Saturday, June 27, 2009

Eagles song makes great sermon material

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds boy, she'll beat you if she's able. The queen of hearts is always your best bet. Now it seems to me, some fine things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the ones you can't get.
That's 'Desperado.'
'If there was anything that ever needed interpreting, it's that song,' said the Rev. Aldon Samaha, the new pastor at the Unity Church of Temple. 'It's filled with a symbology that carries a deeper meaning, one that many find important and true to their lives.'
The pastor plans to decipher the riddles of the Eagles' 'Desperado' at a western-themed worship service on Sunday at the Unity Church of Temple. The stanza about the queen of hearts, Samaha says, is from the viewpoint of 'an old outlaw guy who regrets he chose money over love.'
'So it's about finding out what's really important in life,' Samaha said.
Sunday's program will serve a welcoming for Samaha. He relocated here from Lakeland, Fla. Having served churches in Michigan, Washington and Florida, he's got more than 22 years of experience as a Unity minister.
'But I was born in Texas, and I have a lot of family here,' Samaha said. 'So this will be kind of like a welcome back party.'
The 'Desperado' festivities will include a costume contest.
'The one with the best cowboy or western outfit will win a big bag of western-themed prizes,' Samaha said. 'And there'll be a big Texas-shaped cake with a pair of eyes on it.'
The 'Desperado' sermon won't be all talk and costuming, though. Local entertainer Eric Lampman will be performing the song of the hour.
'He'll sing it once as an opening,' Samaha said. 'And he'll sing it again after my talk. I've found the people often hear it quite differently the second time around.'
The new pastor is eager for Sunday to come.
'I hope it brings a lot of people to the church,' Samaha said. 'That's one of the things I want to do here. I want to help the church grow.'
Right now the average Sunday attendance at the Unity Church is 15 people.
'My church at Battle Creek, Mich., was like that,' Samaha said. 'Real small but full of spirit. With some work, it grew, so I know it can happen here.'
To accomplish his goal, the pastor plans to host a variety of unique worship services like Sunday's song interpretation.
'They'll be fun and thought-provoking,' Samaha said.
He has also posted flyers throughout town on store windows and light poles. They're seeking the attention of people who've never found a church home that's right for me.
'I'd imagine there's at least a thousand people around here who believe the teachings of people like Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer,' Samaha said. 'But they don't go to church or they go to churches that don't want anything to do with people like that.'
Chopra and Dyer are philosophers, authors and public speakers who teach that reality is what we make of it. Chopra says, 'The physical world, including our bodies, is a response of the observer. We create our bodies as we create the experience of the world.' And Dyer's known for the phrase, 'You'll see it when you believe it.'
'Thoughts like that are part of the Unity Church,' Samaha said. 'It's not dismissed as New Age junk. Those themes are taught here. They've always been taught here.'
Flyers aren't the only way Samaha hopes to spur church growth. He thinks his Weeding & Seeding program will be a good recruiting tool as well.
'Weeding & Seeding is counseling,' Samaha said. 'I've found that it's more effective when done over email.'
In Weeding & Seeding, he and a person in need of counseling will exchange a series of essay-like emails until a suitable, beneficial conclusion is reached.
'It's surprisingly better than in person,' the pastor said. 'When you write what you're feeling and thinking, you're forced to identify it. That doesn't necessarily happen when you're talking. You end up describing it instead of giving it a name.'
To describe the process, he talked about a doctor he counseled.
'He was a doctor making a good salary, but his boss was unscrupulous,' Samaha said. 'There were things the doctor didn't want to sit by and watch, so he quit. The problems came when he couldn't find a job with a comparable salary.'
First the doctor regretted his decision, and then he was angry.
'He couldn't find another job,' Samaha said. 'But email after email, we finally figured out he didn't feel like he was worth a good-paying job. And that was the root of the problem. We had to change his way of thinking.'
The pastor used these words to help the doctor: 'Intrinsically you are good because God made you. You know you're great because God doesn't make junk. So it's an insult to God to think you aren't worth what you want.'
It took a while for the doctor to understand the lesson.
'But once he did, he got a phone call the very next day with a great job offer,' Samaha said.
Helping people is important to Samaha, and it's something he wants to do for Temple.
The congregation at the Unity of Church of Temple is happy Samaha has taken the helm. His first service took place May 10
'He's exactly the minister I've been waiting for to lead me in my spiritual life,' said Eva Lott, vice president of the church's board of directors. 'I've enjoyed his programs so far, and I'm excited to watch him continue.'
Board President Edgar Bounds agreed.
'It's been two years since we've had a permanent pastor,' Bounds said. 'Already things are livening up, and more people are starting to show up.'

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