Compact Unit



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Guest Writer for This Unit: Christopher Michael Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hillside, NJ

The unit you are viewing, Pastor’s Anniversary, is a compact unit. This means that it does not have a supporting cultural resource unit and worship unit. Instead, to enliven the imagination of preachers and teachers, we have provided scriptural text(s) that we suggest for this moment on the calendar along with a sermonic outline, suggested links, books, articles, songs, and videos. For additional information, see Pastor’s Anniversary in the archives of the Lectionary for 2009 and 2010. 2011 is the first year that the African American Lectionary has posted compact units for moments on its liturgical calendar.

I. Description of the Liturgical Moment

The Pastor’s Anniversary marks that special moment in the church calendar year when the congregation sets aside time to celebrate both the service and sacrifice of its shepherd leader. In the African American church tradition, it is to be understood that the church should celebrate its pastor. The pastor is the primary shepherd leader of the church and his or her duties are never completed. If pastors are not preaching, they are teaching. If they are not teaching, they are visiting someone in the hospital. If they are not visiting someone in the hospital, they are visiting someone in prison, at a home blessing ceremony, or at the altar performing a marriage ceremony. Not only is the pastor responsible for providing spiritual care to the entire church, the pastor is expected to lead the church in its mission and to help provide spiritual guidance and support to the entire local community in which his or her church is located.

Dr. Forest Elliott Harris, Sr., President of American Baptist College, in Nashville, TN, notes: “The most incomplete record to date is the unrecorded testimony of many unsung shepherds of black churches whose sacrifice and courage, pastoral care to wounded people, and preaching defiance of injustice gave hope to black people so that they could trust God for their future.”1 Not only will the pastor lay down his or her life for the church, he or she does so willingly, knowing that his or her labor of love is not in vain.

It is for these reasons African American congregations have always celebrated their pastors. They do so (1) to honor the Lord for sending a shepherd whom they could follow, (2) to thank the pastor for providing tender love and care to the congregation, and (3) to teach future generations how to celebrate the leaders God has sent their way. Celebrative Sunday morning worship or week-long services, the giving of cards and gifts, the sharing of testimonies, prayer, and offerings of extended vacation time for refreshing of the body and soul are all ways in which the African American church expresses its deep appreciation to the pastor who leads them through the wilderness of life and guides them towards eternity.

II. Pastor’s Anniversary: Sermonic Outline

A. Sermonic Focus Text(s): Exodus 17:8-16 (New Revised Standard Version)

(v. 8) Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. (v. 9) Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” (v. 10) So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. (v. 11) Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. (v. 12) But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. (v. 13) And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword. (v. 14) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (v. 15) And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner. (v. 16) He said, “A hand upon the banner of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

B. Possible Titles

 i. God, the Leader, and the People

 ii. Remember Whose Hands You’re Holding

 iii. The Work Is in the Worship

C. Point of Exegetical Inquiry

In any text there can be several words or phrases that require significant exegetical inquiry. One exegetical inquiry raised by this text is in Exodus 17:12: “But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set.”

Too often congregations place too much responsibility on the shoulders of pastors alone, and too often pastors fail to allow congregations to help them in the planning and execution of the work of the Church. Moses had persons who held up his arms while he did the difficult work he had to do. While pastors lead, carrying out the work of God requires full participation from everyone.

III. Introduction

It is often assumed that great people are who they are because of the way God made them. This is partly true. Everybody knows the name LeBron James because God built LeBron to be 6'8'' with a 42-inch vertical. We have all heard the name Serena Williams because God created Serena with the hand-eye coordination to hit tennis balls with a top speed of over 120 miles per hour. However, little or no attention is given to the high school coach who taught LeBron how to become an independent thinking young man. Rarely do we hear about the sacrifices Serena’s mother and father suffered to ensure Serena’s talents would take her out of the ‘hood. One thing is for sure: We know greatness when we see it. But rarely do we acknowledge the fact that every great leader becomes great because God surrounded them with great people.

If we are careful, we can learn this lesson from the text. As African Americans we can relate to what it’s like to always have to shine and perform on the job while facing incredible odds. However, for every Moses there is a Hur and an Aaron. For every mountaintop victory God always affords us assistance in a valley. We are to thank God for the call of leadership that has been placed upon our pastors’ shoulders. However, we are to never lose sight of our own role in the freedom struggle.

IV. Moves/Points

Move/Point One – Battles Are Won through Collective Worship

No matter how heavy the load, whenever the community of faith decides to lift its hands together, fighting for any cause becomes easier.

a. Victory in the struggle starts with who we believe God to be;

b. what we think God has placed in our hands; and

c. with whom we will share our praise.

Move/Point Two – Battles Are Won through a Collective Sense of Mission and Not Just Might

a. Victory in the struggle is sustained through the roles we play in the battle;

b. the sense of worth we place in the role; and

c. how we relate our role to our faith in God.

Move/Point Three – Battles Are Won through Collective Perseverance and Not Just a Strategic Position

a. Victory in the struggle is experienced when the leader of God decides not to give up;

b. the people of God decide not to give up; and

c. the pastor and people fight ‘til the enemy gives in!

