British pastor shares layered message with Buchanan Dam church

Wearing her bluebonnet-adorned hat, Sister Barbara Crockett enjoys a four-week Methodist minister exchange program at Highland Lakes First United Methodist Church in Buchanan Dam. Crockett’s home churches are in Stoke-on-Trent in England. Highland Lakes FUMC’s pastor, the Rev. Grady Roe, is tending Crockett’s flocks. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

BUCHANAN DAM — Six days after arriving at Highland Lakes United Methodist Church and for her first sermon, Sister Barbara Crockett did a strip tease.

“Yeah, I think I may have shocked a few people,” she said in her distinct English accent, followed by a laugh. “But I bet they remember the message.”

Crockett, a deacon in the British Methodist church, came to the Buchanan Dam congregation in June as a part of pastoral exchange program. While she’s at the Highland Lakes UMC church, its pastor, the Rev. Grady Roe, is tending her two churches in Stoke-on-Trent in England.

While it’s her first time to the Highland Lakes, Crockett is no stranger to the United States. She’s made journeys several times since 2004, including her first pastoral exchange in 2008 at a Philadelphia congregation. Even before arriving in Buchanan Dam, Crockett and her daughter landed in Charlotte, N.C., and shared a journey across the Southeast.

While the church structures and faces might change, some things don’t.

“The one thing that isn’t different from whatever church it is, is the love and welcoming,” Crockett said. “They just start off by loving you.”

And that’s what Crockett tries to share with everybody she meets — whether in church or in her daily life — Jesus’ love.

She does it with a humorous touch. Crockett laughs with ease and smiles continuously. Her sermons and messages reflect her love of humor and laughter. While many people might think Christians are dour and overly serious, Crockett doesn’t buy into that stereotype.

She certainly doesn’t exemplify it.

“See that picture over there,” Crockett said, pointing to a small painting by the desk. It shows Jesus, his head tipped back and fully engulfed in laughter. “That’s my picture of a loving God. That’s what I’m sharing, that joy and that laughter.”

Which is part of the reason she did a strip tease during her sermon June 23.

“I was talking about being clothed in Christ,” she said. Crockett stood before the congregation wearing the cowboy hat they had presented her, her preaching gown and her brightest stole. As she worked her way through the sermon, Crockett began taking off her outer garments. First, she ditched the white cowboy hat adorned with a bluebonnet. Then, she slipped off her stole.

Finally, Crockett shook off her preaching gown.

Congregates probably sighed in relief when they saw her T-shirt with the words “Christ Lives in Me” emblazoned across it.

“It’s not what we wear,” Crockett said about the reason for her disrobing sermon. “It’s about having Christ living in us.”

When Crockett heads home, she likely will leave with many new friends and leave a little bit of herself with the congregation. But she hopes to take a few things as well.

“I’ve come to learn as well as share,” Crockett said.

When she ministered to the Philadelphia congregation, Crockett saw people who didn’t have much in the material way, but gave everything they could both physically and spiritually. It’s something Crockett remembers and applies to her life.

“I took back a spirituality and humility I really, really cherish,” she said. “The people in Philadelphia had nothing, but they gave you absolutely everything. It has really effected my ministry.”

Once back in England, Crockett will begin winding down her ministry as she prepares for retirement in the next couple of years. When church leaders asked where she would like to go for her next assignment, Crockett told them she wanted to take a more mission-oriented assignment.

“I think that’s what God calls us to do: Pass on the message,” Crockett said.

You can believe, she’ll be doing it with a smile and some laughter. And, probably, with her clothes on.

daniel@thepicayune.com