Today marked another first for me in my new ministry as pastor of the St. Paul's Baptist Church. Although I was the officiating minister for a funeral last Saturday, today I gave my first eulogy as pastor. Mrs. Clara Gilliam Lightfoot was born in 1912 and had been a member of St. Paul's for 70 years. She had not been able to come to church for some time, but she did have the opportunity to vote in the pastoral election a few weeks ago. The deacon who provided her with the absentee ballot remarked that although she knew that her vote was by secret ballot and therefore confidential, after seh placed her marked ballot in the envelope she volunteered, "Clara Lightfoot has done something different. I just voted for the woman."
Of course I smiled to know that Mrs. Lightfoot would have been pleased with the pastor at her funeral, but more than that I was struck by what extraordinary liveliness she had even in her last weeks. If anyone has an excuse for holding on to the familiar and maintaining the status quo it is the person who has lived for 97 years. But I am thinking that the willingness to embrace new things, a delight in doing "something different" (especially when that something is a good and right thing) may very well be the reason why Mrs. Lightfoot lived as long as she did.
This week I heard several moving and challenging sermons and lectures at the Hampton Ministers' Conference. I felt convicted and encouraged by the sermons of Dr. Claudette Copeland. I reflected and repented because of the word placed in Dr. Renita Weems's mouth. And I recommitted to preaching with boldness because of what Dr. William Curtis preached. But as Dr. Copeland herself made clear in her sermon on Wednesday, sometimes the prophetic is mediated through a life. In Mrs. Lightfoot's final act as a member of St. Paul's Baptist Church, God spoke to me: No matter how old we get, we're always young enough to do something different. Message taken.