V. Celebration

Whenever a pastor and people decide to put their hands together the Lord gives them power to overcome; and when the Lord blesses our work it is blessed indeed. No one can stop it. Not a bad economy, not haters, not the status quo, not racism, not heights, not depths, not any creature on earth can stop the plan of the Lord in the hands of united and determined people.

VI. Illustration

My three toddlers love to ride the swing in the backyard. From the oldest to the youngest, they enjoy the backyard swing. However, none of them knows how to swing without receiving help from each other. When they tried to swing on their own, they learned they lacked the leg strength to get the elevation they were hoping for. But whenever one gets behind the other to push, the momentum from the push takes the one swinging to higher heights. We go further when we don’t mind helping each other. Our greatness is defined by how much we enjoy seeing others fly.

VII. Sounds, Sights, and Colors in This Passage

The sounds, sights, and colors in this passage include:

Sounds: People praying; people stomping in the dirt; swords clanging on impact; God’s name being called upon into the night and then a sudden praise of victory;

Sights: Thick smoke, dust flying in the air, soldiers fighting in the battlefield; women and children standing on the edges of cliffs looking over the battlefield; prayer intercessors praying while waking in circles; servants taking shifts bringing water to Moses; Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses; and

Colors: Purple and red robes; bronze and silver swords; gold metal chariots.

VIII. Songs to Accompany This Sermon

A. Hymns(s)

  • Lord, Keep Me Day by Day. By Eddie Williams

  • “Go Preach the Gospel,” Saith the Lord. By Isaac Watts. Tune by Thomas Hastings

  • A Charge I Have to Keep. By Charles Wesley. Tune by Lowell Mason

B. Well-Known Song(s)

  • Pastor and People. By Nolan Williams, Jr.

  • I Can Go to God in Prayer. Words and music by Calvin Bridges. Arr. by Carol Cymbala

C. Spiritual(s)

  • Guide My Feet.

  • Keep-a Preachin’ the Word. By Glenn E. Burleigh

  • Fix Me, Jesus. Arr. by Nolan Williams, Jr.

D. Modern Song(s) (Written between 2000–2010)

  • I Believe. By James Fortune

  • I Give Myself Away. By William McDowell

You can review past Lectionary worship units for Pastor’s Anniversary to find additional songs and suggestions for planning a worship service for this liturgical moment.

IX. Videos, Audio, and/or Interactive Media

  • Pastor Nancy Wilson, Evangelist Sandra Riley, and Evangelist Aretha Wilson at Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Women’s Conference. Sermonettes were delivered. Also see Debra Morton Women of Excellence. “Trio of Powerful Women Preachers.” Online location: accessed 19 March 2011

  • Example of a professionally created commemorative video of “Pastor Titus Stewart’s Birthday Celebration and Anniversary—District Elder Titus B. Stewart.” Greater Emmanuel Family Worship Center, 3915 Kelley Street, Houston, TX 77026. Online location: accessed 19 March 2011

  • New Jerusalem Mime Ministry performing to Seasons by Donald Lawrence. “Pastor’s Anniversary 2005.” Online location: accessed 19 March 2011

X. Books to Assist in Preparing Sermons, Bible Studies, and/or Worship Services Related to a Pastor’s Anniversary

  • The Africana Worship Book (Volume 2 Year B). Fousa, Safiyah and Valerie Bridgeman Davis, eds. Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources (GBOD), 2008. The Africana Worship Book, Year B, contains the new calls to worship, liturgies, prayers, litanies, offertory prayers, doxologies, choral readings, creeds, chants, and benedictions as we continue to unite Africana worship to present experiences. This volume gives special attention to next-generation liturgies written with the culture of young adult worshippers in mind, several short dramatic monologues, and sound files on the CD-ROM with demonstrations of several of the worship resources.

  • Companion to the Africana Worship Book. Fousa, Safiyah and Valerie Bridgeman Davis, eds. Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources (GBOD), 2008. Building a bridge of understanding through the collective experiences of elders in African American churches as well as emerging 21st-century voices, this companion volume exposes worship at its roots. A wide breadth of writers contribute extraordinarily rich essays concerning worship and the African American faith community to be circulated among pastors, scholars, and faith communities in order to enrich the future of worshiping communities.

  •  “As the spirit gives utterance: The language and literacy practices of contemporary Black women preachers.” Adams, Aesha Raushanah, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, 2006, 241 pages; AAT 3229001. Be sure to hit the “preview” button at the link below—it will direct you to the first 24 pages of this special dissertation.

Below are two good resources that can be consulted when a pastoral anniversary service is being planned. They are:

  • African American Special Days: 15 Complete Worship Services. Kirk-Duggan, Cheryl A. ed. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 1996. pp. 67–72.

  • Special Occasions in the Black Church. Baker, Benjamin S. ed. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1989. pp. 92–103.

