Brothers and sisters, I come before you a humble man. A man with nothing more than a message and an urge — NO! — a calling to share that message. For I have heard the good news. Perhaps, if you watch the Oxygen network, you’ve heard it, maybe even seen it, too.
This February, Oxygen premiered its new reality series Preachers of Detroit — an offshoot of the network’s popular Preachers of L.A. series showcasing the dramatic, exuberant, and lavish lifestyles of six Los Angeles preachers and their families. The new Motown version follows suit, documenting the work, family, and spiritual lives of seven Detroit-based men and women of the cloth as they share their “transformations and triumphs in and out of the pulpit,” according to Oxygen.
The cast includes spiritual leaders from a variety of evangelical backgrounds: Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit; Pastor David Bullock of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park; Pastor Don William Shelby Jr. of Burning Bush International Ministries Church of God in Christ in Ypsilanti; Bishop Corletta Vaughn of the Holy Ghost Cathedral in Detroit; Bishop-Elect Clarence Langston of Word in Action Christian Center in Detroit; Pastor Tim Alden of City of Praise Christian Church in Los Angeles (and a native Detroiter); and Dorinda Clark-Cole, evangelist at the Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Detroit and two-time Grammy Award winner with gospel group The Clark Sisters.
In terms of the show’s structure and themes, fans of Preachers of L.A. can expect to find a few similarities in the Detroit series, but according to Ellis, the new setting will play a central role as the cast shares its efforts to keep the faith alive in a city that has known its share of troubles.
“I think that when you looked at the L.A. [series] it was more personality driven than it was Los Angeles or the L.A. community,” Ellis says. “And I think that what you will see [in Preachers of Detroit] is how each of us are trying to impact the city in a very positive way. That’s something that all of us are very passionate about.”
No doubt, the show will tell the increasingly familiar story of a budding Detroit renaissance over the course of its 10 episodes, but it will be told through the eyes of the city’s spiritual community — a faction that, despite holding a significant place in the lives of many Detroiters, doesn’t typically generate a lot of media attention.
“The spiritual aspect of the city is really the foundation of the city,” says Alden. “And, of course, churches historically have been the entity in the city that is compassionate and really cares for people of all walks of life. I think without that equation, you wouldn’t see a resurgence or a comeback … [Detroit] has to come back spiritually, not just financially and economically.”
Aside from the community’s struggles, viewers can also expect to see how preachers handle personal challenges, particularly in matters of race, gender, and family. Case in point, the show documents Alden’s experiences not only as a virgin in his early 50s but also as the white son of an African-American family who adopted him later in life.
Viewers will also gain perspective on the lives of Vaughn and Clark-Cole, both prominent female leaders in the church community. Other cast members will share their familiar challenges of balancing work and family life, climbing the professional ladder, and affecting change in their communities.
“People will see pastors in a human light,” Ellis says. “While we [deliver] a message of hope, we go through our individual struggles. After we have lifted others, who lifts us? After we have preached to others? Who preaches to us?”
It’s a question that’s probably crossed the minds of many a Sunday parishioner, regardless of religious background, and for Ellis, that’s just one commonality he hopes viewers will take away from the show as it progresses.
“I would hope that at the end of the day, what people will see is that there is diversity in religion,” Ellis says. “None of us are the same. We all have our own individual passions, and we all have our collective passions. Apostolics are different from Baptists. Baptists are different from Pentecostals. Pentecostals are different from Methodists, but at the end of the day, we all share some common bond.”
And in this Detroit-centric show, it’s a common bond that transcends religion.
“We all have this one common thread that we want to see Detroit prosper and do well,” says Shelby. “But we all go about it in a different way.”
Ah, yes, that’s right. This is still reality TV we’re talking about here, so differences in opinion are certainly bound to arise. Whether or not all remains a happy unity throughout the show … well, like a good flock, we’ll have to keep the faith and do as the show’s trailer preaches:
“Miracles are happening. It’s the comeback city. You watch and see.”
Preachers of Detroit airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on the Oxygen Network.