THAT'S LAUDERDALE

'Preachers vs. Deacons': Holy rollers shooting for higher standards

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comApril 8, 2014 

The "Preachers vs. Deacons" basketball game in Ridgeland last year resulted in a win for the deacons and $1,500 for charity.

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When the deacons play basketball against the preachers, whose side is God on?

How about the free-throw contest between their spouses at halftime?

According to the Rev. Renty Kitty Jr., it won't matter. Everyone's prayers will be answered.

Kitty is one of the organizers of the Preachers vs. Deacons game set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School gym in Ridgeland.

If any of the deacons become holy rollers, it's not because a preacher pushed them down, Kitty said.

"It just means our feet couldn't catch up with our mind," he said.

The game has been played for several years to raise money for nonprofit groups in Jasper County, one of the state's poorest. Last year, when a team of 19 deacons slipped by a team of 22 preachers, proceeds of about $1,500 went to the Boys & Girls Club in Jasper County.

This year, the goal is to raise $2,500 for the New Destiny Center in Tarboro, a state-licensed, nonprofit home for boys ages 11 to 17 who are slipping through the cracks. They need love in their lives -- and structure, purpose and restoration. "Changing our future, one youth at a time" is the home's motto.

Other organizers of the game are the Rev. Donald Sheftall, pastor of St. Matthews Baptist Church in Bluffton and St. Mary's Baptist in Tarboro; and Lee and Luvenia Youmans of Point South.

Kitty learned as a child playing in the dirt outside his parents' home in Bluffton that people have to get their hands dirty -- or maybe nurse sore muscles -- to raise community standards.

Jennie Kitty saw her son playing in the dirt and got busy. She led a long march to get a day care center built on Goethe Road. This was in the era when Jennie Kitty, a home health nurse, guided U.S. Sen. Earnest "Fritz" Hollings of Charleston and the media from home to home during his 1969 "Hunger Tour." Hollings, the late Dr. Donald E. Gatch and others helped show the world something they did not want to see -- poverty so severe that Lowcountry children were infested with worms.

Renty Kitty always knew preachers and deacons were counted on because his father was a smooth-singing deacon at First Zion Baptist Church in Bluffton. His mother was on the Missionary Board.

Renty Kitty is now known as pastor at St. Luke's Baptist in Chelsea and Pilgrim Baptist in Levy.

But there was a time when Renty and his brother Jon were known as immovable objects on the football fields of Bluffton. They were linemen in the late 1970s, plowing the way for stars like Charles Kidd, Calvin Lawyer, Curtis Baker, Steve Broome, Samson Cohen and Roger Lee. Those old H.E. McCracken High School Bulldogs coached by Dan Utley were a perennial Lowcountry force.

The deacons at Saturday's game might want to remember this. If the Rev. Kitty should happen to get up a head of steam -- fueled even today by Miss Jennie's ham hocks, collard greens, rice, fried chicken and potato salad -- it would be best to stand aside and let him roll on through.

Either that or get down on your knees and pray.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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