The Saga Of Hattie Lang

It was our second year in Seminary and of course I wanted a place to preach. A friend of mine was going to a little church out in East New Orleans just off of highway 90 and he and his wife invited us to attend.  It was small and had a half-dozen Seminary families and we liked it. The church was located about 8 blocks North of 90 in a rapidly changing community. They had just moved into a new building but were head over heals in debt. The pastor who had led them in the building program was gone and one of the Seminary Students was now serving as pastor. He ask me to preach one Sunday which I was obliged to do. I got some opportunities else where and did not get back there until my friend came by our apartment and said, “The pastor is resigning and they have already told him that they want you.” I felt kind of bad about that situation because he was a good friend and my boss at work [another seminary student] also attended that church and had since he was in New Orleans and they didn’t show any interest in him. Long story short, I accepted the church. The former pastor told me that he needed to brief me and so I met with him. He said, “You will do fine as long as you met with Mrs. Hattie on Monday’s and have coffee. Just listen to her: you don’t have to do what she suggest but you do have to listen. She thinks she runs the church.” I thanked him for his advice but I knew from day one that I was not having coffee with Mrs. Lane on Mondays. Number one, I didn’t drink coffee at the time and number two, I had no intention of pastoring a church with a woman in charge. Hey, I never had coffee with the woman, not one single time: end of story right? Wrong!

They had lost so many member is the past couple of years due to community transition that they were down to about 25-30 people including the Seminary Students. One of the Seminary families was called to a church as soon as I got there and his wife played the piano. No problem, June is an excellent pianist. I had them move out of the new Sanctuary which made the crowd look tiny and we moved by into the old which had the baptistry. It was a tiny sanctuary but nice. We could seat 100-125. We got momentum almost as soon as we moved back into the old part of the building. I organized a visitation and we hit the streets. We baptized 16 that Summer and had one of the best services that I have ever had the privilege of being a witness to: we had multiple decisions, 5-6 on profession of faith and a host of others. We were running in the 50’s, having just enough offering to pay on the church debt. Things were looking up. A Sunday or so after this service, I am in the sanctuary preparing for the service and one of my ushers came in and said, “Bro. Jack, Mrs. Lane is out front telling visitors not to come here that this church is on the verge of bankruptcy and they need to look elsewhere. You know what I did, I went out side and had a talk with Mrs. Lang. I explained to her that she was hurting not helping. It has been a long time but I may have said something like, “You would be better off and so would we if you just stayed at home.” Whatever I said, she got mad and went home. So, I am thinking, “That takes care of that, thank you very much.” Right? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

You see, Mrs. Hattie Lane had a telephone and she called every member of the church. The church had only one deacon and he was afraid of her. She called the Treasurer and talked her into resigning. This was a huge blow because none of our new members could handle that position. I called our one timid deacon and had him meet me at the church. He was a New Orleans policeman of all things. Normally, they are mean as a Copperhead but not Mike, he was a teddy bear. He did not want to make the visit and told me up front that he didn’t agree but I said, “You are going as a witness” and off to Hattie’s we go. She and her husband Clarence are watching TV and I ask if we can talk. I tried to be nice but did tell her in so many words that she could not do what she was doing and that she was hurting the church. Well, I don’t think she appreciated the visit but we got out alive.

I don’t think she came back until our next business meeting. In the middle of that meeting, she asked if she could say a word and of course I allowed. Hey, it was a lose, lose. This woman went in to a tirade. She called me things that I had to go home and look up in the dictionary. She said I was belligerent and I had no idea what that word meant. It means “Aggressive, warlike.” When we got to the apartment, I went straight for the dictionary…then I hollowed for June…”Honey, do you think I am warlike?” Back then June always agreed with me: it is not that way any more. Back to the meeting… Hey, I was absolutely blown  away. She ranted and raved until one of the Seminary students came to my defense. He said, “Mrs. Lang, I thing you have said enough.” Well she did sit down but the damage was done. My new members were addicts, drunks or former drunks. None of them had been discipled and none were capable of being the church treasurer. June and I went home and gave it prayerful thought. I really didn’t want to do it but I resigned so they could get their treasurer back. I have to admit that it was 6 exciting months and I have a ton of stories from this one experience. Little did I know it, but this was not the last time Hattie Lang got the best of me. There is a part two but I don’t know what I am going to call it yet. What about HATTIESTRIKES AGAIN!

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