ALBANY, NY - At Holy Redeemer United Methodist Church, the members can count on one certainty. Whether they want it or not, they get "fire and brimstone" preaching once a month.
Ray Gordon, a long-time member of Holy Redeemer, phoned TBNN to tell us about this somewhat unique situation. According to Mr. Gordon, "In the years past, we always had men preachers. They would last about 5 years here, as is normal in United Methodist churches. Anyway, most would preach from the bible; some would even try to preach through books. Every week we would get a little bit of that 'fire and brimstone' stuff for good measure. But it wasn't ever the whole sermon."
Things are different now at Holy Redeemer.
Donald Harris, who has attended the church since 1979, said that everything changed when Rev. Ann Hancock came to Holy Redeemer in last September. According to Mr. Harris, "Rev. Ann preaches from the bible - there is no doubt about that. We noticed early on that she would seem more animated and even angry during some of her sermons. It took us a couple of months to see a pattern to her messages. Just to be sure, we kept track starting in December. It came out like we thought. Once a month, without a doubt, Rev. Ann preaches a 'fire and brimstone' sermon."
Mr. Harris showed us what the men discovered. Below are the dates, scriptures, and topics:
December 3: Genesis 7 (The Flood)
January 7: Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah)
February 4: Exodus 12 (Death of the Firstborn)
March 4: Numbers 16 (Rebellion of Korah)
April 1 : Joshua 7 (Defeat at Ai)
May 6: II Kings 25 (Destruction of Jerusalem)
June 3: Luke 16 (Rich man and Lazarus)
July 1: Revelation 20 (Lake of Fire)
Both Mr. Harris and Mr. Gordon told TBNN that they like Rev. Hancock. They just cannot figure out the reasons behind the sermons being like they are. Mr. Gordon further explained the situation like this, "After we got past June 3rd, everything was great for a few weeks. Rev. Ann was kind to everyone as she preached from the Sermon on the Mount for three Sundays. We were all really enjoying it. She met us at the back of the church building after the services and was hugging everyone. However, just like clock-work, here came July 1st. I was hoping that she would continue with the Sermon on the Mount series, but she jumped into Revelation 20. She seemed irritable and angry all morning. Boy, she really let us have it in the service. By the end, I was afraid that I had lost my salvation, so I went up front and gave my life back to the Lord. It was scary. After the service, she didn't want anyone to touch her, and quickly disappeared into her office."
We at TBNN tried to contact Rev. Hancock about the situation. Unfortunately, her secretary told us that Rev. Ann was not feeling well. She asked us to call back toward the end of the week. Rev. Hancock will reportedly be happy to speak to us at that time.
While the men at Holy Redeemer have been very willing to talk with us about the odd sermon schedule, the women of the church have been quiet on the issue. Most have declined to discuss it with TBNN. One nice woman only said this, "We think we know what the problem is, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. We just need to be understanding of Rev. Ann. She might be dealing with some issues."
We told Mr. Gordon and Mr. Harris about this. They responded, "Look, we would understand it if Rev. Ann was dealing with some issue on a weekly basis. But what would she have to deal with only once a month? This seems silly to us."
So, what's coming at Holy Redeemer? For the remainder of July, the men of the church expect a return to the Sermon on the Mount. Many of the men we talked to are trying to schedule vacations for Sunday August 5th. The word is that Rev. Hancock will preach that Sunday from Revelation about the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments all at once.
Mr. Gordon summed it up this way, "We really do like Rev. Ann, but I'm not sure how much more of this we can take. She's about 40 years old. What's going to happen when she hits 45? I guess she'll be moved to a bigger church by then."