Three days ago my little brother Brandon turned 50. It’s been fifty years since we brought him home from the hospital. I still remember the day.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Pop’s passing. Dad’s father had been sick and bedridden for a while. So, we stopped by his house on the way home with Brandon so that he could see Brandon. I didn’t go upstairs to his bedroom with them. I assume he probably blessed Brandon. Since he was a pastor, that’s what Pop did. Later that day, we got the call that Pop had made his journey Home.
Pop was a giant in my life. He was small in stature, I think he was around 5’7″. But, he had a giant spirit and a booming voice when he preached. Pop was unusual in that he was raised Methodist and was very studious, often taking notes in his journals in German- kind of weird for a Black man born and raised in Ohio. Pop had fallen in with some “holiness” people after college. I’d be willing to bet his parents considered him a heretic. He became the founding pastor of one of the largest Pentecostal (Apostolic) churches in Columbus. I’m sure it was the largest Black church at that time. Pop built The Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith, or Brentnell, as we called it. It was a massive modern building for 1965 when it was built. Sitting on almost 4 acres of land, it was a precursor to the mega-churches of today. Pop also started a Bible college.
I grew up in that church attending from the time I was 4 years old until our family left shortly after Pop’s passing in 1972. Dad and his brothers worked in the office. I remember having to stay after church for them to count the offering. Dad and his twin, Uncle Robert, recorded Pop’s sermon for the radio. So, they would be in the control booth up above the sanctuary, while Brent and I played with our cousins in one of the Sunday school classrooms across the hall. Pop was quite a guy. To this day, most of the pastors around Columbus know his name. He started a Bible college. He left some big shoes to fill. Some of the church members would call him Pop which always irked me. He was my Pop, not theirs.
Pop was 68 years old when I was born. He was old when my father was born. I wouldn’t say we were close. Pop was extremely busy and had a lot of older children and grandchildren, given that my father and his twin were the youngest. I don’t recall Pop ever coming to our house. But, Dad would take us by his house often. We always went in through the garage. I don’t know how old I was when I realized that we always went in through the back of the house and that it had a front door on the other side (different street). After his sermons, we’d go up to the pulpit and Pop would pull out a bag of peanut M&M’s and give us each a handful. He also kept a bag in his office at his house. We’d go in. He’d open the desk drawer and give us a treat.
Brentnell is where I was traumatized most in Sunday school. The teachers taught us about original sin, how we needed to be perfect to please God- can’t watch the wrong movies, no drinking (what 5 year old is out there drinking?), no playing cards (Rook was OK), no pants for women, etc. We could be saved when we were older by being baptized in Jesus’ name (not the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit), speaking in tongues, and receiving the Hold Ghost (not Holy Spirit). But, I wasn’t old enough to get baptized. So, what state did that leave me in? I loved Pop. I loved Jesus. But, I hated and feared God who made me this awful sinner and would only accept me if I came covered in the blood of Jesus. Yes, that was the imagery they preached and we sang about.
In spite of my early childhood trauma, I would go on to study my faith for decades only recovering when I was nearly 40 years old. I always wanted to be like Pop. But, I could never preach the “gospel” (good news) he preached.
Flash forward over 40 years to Shayna’s passing. The first medium reading I had was from a medium whose grandfather was also a pastor. The first person to come through was Pop. I was shocked. Pop was there to tell me he was proud of me and what I was doing (would do?). This was before I was involved in Helping Parents Heal, before I had started Grief 2 Growth. Did Pop know what I would do? Would he approve? Consulting with mediums? Telling people there is no permanent Hell? Telling people that God loves us from the time we are born, before we are born? Telling people Adam didn’t set us all up for Hell? I’d like to believe Pop is proud that I am continuing his legacy, albeit with a slightly different message. Pop was trying to save people from damnation by God. I try to let people know they’re already saved.
This one’s for you, Pop. I hope I do you proud. I’d like to believe I’m following in your footsteps.