Sunday, June 27, was a special day for a small rural congregation in south central Virginia. Colby was being dedicated, and a potential intentional interim was preaching a “trial” sermon. The congregation needed an intentional interim desperately, and this sermon was his “test.”

In all fairness, I was glad not to be in his shoes. Any intentional interim worth his/her salt has skills in aspects of the intentional interim paradigm other than preaching. True, some are gifted proclaimers, but most have skills elsewhere. Yet for this man preaching was his “test.”

About mid-sermon my mind left “the moment.” Years flew by, and I remembered my first sermon in the same pulpit in which this man stood. The pastor had chosen the text and the title, and I was nervous. Looking around the room I spotted Tommy, Skipper, and Ed.

Tommy was leaning over the edge of the pew into the center aisle. Skipper was sitting on the “deacon” pew in the back of the church, and Ed was in the balcony manning the sound system. Each man was grinning ear to ear—the kind of grin a daddy has when his child does something spectacular.

Drawing strength from their grins, I took a breath and launched into my sermon. Throughout my time these men kept their grins. When I stumbled they put on their “Come on . . . we know you can do it” expression, willing me to continue. Truth be told they prayed me through and loved me through my first “test.”

The feeling of love and the sight of one of these men returned me to the present and for a moment the holiness of it all brought tears to my eyes.

Sunday, June 27, I left the small rural congregation in south central Virginia with no major epiphanies, no exegetical questions, and no unlocked theological mysteries. What I did leave with was a deep gratitude for three men who unapologetically prayed—and loved—this preacher through her first “test.” I also left with a powerful conviction: Everyone needs a Tommy, a Skipper, and an Ed.

Katrina Brooks is co-pastor of North Broad Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia.