony also offered an opportunity to showcase a different aspect of Southern.

“It will shed a light on the university as a whole,” she said. “Most people know that we have a good band. A lot of people don’t know that Southern has a great gospel choir and a great concert choir. It shows that we have an overall, well-rounded university.”

The three-hour McDonald’s 365 Black Awards ceremony celebrates people who have made an impact on African-American culture and in their communities through business and charitable enterprises. Gladys Knight was among this year’s honorees.

A recording of the show is set to air on BET network in August.

“It was everything I expected it to be,” Ratcliff said.

The drum line from Louisiana Leadership Institute of Baton Rouge also participated in the event, Ratcliff said.

Stepping up in ministry

Though a minister since 2005, the Rev. Anthony Patterson’s road to ordination accelerated about two months ago.

That’s when he got a challenge from his pastor, the Rev. Earl Comena, to go to a another level of ministry at King Solomon Baptist Church.

“He asked me to step up and take a bigger role in his church,” said Patterson, who led the men’s ministry at Elm Grove Baptist Church. “When someone is willing to ask you to step up and be his assistant or be his right-hand man, he’s also saying he trusts you enough with his people. To me, that’s awesome.”

The request launched Patterson’s process of ordination, which culminated Sunday with a ceremony at Elm Grove.

“It was great to see family come together,” Patterson said of the program which included his wife, Arlene; daughters Antoinette, Annette and Aylesha; and a host of family and friends.

Patterson, 48, said part of the process was going before a board of other ministers who posed a series of questions.

“The process is to see where you’re at and to make sure you’re on the right page with what you believe,” he said.

Patterson has had some ministry preparation. He studied at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned a pastoral ministry certificate; his classes included Baptist doctrine, evangelism and counseling.

But the Baton Rouge native said “life experience” has also played a major part, even joking, “I have three daughters and that’s experience enough.”

Patterson said his four years as a deacon at Elm Grove offered other growth opportunities. “The deacon ministry was me negotiating with God and saying, ‘This is what you want me to do,’” he said.

God gave him favor at his workplace, Lion Copolymer, to better serve in ministry, Patterson said.

“I had done shift work for 18 years,” said Patterson, who has moved to day supervisor. “The doors have been constantly opening up, putting me in these positions.”

Text message

“God sent the first text message ... the Bible.”

— recent sign at Plainview Church of Christ Holiness, 1111 N. Foster Drive, Baton Rouge

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com