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Feeding the multitude
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The Pleasant Hill CME church presented the gospel stage play "I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray" at the Rockdale County Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 7. The first hint of what would indeed be a hugely successful event was the traffic build-up, starting almost an hour before the curtain time. Parking lots were filled and security officials were redirecting overflowing traffic to adjacent parking facilities. A crowd of more than 400 filled the auditorium to capacity. Sitting in silent anticipation of the performance, I wondered, where is this megachurch and who is its pastor?

The setting for this play was a church official board meeting where serious issues are brought up for resolution. These included complaints from Mrs. High and Mighty about an alcoholic church member; from Sister Righteous about the illegal nighttime activity of Sister Streets (a struggling single mother), who "just doesn't belong in this church"; from Mrs. Sanctimonious about young people's demeanor, hairstyles and attire, lack of manners and respect. At this point, all the youth get up and walk out of the church meeting. Ms. Prima Donna, a highly educated professional woman, speaks about loud, sacrilegious emotionalism in church music and appeals for more "methodology, theology and ideology" using the hymn books. You get the idea.

The official board discussed each issue and the minister, in a brief sermon, summarized the concerns in a successful plea for church unity, tolerance and forgiveness. Appropriate gospel music and liturgical dances punctuated the parishioners' concerns, and the evening's performance vern Woods Baker, Director LaFaye Cooksey, Assistant Director Violet Bailey and Music Director Dale Butler all deserve special kudos for their momentous production.

This past Sunday, I visited Pleasant Hill CME church - not a megachurch but a tiny, country church in Conyers - and I counted 40 members. Seeing such a small congregation manage to fill the county auditorium reminded me of Jesus and his disciples feeding a multitude with five loaves and two fish. But my amazement ended when I met the Rev. Dr. Cheryl Collins, its new, young and dynamic pastor.

I asked how such a small church filled the county auditorium with more than 10 times its membership. Her response revealed a deep self-effacing humility, strong spirituality and an inspired leadership with a clear vision. Here is a pastor, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, with the ministerial skills, administrative acumen and leadership capacity to begin a premeditated, purposeful movement that can touch the hearts and souls of men and women in Conyers and Rockdale County and beyond.

There will be a repeat performance of this play, yet to be scheduled.

Dr. Colin Forde is a retired middle and high school counselor and choral director. A Conyers resident, he is currently a minister of music with the United Methodist Church.