Recap: Tonex Preaches In BrooklynPublished by Torrence Glenn on Friday, May 28, 2010 at 6:30 pm.
Sunday evening, I saw a tweet from Sunday Best 3 background vocalist Anaysha Figueroa inviting people to her church, New Life Tabernacle in Brooklyn, NY, to hear/see Tonex on Monday. I’ll admit, I had to re-read the message a few times to make sure I read it right. We all know the supposed “controversy” that has surrounded Tonex for the last year regarding his sexuality and his choice to discuss it openly. With that level of …. “disclosure,” it’s needless to say that Tonex suffered a considerable amount of backlash in the gospel and Christian community. (I even received quite a few attacks myself just for featuring new music from him on this blog after he had made his announcement.) I heardthat he still does a few gigs here and there but his acceptance within the church has come down considerably. So to hear that a more traditional and pentecostal church such as New Life, pastored by Bishop Eric Figueroa was inviting him to their church was a shock to me. Being the Tonex fan that I am, I decided that although it was short notice, I had to go! (Yeah, I don’t stop supporting people just because it’s not popular to. Not my style.) Once I arrived at the church on Monday night, I tweeted that I was there and MORE than a few people asked me to recap it, so here goes. (I originally intended just to go for myself, not necessarily to cover but I realized that more people than me were interested in seeing/hearing what Tonex had to say.)
The service was to begin at 8 p.m., and with NYC subways being what they are and me being who I am, I got there a little late (like always). Fortunately, Anaysha and her crew were still doing Praise & Worship and I didn’t miss much and was able to get a seat. (By the way, you MUST hear her do praise and worship at some point, she’s a beast!) But anyway, I was right on time. The service pretty much took the normal order of any other service. There was the prayer, the scripture, the welcome, offering, etc. etc.
*pause for the cause* There was this one moment where the MC decided to fuss at the audience and say “The Lord told me that some of y’all are here just to be nosy.” Uhhh, you think? You’ve got a controversial and famous public figure preaching at your church on a Monday night. Not sure if the Lord has to be the one to give you that revelation but “different stroke for different folks I guess.” (RIP Gary Coleman)
After the offering was taken and a guest choir sang a song, it was time for Tonex (or Minister Anthony Williams as he prefers to be called as a minister) to preach. He was dressed in a full liturgical preacher’s attire. He had on a navy blue robe with a light blue panel. VERY traditional. Before beginning to preach he sang a piece of Karen Clark-Sheard’s worship song, “God Is Here.” And when I say he sang it, he SANG IT! He made sure to remind the crowd that although Minister Anthony Williams was in the building to preach, the artist Tonex was still alive, well and capable!
I won’t go point for point on his sermon, because it would be too much too type and I could only take so many notes before my blackberry powered off, but I’ll try and give the overall gist of the thing. He preached from the familiar bible story of Gideon in Judges, chapter 7. His theme was “Less Is More.” As the story goes, Gideon had an army he was preparing to take into a battle and God told him that his army was too large and that he needed to downsize. So God tells Gideon to tell anybody who wants to leave that they can. The army got considerably smaller at this point. Anthony cleverly related this part of the story to not just his own life but a few general life situations. He explained how sometimes it’s good to lose a few people, especially if they’re willing to leave the minute they’ve been given a chance. They’re not for you. (Remember, I’m paraphrasing…) Then God tells Gideon that the army is still too large and that he needs to downsize further. So Gideon follows God’s next set of instructions and bring the remaining soldiers down to the stream for them to get water. Gideon is supposed to separate the men into 2 groups; those who lapped the water like dogs and those who who knelt down and drank from their hands. God chose the soldiers who drank from their hands. This was a part of the sermon where Anthony really went in for me. He discussed how important it was to “maintain spiritual dignity” even when you come against challenges or opposition. That was the *whoosh* moment for me. He had a dynamic way of once again, taking the principles of Gideon’s story and applying to real life situations.
What I was probably most intrigued and impressed by was that he didn’t stoke the “controversy” fire. He didn’t talk about “haters” at any real length. Didn’t address his particular issues as it pertained to the “scandal” and came in and out of progressive and traditional “speak.” Simply put, he was super duper churchy while being practical and modern all at the same time. He “hooped” and he spoke plainly. No matter what kind of person you were, he had a way of preaching in the way that would reach you. It was on point!
I was a little disappointed in one part of the service though. This may be my personal observation/opinion but it seemed the musicians on duty weren’t very willing to help or follow as the sermon came to it’s climax. I understand that some preachers don’t like accompaniment when they preach and many musicians will wait until the preacher instructs them to play for him/her instead of just flowing with it. Better safe then sorry I guess is their thought process. But this was a totally different thing. There were moments where Anthony had to tell them the chords to play and they hesitantly played the chord and then just stopped. (Imagine if someone told you to pick up a piece of paper and you did and just put it down instead of doing something with it.) It was as if they needed to be told every little thing to do. It was odd because they were seasoned musicians who “know church.” But I may be wrong, this is just my opinion, but it felt like they had to be forced to participate in the closing praise experience that followed Anthony’s message. So to all my musicians, if you feel some kind of way about who’s preaching, get off the instruments!
However, the musicians eventually fell in line and the church WENT UP! (I get so churchy talking about church, huh? Ha!) Although it was ridiculously late, it turned out great and I’m glad I went. I think the service was good for everyone there. The congregation all got something out of it, but I think Tonex/Anthony did too.
I’m looking forward to hearing him preach again, because I found out that evening that he’ll be back in Brooklyn, mid June.
That’s it for now, I’m out!