Lula Mae Pryor was probably the most unique person I ever met. From the first day I met her when I was called to pastor at Ashland Avenue she became my biggest encourager but it only took a little time for me to realize that she was most people’s biggest encourager. Lula Mae’s life, more than any person I’ve ever known, revolved around Jesus, family (beginning with her beloved Singer), and church family. Her priorities were obvious to her and she gave herself to them without reservation.
Lula Mae was one of the few people I’ve known who never seemed like she wished she had a life other than the one she had. She spent decades as the staff person who cleaned the church. She loved it! That is not an embellished assertion. She actually loved it and felt honored to do it. For thirty-one years it was her ministry.
Lula Mae would pray all day as she cleaned for people and ministry. If she knew the seat where you usually sat then you could be sure on Sunday that you had been prayed for and that seat had been prayed over. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, when asked about the effectiveness of the ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle would point to the prayer room. Much of the effectiveness of Ashland Avenue from Brother Walker’s time to today was powered by Lula Mae’s prayers.
After Lula Mae got to the point her health did not allow her to clean the building as she had for decades we had her start calling all visitors and thanking them for coming. Our retention of visitors went up during that period. There are plenty of people who preach more effectively than I do but I can guarantee you no other church had a Lula Mae Pryor calling and praying for visitors.
She would tell me stories about what God had done through the ministry at Ashland Avenue over the years. She had so many cherished memories of pastors, people, and ministry that had helped make her who she was but she always ended those stories by saying but what we are doing now is just as great and that I was her favorite pastor. I believed her because every pastor she ever had was truly her favorite. That fact says little about her pastors and much about her.
One time after visiting her in the hospital I was leaving and a nurse asked, “Are you the greatest pastor of all time?” I was puzzled, and then she asked, “Are you Lula Mae’s pastor? Well, according to her you are the greatest pastor of all time. She sure is something.” Then she got a bit teary-eyed and said, “The first time I met her she prayed for me.”
When she finally retired from cleaning the church we did something I have never done before and probably won’t do again. We had a Lula Mae Day. It just seemed right to do. Lula Mae was a bit embarrassed by the attention because she would be the first to tell you she was a guilty sinner and her only hope was Christ. Of course, I saw her get upset at times and she was particular about some things and didn’t like it one bit if they were changed but I don’t hesitate to say that in many ways I want to be less like David and more like Lula Mae. I learned many things following her as she followed Christ.
Lula Mae was born on January 5, 1932, and died on December 10, 2019. She became a member of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in 1944 and blessed all five of her pastors. Every pastor needs a Lula Mae. I do not know why God gave me one but I will be eternally thankful he did.