Groundbreaking new pastor commits to do God’s work

whenry@tri-statedefender.com | 8/12/2009, 7 p.m.


           Andre Dillard (clockwise), chairman of the Trustee Board, Charlie Cothran, chairman of the Deacon Board, and  Rev. Felicia LaVant make sure that Dandridge’s robe is fits comfortably and correctly. (Photos by Wiley Henry) With a bouquet of flowers, Dandridge faces the congregation and weeps.

          Dandridge has succeeded the late Rev. Reuben Henry Green as pastor of Central Baptist Church, 320 West Joubert Ave. Green, known as an Old Testament scholar, died April 24, 2008.    

          On Sunday afternoon (Aug. 9), Dandridge was installed as Central’s 14th pastor, the first installation of a female pastor since the church was founded 129 years ago.

          “If we can accept Phebe (a deaconess of the church of Cenchrea whom Paul touted as a ‘sister’ and ‘servant’) in Lynn Dandridge, it’s no telling what Central Baptist Church can do,” said Dr. David Boyle, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Whiteville, Tenn.

          In his charge to the church, Boyle said the congregation should receive Dandridge and give her the high respect given to her predecessor and the pastor before him.

          In his charge to the pastor, Rev. Anthony Henderson, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church, pointed out to Dandridge that “a pastor’s work is one you’re called to.”

          Looking down at Dandridge from the elevated pulpit, Henderson told her that God had been with Green and the pastor before him and that “God will be with you.”

          Rev. George Wilburn, pastor of Rock of Ages Baptist Church, added, “I charge you to preach. So don’t let it be said that you didn’t preach.”

          Dandridge graduated from Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS) with a Masters of Divinity in 2004. Rev. Dr. Gozette R. Garrett, MTS program director, said, “You got to have brains, beauty and boldness if you’re going to pastor a church.”

          Garrett’s observations were part of the installation message that Garrett drew from the Biblical story about the woman Jesus met at the well while traveling through Samaria.

          Explaining that Jesus was more than a man, Garrett said the woman went back to town to tell the townspeople what she had discerned – that Jesus was the coming Messiah in whom they believed.

          It takes boldness to lead people, said Garrett, adding that Dandridge, just like the woman at the well, has the brains, beauty and boldness to lead Central Baptist Church.

          “You need all three,” she noted.

          A lifelong member of Central Baptist Church, Dandridge said, “Everything I did at the church has prepared me for this time.”

          While her installation as pastor is the fulfillment of a vision that Dandridge said was given to her by God, she said, “I’m not stupid, but I know everybody at Central Baptist is not happy with this.”