A sermon full of tissues and optimism

Tammy Faye Messner was the special guest speaker at one church's fifth anniversary service.

St. Petersburg Times/November 17, 2003
By Denise Watson Batts

"People are always on me about the crying," Tammy Faye Messner, formerly Bakker, admitted.

She sang, she preached and, yes, Tammy Faye Messner cried. But the 100 who filled Potter's House Fellowship Church weren't expecting anything less than the real Tammy Faye.

"People are always on me about the crying," Messner said, dabbing at her eyes minutes into the service, her L'Oreal Lash Out mascara hanging in there. "But honey, it's my party, and I'll cry if I want to!"

The congregation erupted in cheers as she continued, "When I start talking about God, I get emotional."

Tammy Faye Messner, perhaps better known as the former Tammy Faye Bakker, appeared at the little white church on Kennedy Boulevard to help celebrate its fifth anniversary.

Pastor Robert L. Morgan said he has been trying to get Messner in his church for the past two years because she carries a powerful message: God loves all.

Messner once hosted a daytime show with a gay co-host and has appeared at gay pride events throughout the country. Potter said about half of his congregation is gay.

Morgan told the audience: "I wanted to set as an example that not all straight people hate you."

A chorus of "Amens" punctuated his words. And then Morgan glanced at the front pew and up popped "Sister Tammy."

Messner mentioned the word homosexual only once but touched on everything else. Her red fingernails and gold rings glistened as she talked about how she was one of them: someone who has known strife, who has felt what it is like to have $1,000 in the bank with a $1,000 house note due, to raise children while their father was in prison, to wish she could die when the world spun out of control.

She spoke of her former husband, evangelist Jim Bakker, and how they built one of the most successful television empires, the Praise the Lord network, and how it all disappeared almost in a day.

"Everything was gone, everyone hated us," Messner said, sniffling and clutching a tissue tightly in her fist. "I couldn't read my Bible. You know what sustained me? The old hymns."

"Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus," Messner's voice quivered as she sang, her eyes glistening.

She moved among the pews as she crooned, drying the tears on her cheeks with a tissue, then reaching out to a man sitting near her to dry his. As she would throughout her sermon, Messner moved up and down the aisle, in between the wooden rows, breaking up the tale of her life with a spiritual message.

Messner also cackled, mostly at herself: "I think Jesus really loves crazy people. He really does. He made so many of us!"

She told them of her new book, I Will Survive . . . And You Will Too! She also talked about her upcoming reality show, Surreal World 2. Messner roomed with actor Erik Estrada ("a great, great, great man"), rapper Vanilla Ice ("he became my boy while I was there") and other celebrities whose stars once shown brighter as cameras watched their every move.

Messner said she didn't shower for four days because she didn't believe cameras were kept out of the bathroom. But after living by deodorant and perfume alone, she said she had to believe.

Messner kept the crowd going for more than an hour, ending with a note of forgiveness, a hymn, a prayer and, of course, a tear.

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