Update 12-1-08, 2:35 p.m.: Audio added: Sermon by Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Hundreds packed Faith United Protestant Church in Park Forest Sunday as the Rev. Michael Sykes was installed pastor. Rev. Brenda Burney gave the invocation, John Lulewicz and Pam McConald spoke on behalf of the Search Committee that vetted Sykes, Rev. Dudley Elvery offered greetings from the Council of United Protestant Churches, and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. delivered the sermon.
In his sermon, Wright took the opportunity to reflect on the unwieldy expectations Sykes would have placed on his shoulders as pastor.
(Editor;’s Note: The audio begins very softly as Rev. Wright prays.)
“You have said yes to the call of God, and you have said yes to the call of this congregation,” Wright told Sykes. “You have embraced every passion of ministry that is simultaneously full of possibilities and fraught with perils. You now have one of the most difficult positions in the human community.”
“People’s expectations of you will run the full gamut, from Messiah to messenger.”
“Some people expect you to build a model ministry of a multi-cultural, multi-racial church in this suburban community that still wrestles with ghosts from a racist past that caused the white and black flight from the ghettoized city in the first place.”
“Some people will expect you to be an ecclesiastical Barack Obama,” Wright said. Many in the congregation laughed and clapped at this. “They expect you to do in this church what President-elect Obama has promised to do for this nation.”
“Some people expect you to walk the thin line between racial love and hate in a so-called post-racial America. And, truth be told, Pastor Sykes, some people expect you to walk on water.”
The congregation laughed warmly again.
Wright spoke of other challenges Sykes would face, “You feed the flock when you’re happy, and you feed the flock when you’re hurting. Feed the flock when your heart is overjoyed, and feed the flock when your heart is breaking, or broken.”
Most of all, Wright stressed the need for the pastor to preach truth, “That kind of preaching don’t make you popular, pastor. Ask FOX News.” The congregation applauded again.
“It may not make you popular, but it will make the sheep strong,” Wright said.
Pastors from several churches and three choirs participated in the ceremony, which lasted close to two hours. During the installation ceremony, Sykes officially accepted the position of pastor, “I am willing, and I promise to serve this church faithfully, preaching and teaching the Word of God, administering the Sacraments, and fulfilling the pastoral office, according to the faith and the order of the United Church of Christ.”
During his remarks before the final benediction, Rev. Sykes thanked members of Faith United, his family, his former church, and many others.
Sykes had warm words for Rev. Jeremiah Wright, offering what appeared to be a polite but firm jab at President-Elect Obama, “I want to thank you for all of your love, your support, your encouragement, your advice, and your prayers.”
Sykes continued, relating that an Asian member of his congregation had told him that in his native Chinese culture, a nephew never turns his back on his uncle.
“Pastor Wright, no matter what others may have said, I will not turn my back on you.” The congregation applauded, and many cheered. “I will not be silent to mollify arrogance or to pacify ignorance.”
Rev. Sykes concluded by thanking his family, “I promise to be a better husband, and a better father, and a better family man who will not put his church above his home. Just don’t give up on me, and don’t give up on God. Please, be patient with me. God is not through with me yet.”