XI. Helpful Websites for Pastor’s Anniversary


  • A Hall of Fame for Black Preachers has been opened. Founder William Blair, 82, a former Negro league baseball star, says we have “halls of fame” for sports and other areas of endeavor; why not one for the church and its strong leaders? His daughter, museum director Debra Blair Abron, says, “African Americans sung and prayed our way to where we are today; that story needs to be told.” The museum opened in Texas in the summer of 2003 and has expanded its reach to include black preachers from all over. “Black Preachers Hall of Fame.” 21 May 2004. Online location: accessed 17 March 2011; “Religious Hall of Fame.” Elite News. Online location: accessed 17 March 2011

  • America’s first black preacher, a missionary to the Cherokee, and an author, John Marrant lived a life of adventure and hardships to serve God. “John Marrant, America’s first black preacher 1755–1791.” Black History Review Honoring African-American Achievement. Online location: accessed 17 March 2011

XII. Ways to Celebrate a Pastor’s Anniversary

Here are just a few big and small ways a congregation can celebrate a Pastor’s Anniversary. A link to the entire list is the last bulleted item.

  • The Church Building & the Church—Present your pastor with a beautifully framed photo or painting of the church building.

  • We Love Our Pastor—Take out a full-page ad in your local newspaper, featuring a photo of your pastor with church members’ signature around it. Include a declaration of your love.

  • While You Were Out—Hanover Baptist in Indiana surprised their pastor with a gorgeous new home office. With his wife’s input, of course, they worked with a decorator and volunteers to turn a spare room into a home office while the pastor was out of town. They addressed paint, wallpaper, window coverings, shelves, desk, chair, computer, and decorator items.

  • Gift of Prayer—Give your pastor the gift of prayer. Create a chart, and allow members to choose a specific time that they will commit to pray weekly for the pastor this next year. They do not need to come to a specific place—just pray on their way to work or pray each Tuesday at 2 PM. The project could be done by a deacons group, choir, study class, or the entire church. Present the prayer promise chart to the pastor as a gift. Then remember to pray!

  • Gift from Deacons—Each deacon purchases a gift certificate to a restaurant, car wash, coffee shop, or bookstore. He or she writes a personal note on the back, then all coupons are placed inside a card for the pastor.

  • Gift from Kids—Wouldn’t it be fun for every child at your church to create a signed bookmark for their pastor using cardstock paper and crayons or markers? Laminate the bookmarks, and then call all the children forward at the end of worship to put their bookmarks in a basket for the pastor.

  • Gift from Youth—Create huge poster board hearts and a giant love note for everyone to read. Place them on stakes in your pastor’s front yard during pastor appreciation day. You could add balloons too.

  • Gift from the Church—Restaurant certificates, magazine subscription, tires, Bible software, a trip, a book, theatre or sports tickets, flowers, babysitting coupons, a new car, a grandfather clock, a suit for pastor and an outfit for the pastor’s spouse, a new car, a new desk, home landscaping.

  • For the complete list, see “PASTOR’S APPRECIATION DAY”; Give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.

XIII. Disability Awareness Information: This year the African American Lectionary wants all churches to do a better job of including the disabled/differently abled. Involve them in the planning and execution of all of the work in your church.

XIV. Notes for Selected Songs

A. Hymn(s)

  • Lord, Keep Me Day by Day. By Eddie Williams
    African American Heritage Hymnal. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, 2001. #129

  • “Go Preach the Gospel,” Saith the Lord. By Isaac Watts. Tune by Thomas Hastings
    African Methodist Episcopal Zion Bicentennial Hymnal. Nashville, TN: A.M.E. Zion Publishing House, 1996. #360

  • A Charge I Have to Keep. By Charles Wesley. Tune by Lowell Mason
    Scott, L. Hymns & Church Songs: Live from Alabama. Indianapolis, IN: Tyscot Records, 2006. Online location: “A Charge to Keep-New Hope Baptist Church Mass Choir (Birmingham, Alabama). Online location: accessed 17 March 2011

B. Well-Known Song(s)

  • Pastor and People. By Nolan Williams, Jr.
    InSpiration. Washington, DC: NEWorks Productions, 2007.

    Online location: accessed 17 March 2011

  • I Can Go to God in Prayer. Words and music by Calvin Bridges. Arr. By Carol Cymbala
    The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I Can Go to God in Prayer. Nashville, TN: Word Music, 2002.

C. Spiritual(s)

  • Guide My Feet.
    African American Heritage Hymnal. #131

  • Keep-a Preachin’ the Word. By Glenn E. Burleigh
    Lundy, Patrick. Standin’. Jacksonville, FL: Allen & Allen Music Group, 2003.

    Glenn Edward Burleigh music available at The Continuo Arts Foundation. Online location: accessed 17 March 2011

  • Fix Me, Jesus. Arr. By Nolan Williams, Jr.
    African American Heritage Hymnal. #436

D. Modern Song(s) (Written between 2000–2010)

  • I Believe. By James Fortune
    Fortune, James & Fiya. I Believe: Live. New York, NY: Worldwide Label, 2010.

  • I Give Myself Away. By William McDowell
    William McDowell: As We Worship Live. New York, NY: E-One Entertainment, 2009.


1. Forrest Elliott Harris, Sr., “Pastor’s Anniversary,” The African American Lectionary, June 28, 2009,



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