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Sixth Avenue moving ahead with new pastorcomment (0)

February 1, 2001

By Dianna L. Cagle

When Al Sutton Jr. visited Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham more than a year ago as a guest preacher, he didn’t know he would be moving into the pulpit at the church.
Sutton, who started work there last August, was officially installed at the church Nov. 12, 2000. Since his start, Sutton has set many goals for the already thriving church, which has about 4,000 members.
One of those goals is to triple attendance. Sutton said the way to do that would be to place more emphasis on the worship service.
Another goal is for Sixth Avenue to build a recreation facility. Sutton plans to do “whatever we can do to enhance” any of the ministries that already exist at the church. The church is already packed with programs and outreach ministries, Sutton said, including the citywide tutorial ministry that meets at the church on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the numerous choirs and age group meetings. The church also offers day care to members and nonmembers.
Sutton said he fell in love with Birmingham when he used to drive back and forth from his home in Charlotte, N.C., to Dallas, where he attended Bishop College. He graduated from Bishop in 1985 with a degree in religion and philosophy. He then attended Virginia Union in Richmond, Va.
After receiving his master’s degree at Virginia Union in 1989, Sutton served 10 years at Free Spirit Missionary Baptist Church in Buffalo, N.Y., where he met his wife, Terri.
In Buffalo, Sutton’s church was largely involved in social ministries such as feeding, clothing, helping find jobs for the homeless and helping to curb street violence.
In a recent sermon, Sutton spoke on “The Issue of Greatness.” Using Scripture from Luke 22:24–27, Sutton said people are “seat-conscious.”
Using the Passover feast as an example, Sutton said the disciples were jockeying for the best seat, nearest to Jesus. The closer the disciples sat to Jesus meant that they held more power, Sutton explained. It was a common practice with the Pharisees who spilled over into what Jesus’ disciples believed.
“People (always) want seats of power,” Sutton said. “They want a better seat.”
But in the secular world, being “seat-conscious” is a system of hierarchy, a system of exclusion that shouldn’t be practiced today, Sutton said.
Church members jockey for seats or pews all the time, Sutton said. They get into a pattern of sitting in the same seat every Sunday and get offended if someone sits in their seat. It is only the quality of service, he said, that determines the number of crowns you will hold in heaven.
Sutton and his wife have two children.

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