Come Sunday: A Conversation with the Reverend Carlton Pearson

No matter what else goes on during a week in the life of a preacher, a pastor, Sunday always comes on time. For many, likely most, Sunday anxiety does not come with wondering who will fuel the jet, maintain the vacation house, or gas up the boat at the marina. Often any inner conflict is repressed. On occasion, it breaks out.

Faithful Are the Wounds of a Friend

Tell that to the Reverend Carlton Pearson. When caught between the twin emotions of grief and guilt, sometimes what one needs in a friend is forbearance.

Recently my friend Ryan provided me the opportunity to pre-screen the now released Netflix movie, Come Sunday. Part of that opportunity included the occasion to have a conversation with the subject of that movie, the Reverend Carlton Pearson. On a Friday a few weeks ago Reverend Pearson called and we shared a conversation over themes in the movie that portrayed an important period in his life.

The delay in posting was a result of a production error. I failed to turn on my mic. Never have I had to work so hard to edit a conversation. It might be analogous to attempting to tell a complicated story in such a short time as was undertaken in Come Sunday.

If there is any doubt that Ira Glass knows how to tell a story, this movie illustrates the skill transcends This American Life. Rooted in a 2005 episode of This American Life, Glass and John Marston combine to explore the myriad ways a shift in theology impacts a pastor, his family, friends and congregation.

Friend of the Famous, If Not Famous Himself

Not a few in Tulsa, Oklahoma know what is meant by, Higher D. My friend Mitch posted on Facebook that his friends should watch that movie by noting he had attended Higher D a time or two back in the day. As we talked about the impact of time and friendship, Reverend Pearson told stories of conversations with Oral Roberts and Billy Graham.  Reverend Pearson pointed to the reflections of ministers who were well past their prime and had become more reflective.

It is clear in the film that the once famous Reverend Pearson struggled mightily with the shrinking and loss of his congregation. There is a poignant moment where the contents of Higher D is being auctioned off. The sight and experience are too much for the once famous, prodigy of Oral Roberts.

Serious, If Not Literal

My friend Barry Taylor, who has spent not a little time with theology and culture, once taught a class how to watch a movie. Watching Come Sunday he would surely point to the opening scene of a well-worn Bible. My last question for Reverend Pearson centered on how serious he took the Bible. My aim was to draw out that even if you disagree with Reverend Pearson’s theological move and his new understanding of grace, one cannot so easily dismiss him for not caring about the Scriptures.

Rather than write about his response, I will leave that hanging hoping you will go listen.

In the end, Come Sunday is worth your time. If you are interested in how well a story is told, watch Come Sunday. If you have ever come to different conclusions about something as passion-stirring as the Scriptures and God’s love, watch Come Sunday. If you wonder what it is like to experience the rise and fall of fame in, at least, Pentecostal Christian circles, watch Come Sunday. If you are interested in the very human experience of life between grief and guilt, watch Come Sunday.

Thanks again to Ryan Parker for the privilege.

Thanks to Revernd Pearson for his time.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.