Congregation Succeeds at Keeping Secret from Pastor

FREMONT, CA (November 29, 2010) – Stan Long, the founding pastor of South Bay Community Church, learned just how good his congregation is at keeping secrets from him.

Long thought he was well aware of plans for celebrating the church’s 25th anniversary. He had no idea, however, that the Evangelical Covenant Church congregation also was going to honor him and his wife, Ruby, as he steps back from his full-time pastoral role.

Seven hundred people – many of them former members who had moved out of state – attended the recent gala at the Performing Arts Center at Chabot College in Hayward. The accompanying photos show Long in front of the church entrance sign, and Stan and Ruby during the festivities. See additional photos by clicking here.

The evening began with a formal dinner. The program that followed included comedy, drama, and a variety of musical performances that ranged from a gospel violinist to a rap artist. Efrem Smith, superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference, spoke on what it means to be a “saltshaker church.”

Then the congregation let the Longs in on the secrets they had held for nine months.

The couple was asked to come on stage. After they walked up, two chairs were brought out – this was going to take awhile.

The Longs were surprised when a video was shown that highlighted their 25 years together as a couple as well as their local, national and international ministry. “I did about all I could do to keep from breaking down, getting ugly, and crying,” Stan says.

James Iglehart, a cast member of the Tony Award-winning play, Memphis, and a former drummer for the church’s worship team, sent a message that was played. The church also presented Long with a resolution signed by the Fremont mayor as well as a letter signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, commending Long for his service.

Long plans to work with the Million Leader Mandate, teaching leadership in Third World countries three months of each year for the next three years. He has to raise his own support.

That was why the church stunned him and Ruby when they presented the couple with a $25,000 check to fund the missionary work. “That was hard on the heart,” Long says, laughing. “I didn’t know what to say. That’s a major, major expression of love.”

“He has never endorsed pastor appreciation months or been one to encourage people to give anyplace other than to the church coffers,” Smallwood explains. “But our membership felt it was important to replenish and restore funds used over the years by him and Ruby for our benefit.”

Guests also received party favors that included a collection of four CDs that contained snippets from Long’s sermons over the years. The collection was another long-held secret kept from the pastor.

Member Sandra Iglehart (James’s mother) spent the entire summer listening to thousands of tapes and digitally extracting them to CDs. Pastor-elect Brian Murphy and Executive Pastor Tammy Long helped Smallwood organize the CDs into a series of short sermons.

The evening culminated with Stan’s favorite song, written by Andre Crouch, “My Tribute – To God Be The Glory.”

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