Retirement of Rev. Sidney C. Tucker

Banquet Speaker
Dr. William R. Harvey

Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist Church
Brewton, Alabama
Saturday, April 28, 2007 @ 4:00 P.M.

Thank you, to my baby sis Anne, for that wonderful introduction. I also thank the organizers, all others who assisted in making this afternoon a reality.  I firmly believe that the Dream belongs not just to the Dreamer alone, but to all of the hands that help to build the dream.

To the officers, members and friends of Rev. Sidney Cleophus Tucker and Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist Church; guests; and particularly the Tucker Family—Mrs. Laura Tucker, Rev. Tucker’s wife of 59 years; daughter Maureen; sons Walter and Sidney; and other family members, I am honored to be here with you today.   I am also happy to see so many of my friends, classmates, teachers, mentors, and family.  No matter where you go in life, it is always good to come home.

Therefore, it is such a pleasure for me to be back in the town of my birth to speak on the occasion of the retirement of Rev. Sidney Cleophus Tucker as pastor of Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist Church.  A man who has faithfully served this congregation for 40 years, Rev. Tucker he has left an indelible mark at Baptist Hill and is clearly worthy of this adulation.

Under his leadership, Baptist Hill has attained new heights.  There have been several major church renovations that include an elevator, new windows, doors, carpeting, and central heating.  Both the kitchen and basement have been remodeled.  Church expansions include the purchase of adjoining properties on each side and behind the main sanctuary; the addition of the Claudis P. Harvey Educational Wing; and parking lot paving and enlargement. Major purchases for the sanctuary include a new piano, pews, hymnals, and furniture.

Rev. Tucker’s inspirational, spirit-filled sermons have touched the hearts and souls of many.  He has benevolently fed the hungry, clothed the stranger, comforted the sick, and buried the dead— including members of my family and my own dear mother.   His religious guidance and moral leadership have encouraged those whom satan would have to do wicked in the world to instead study the bible, become wise in God’s word and live a Christian life.

The educational and outreach programs, started here during his tenure, have enhanced the lives of not only Baptist Hill’s members, but also the surrounding community.  Rev. Tucker has served as a Southwest Missionary Worker and as the secretary and moderator of the Evergreen District Association.  He serves as the associate chaplain at D. W. McMillan Memorial Hospital and volunteers at the nursing home.  Rev. Tucker helped establish the Food Share Program in Brewton; served on the community affairs group that was influential in securing adequate lighting, sewage and drainage in areas where needed; and worked with the chief of police to provide counseling for “at-risk” youth. He was named “Rural Pastor of the Year” in 1978 and received a proclamation from Tuskegee University.  Rev. Tucker is well-known for his thoughtfulness and kindness.  As has been said, “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.“

Rev. Tucker is a pastor’s pastor.  He is a man called by the Master to carry his message to the multitude—the young and impressionable as well as the mature and wise. Rev. Tucker is a man who takes delight in the success of others.  He is a man who yearns to always be a friend, never a foe.  Rev. Tucker is a man who is considerate of everyone and never sanctimonious with anyone.  He is a man who is a helper in times of trouble, never a hindrance.  And most importantly, Rev. Tucker is a man  who is always endeavoring to do God’s work.

Wherever Rev. Tucker goes, he is known, appreciated and respected.  When he comes to Hampton University’s Ministers’ Conference every year, he is treated with deference by the administrators, faculty, staff, students, visiting clergy and others.  He is known as the President’s pastor and whether in the faculty dining hall, the President’s Box at the Convocation Center, or just strolling about the campus, he is held in high esteem. Rev. Tucker is held in high esteem, not only because he is the President’s pastor, but because he is a man of God.

In that regard, I am going to continue my thoughts today from God’s word.  These thoughts turn to the topic of slaying evil even when your enemies are giants.  This is really the story of David and his battle with Goliath.  If you don't remember it, let me refresh your memory as taken from first Samuel, 17th Chapter.  Goliath was a mighty warrior who stood over nine feet tall.  He was feared mightily as he came in to battle with a bronze helmet and a bronze coat of armor weighing approximately 125-pounds.  He had bronze covering on his legs and a bronze javelin on his back.  Even the iron point on his spear was mighty as it weighted approximately 15 pounds.  His shield was so big and heavy until it required a shield barrier to carry it ahead of him.

