I could feel the energy as soon as I walked into Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church! Though the service officially started at 10:30 am, my friend Min. Jacque Taillon and several others were already singing and praising energetically at 10:15 am. The remainder of the worship team stepped in one by one…singers, drummer, guitar, horns, and the B3 organ. The congregation started to fill up, with about 100 people present by start time. It was such a wonderful sight to see children up on the platform singing right along with the adults, as well as a Jr. Sax Player and Jr. Organist. I also enjoyed several special songs that included small choirs and soloists. Particularly, a BEAUTIFULLY composed music medley “Help me Maintain” and “It is Well with my Soul” with the memorable lyrics, “As soon as I walk out the door, I need You more and more. As we wait for Your arrival, help me maintain. My sanity, help me maintain”.
Aside from lively praise and beautiful worship, I experienced Baptist traditions that have been practiced and perfected for hundreds of years. So beautiful were these traditions they would cause even the most ardent unbeliever to be awed by their beauty and gracefulness. Over and over again I was impressed by the passion of the congregation. Shouting, jumping, singing and laughing were replete with a plethora of responsive AMENS to each speaker at the pulpit.
The church sanctuary is an enormous domed room measuring approximately 130′ in diameter and 50′ to 60′ to the top of the dome…impressive by any standard. Large stained glass windows surrounded us with flourishes from a powerful pipe organ, created an ambiance calling upon hearts of praise.
Most impressive was the extent by which we as visitors were made welcome. It was an enthusiastically sung welcoming song choreographed with hand and arm gestures. The entire church SANG facing us with smiling faces, they invited us to join them as they celebrated and worshipped Jesus. It was so dynamic an experience that I was left with complete joy as I both laughed and cried at the authentic loving gesture I had just witnessed. At the conclusion of this wonderfully rehearsed song, each visitor was personally welcomed with a handshake or a hug where they stood by every member of the congregation. This was certainly the most memorable welcome I have ever received.
Pastor Horace Sanders was up there singing and worshiping too…what a voice! He delivered a powerful message entitled “YOU’RE QUALIFIED” on how God uses us in spite of our imperfections. He beautifully articulated how God is not looking for perfect people. He’s looking for people willing to obey. God wants to turn our mess into a message. He began by talking about how he HIMSELF was not perfect and stated loudly, “If you look too hard at me, you might find something wrong!” God OFTEN acts in ways contrary to the way we think He should. We sometimes don’t think people are qualified to be used by God. Pastor Horace went on to say, “Most Churches operate as pious peacocks…stuck up and hiding behind their stained glass windows. I’m glad I’m not perfect. If I were, I might not relate to people. God keeps loving, forgiving and blessing us over & over again. God is in the business of recycling imperfect people to perfect His kingdom”. Our qualifications are NOT predicated on perfection but on our relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter is a great example of how God can use imperfect people. Even though he had made mistakes, people recognized Peter as God’s anointed.
He also shared about how the seasons with many people in our lives may end and how God will sometimes separate us from these crowds and move us to where we need to be. He used the Book of Acts to describe how the apostles were separated from the 120 in the upper room to the 11 moving with authority and Holy Ghost power. It was a most compelling and scripture filled preaching. I hung on every word as he spoke and felt God talking to me personally.
Communion followed the message. Every first Sunday is the Lord’s Supper and white dresses were worn by Minister’s wives, Deaconess and Church Mothers as a statement of holiness and as an expression of community. It was so nice to see a congregation adorned in their Sunday best, putting on the Garments of Praise!
To the leadership and the Saints of Mt. Olivet, you were simply wonderful! Thank you. I want to go back and experience this again. The congregation’s motto is “A Church Where Love and Grace Abound!” I heard many of the members exclaiming, “I love my church”, and truly, what’s not to love?
By Donna Hansen Munafo
(Contributing writers Michael and Pat Frati)