Last Time: The final Call Meeting of 2011 began as the church congregation came together to vote on whether or not the church would continue under the leadership of Pastor Cyrus Payton.
December 3, 2011
As sides started rising to cast their vote by where they were sitting, I stood up with my back facing the pulpit. Members that walked down the aisle had to look at me staring back at them. Several, such as Brother Herbert Jacobs and Sister Ester Harris refused to make eye contact. When my father went to vote, he told Sis. Cooke that what was happening here was wrong.
Sis. Cooke hastily responded with a, “Un-un.”
Without the knowledge of what I had done by picking my seat in the middle aisle near the front pew, I found myself as the final voter. I slowly left my position, grabbing a voting slip. Looking at the piece of paper with the words “Stay” and “Leave” waiting to be circled, I approached the ballot box before tearing the paper in half. I placed the “Stay” half of his torn slip above the ballot box’s only opening, and “Leave” below the slot.
As Dcn. Calhoun and Sis. Cooke asked if I wasn’t voting, I turned to everyone I watched secretly vote before saying, “I’m man enough to say how I’m voting! I vote he stays! And if any of you has the guts enough to stand up to say what vote they did, then do so!”
Immediately, Sister Coreen Richards – Deacon Bill Richards’ wife – stood and admitted that she voted for Pastor Payton to go. Suddenly, everyone started rising from their seats to say how he or she voted. Deacons Holly and Calhoun yelled for order, with Dcn. Calhoun asking the church to pray with him.
When Dcn. Calhoun’s prayer for God to work through the vote concluded, Dcn. Holly said he needed a Trustee Board member and a Deacon Board member to come to the back to count the votes alongside Sis. Cooke. The pro-Pastor Payton members insisted someone who actually supported Pastor Payton should tally the votes as well, choosing Associate Minister Zachary Toliver to be that person. As the counters entered the Dining Room, Dcn. Holly told everyone if they wanted to leave they could do so.
My father spoke for the members, “No, we’re good right here.”
Nearly ten minutes passed when the vote counters returned from the Dining Room. Bro. Toliver’s eyes were noticeably red as he approached me. Sis. Cooke handed Dcn. Holly the results on a piece of paper.
Dcn. Holly read the final numbers, “The vote tallied … forty-eight to leave, thirty-two to stay, effective today.”
The stunned reactions verbalized themselves around the room.
Sis. Walker was horribly upset over the situation, telling everyone, “(The church) has gone straight to f***ing Hell.”
Sis. Cooke immediately screamed, “Now you understand how faith works! That’s nobody but Satan!”
Sister Rebecca Stevenson replied to Sis. Cooke, “You are Satan!” before leaving.
The celebration began for the anti-Cyrus Payton voters as Sis. Cooke almost had a breakdown in the middle of the church, yelping, “God got his church back!”
So many smiles and hugs were shared at the front of the church as several members tried to console the now-former pastor. I stood before everyone, filming the celebration ceremony with my digital camera.
Comments such as, “The devil is gone,” were the norm during this filming session.
Only ten or so minutes later, Brother Melvin Adams took it upon himself to take down the picture of the church’s former pastor and his wife that adorned the foyer’s wall facing the church’s front doors.
The upheaval of Pastor Cyrus Payton created a complete schism in the church that saw no more than half of its most loyal members leave. Thanks to the encouragement of many of those same wayward members, Pastor Payton took it upon himself to lead church services at various venues throughout December and January of the following year. By February, the congregation came together in purchasing a space not far from the church they left, creating their own church with Cyrus Payton as pastor (a church I too am now a member of).
The original church continued on while using a circulating group of ministers and evangelists to fill the roll of Pastor Payton on a weekly basis. During this time, Bro. Herbert Jacobs was named Associate Minister, though no official minister has been named as of this writing.
Though there have been no collaborations between the churches since the formation of the new church, one can hope that cooler heads will eventually prevail; learning from their mistakes, and God’s children can come together in fellowship.