Goliath was so fierce and confident until he goaded the opposing armies to send out their best man to fight him one-on-one.  He would shout that if the opposing warrior would fight and kill him, then his entire people would become their subjects. Conversely, he shouted that if he overcame the warrior and killed him, then the opposing army's people would serve them as their subjects.

At this particular battle, Goliath's army –  the Philistines – was fighting the people of Israel.  And they were terrified of him.

This is where David enters the picture.  He was the eighth son of Jesse of Bethlehem.  This is important to the story because the Lord had indicated that he would choose one of Jesse's sons to be king.  Therefore, he sent Samuel to anoint one of them.  After seven had passed before him, Samuel indicated that the Lord had not chosen any of them and asked the question, "Are these all the sons you have?"  Jesse replied that he had one more son who was the youngest, but that he was tending the sheep.  Samuel then sent for him, and observed that, "he was ruddy with a fine appearance and handsome features."  It was at this point that the Lord said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one."

The scriptures say that  from that day on, the spirit of the Lord was with David and gave him the power to succeed and achieve.  Even with this power and spirit of the Lord in him, David was still not one of the warriors.  The then king of Israel, Saul, utilized David's service as one of his armor barriers and one who played the harp for him.  David  actually traveled  back and forth from Saul's headquarters to tending his father's sheep.

While these things were going on, Goliath continued for forty days to come out and yell threats and challenges to the Israelites.  One day David heard Goliath's shouts of defiance and said that he would go out and fight him.  Of course, no one thought that David could succeed.  His brother, other men, and even King Saul himself said that David was just a shepherd boy and that he would not stand a chance against a nine foot tall, fierce warrior.  David told them that even though he had not fought in a battle, as a shepherd, he had fought a lion and a bear as they attempted to carry off sheep from the flock.  David further said, "the Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion, and the paw of the bear, would deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."  After hearing this, Saul said to David, "Go and the Lord be with you."

Saul was so impressed with David that he gave him his own tunic, a coat of armor and a bronze helmet for his head.  The heavy armor and sword were so cumbersome until David could hardly move around.

Therefore, he took them off.  In their stead, he took his staff and five smooth stones from a nearby stream.  With only his staff, the stones in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and his sling-shot in his hand, David approached Goliath. David said to him, that even though you come against me with swords, spear and javelin; I come against you in the name of the Lord.  He further stated that, "This day the Lord will hand you over to me and I will strike you down and cut off your head."

Obviously Goliath was greatly agitated and moved closer to attack David.   As he did so, David reached in his bag, put a stone in his sling-shot and ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  When he was in proper distance, he swung it and struck Goliath on the forehead.  As the stone sank into his head, Goliath fell face down on the ground.  David then took Goliath's sword, killed him and cut off his head.

David overcame a seemingly invincible giant in his day and we can do the same in our day.  What are some of these giants today?  First and foremost, there is the giant of drugs.  According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 3.1 million persons age 12 or older use marijuana daily.  Approximately one in five people between the ages of 16 and 59 said that they had used drugs at least one time.

In a 2002 report by the Justice Policy Institute, " 791,600 African-American men were behind bars with drug-related offenses."   This number does not take into account those that actually use drugs—just those that are behind bars.  Compare that number to the 603,032 enrolled in a college or university and the enormity of this giant is apparent.  By contrast, in 1980, African American men in colleges and universities outnumbered those in prison by a ration of more than three to one.

African-Americans comprise approximately 12% of the population in the United States, yet in 1990 they accounted for 23% of admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities.  (Alice B. Britt in African Americans, Substance Abuse and Spirituality.)   Now drug abuse is not just bad for the individual, but for the whole community as it fosters crime, poverty, illiteracy, limited job opportunities, and poor education.

Violence is another one of our giants today.  Many of us have become prisoners in our homes because of the increase in crime.  Death and wounding by handguns are devastating our own community.  Statistics and other evidence document the harsh effects of violence and the use of guns and violence. 

  • An increasing number of African-American males are killed by handguns.
  • Minority youth are victims of homicides at a rate six times higher than whites.
  • Homicide is the leading cause of death among Americans aged 15 to 25, and in many areas more teenagers die from gunshot wounds than from any other cause.
  • Drive-by shootings and resulting deaths are a daily reality.  Children as young as eight years of age carry guns to school.
  • A Harvard University School of Public Health survey indicates that 59% of youth in grades 6 to 12 said they "could get a gun if they wanted one."
  • Children in many urban areas now say, "if I grow up," rather than when I grow up, since violence is a routine part of their daily existence.
  • When death does not result from gunshot wounds, often paralysis, physical impairments, mental trauma, and other critical health care problems linger for a lifetime.

