It started with a challenge. For several years, I had been promising the members of the worship ministry of our church that we would get them newer vestments. Vestments are the “uniforms” that people in certain ministries of the church wear during worship services. In some churches, the choir members wear robes and perhaps a stole. In our church they wear a black cassock and white cotta. In any event, the old vestments were both worn out and too hot for the Georgia summers.
One problem was the economy. When people are struggling, when jobs are scarce, the offerings in church are down. When offerings are down, it’s hard to justify spending money on non-essentials. However, if people give in a special offering, that is another matter.
Another problem was the knowledge that people will give to “felt needs.” When our congregation met in a funeral home chapel for six years, everyone “felt the need” to acquire land and build our own place. When it came to the vestments, the only people who felt the need were the folks who had to wear the worn out, hot, uncomfortable cassocks.
Hence, the challenge. At the beginning of Lent, I announced to the congregation that, if we could raise the $4,000 necessary prior to Easter, I would shave my head and beard — totally. My wife was horrified. The beard was her idea about nine years ago. I’ve told her more than once that I think she likes the beard just because it covers up my face and she doesn’t have to look at me. She denies that, but I dunno.
Several other women in the church objected to the challenge which let me know that there are other ladies who prefer I stay concealed. So, I modified the challenge. The original offer stood, but I added that if we could raise an additional $4,800 for a much needed sound board, the congregation could vote on whether to keep the hair or lose the hair.
Much to my delight, in just a few weeks the $4,000 was raised. I began to emotionally prepare myself to be shorn of all but eyebrows on Easter Sunday.
Yet, each Sunday the money for the sound board kept dribbling in. Still, I never gave it much of a chance. We are not a large church (275 in attendance on Easter) and we have several people still out of work. I lined up the hairdresser to do the deed following the morning services on Easter Sunday and secured the photographer to record the events of the day. And then the unexpected happened.
On the Thursday before Easter the last of the money for the sound board came in. There would be a vote. My secretary prepared the ballots that gave two simple choices: (1) keep the hair, and (2) lose the hair. Still, I assumed that it was a done deal.
Sunday morning, I put the long extension cords in the car so that the deed could be done in the parking lot. I also packed my electric shaver so that the job could be completed with smoothness. There was already a sheet at church to catch the fallen locks and all I needed was a chair in which to sit.
The ballots were distributed and received with as little disruption to the services as possible, although one gentleman reminded the congregation about what happened to Samson when he lost his hair. At the end of the service, the results were announced.
By a margin of greater than two to one, the congregation voted to “keep the hair.” Surprisingly, a cheer went up as though a great victory had been achieved.
The lesson in this? Apparently, a lot of people prefer that I keep as much of my face covered up as possible. I’m okay with that, too. Especially since it means that we get the vestments and the sound board.
Wonder if I can use the threat of revealing my face to raise even more money? Hmmm.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]