Another major giant that we need to confront is sexual promiscuity.  Too many children are having children.  Did you know that 68-70% of all babies born to African-Americans are born to single mothers?  That is considerably more than in slavery time.

Sexual promiscuity is a leading cause of AIDS, although there are other causes as well.   According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “blacks are still 8.4 times as likely as whites to contract the lethal virus."  The report also revealed that "Blacks account for 69% of new diagnoses among heterosexuals" and "Overall, new HIV diagnoses continue to disproportionately and severely impact African-Americans, both men and women."

The Center for Disease Control said that African-Americans accounted for 50% of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2003.  African-Americans are more than ten times more likely to die of AIDS than Whites.  AIDS is the leading cause of death in African-American women aged 25-34 and is the leading cause of death in African-American men in the same age group.  Sixty-nine percent of HIV positive infants are African-American.  It clearly has become an epidemic in our community.

We need to confront these giants head on. Make no mistake about it, the job will be hard, because increasingly, we live in a permissive society.  It is becoming easier and easier for people not to speak out against the wrongs in our society.  It appears easier and easier for parents to demonstrate to their children their immorality by cheating on income tax, on parent confidential statements, on their friends and neighbors or on each other through some illicit affairs.  It appears easier and easier for teachers to simply meet classes and not make their classrooms inquiring and intellectual experiences in life and learning.  It appears easier and easier for our politicians to put their spin on the truth.  Remember when truth was truth?  Remember when right was right and wrong was wrong?  Remember when leaders of all persuasions provided real leadership and service to better our communities?  We need to get back to a community that looks out for each other.

I remember growing up here in Brewton, if I did something that I was not suppose to do—even in a neighborhood other than my own, my mother and father would know it before I got home.  As a matter of fact, Miss Sally, Miss Lola, Miss Sang or Miss _______ you fill in the blank, might whip me even before I got home.  That meant that I got two whippings that day, because I surely was going to get one when I got home.

We need to  individually and collectively speak out against the evils in our society.  We need to lead, guide and nourish young people in a positive, firm and courageous way.  We need to be unapologetic in telling them the truth.  If the village elders do not speak out against the ills in our society and provide the necessary leadership, then the village idiot will.

Therefore, I say to you today that as we gather to celebrate, commemorate, and congratulate Rev. Tucker, one of the ways to honor him is to pledge to carry on his fight in confronting and overcoming, in word and deed, some of our Goliaths of today.  To do so, I urge you to arm yourselves in God's love, power and spirit.  If you do, I believe that just like David, God will anoint you with His power.

If you’re not sure by now, let me make it perfectly clear.  Rev. Tucker in my estimation, is a terrific man—a God fearing man.  He is a man of honor and an exceptional humanitarian.  Rev. Tucker is also a man whose unselfish life of service to his fellow man has positively affected the lives of so many others – his family, this congregation, his colleagues, and his community.

So many times,  we have failed to tell others how much they are appreciated.  All too often, our feelings about a person are expressed at their wake or funeral.  Well, I thank God today that I am blessed to stand here before Rev. Tucker and all assembled and say to him—Rev. Tucker you are an exemplary model of outstanding leadership, a man of superb character. Your knowledge of God’s word,  demonstrated values of decency, dignity, integrity, responsibility, unity, and service have made the world in which we live a better place.   I admire, support, and respect you.  And, although you are retiring, I am very proud to have had you as my pastor and blessed to have you as my friend.

Finally, let me say to all assembled here this afternoon, that Rev. Tucker has left a solid foundation on which Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist can continue to build.  He has served us well and is most deserving of this retirement.  Knowing Rev. Tucker as I do, I can assure you, however, that his retirement from daily pastoral duties is in no way a retirement from his service to the Lord, to Baptist Hill, or to his community.

Rev. Sidney Cleophus Tucker, we thank you for 40 years of outstanding service to the congregation of Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist Church; the citizens of Brewton, Alabama; and the Hampton University Ministers’ Conference.  May God continue to bless you and your family in all of your endeavors.