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2012 Workshop in Henderson, Kentucky - Story list

Road to Redemption

Ian Maule

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Ernie Lingerfelt sings a hymn with members of his Warehouse of Worship congregation before the start of a service. "I dont think myself better than anyone who walks through that door," he said.

Ernie Lingerfelt served a seven-month sentence for burglary in 1985. After being released, he fell back into some of the same behavior that landed him in prison, even after he felt God calling him to preach.

"If I didn't get saved, I would be back in jail or dead. I have no doubt about it," says Ernie, whom everyone calls Deacon. He finally accepted God into his life and was ordained as a pastor in 2007.

Two years later, Deacon became the head pastor at Warehouse of Worship, a non-denominational church, and Soldiers of Truth in God's Army, a motorcycle ministry. Both congregations include drug addicts, alcoholics and other people who are down on their luck. Deacon said he has never turned away anyone.

"I'm against religion," he says. "Religion says you have to look like us and talk like us. I preach relationships."

Deacon takes a non-traditional approach to being a pastor. He wears a T-shirt and jeans, and he rarely stands behind the pulpit while preaching.

"I never wanted to be put on a pedestal," he says. "I want to be with the people."

Deacon delivers donated food, coats and toys to people in need. Before each service, he serves a meal to anyone who shows up at the Warehouse of Worship. Often, it is the best meal any of them, including the children, will get.

"If someone calls me in the middle of the night and needs to pray with me, I'll be there," he says.

Deacon's congregation seems to appreciate that he has experienced many of the problems they struggle with. The prison tattoos on his arms are a constant reminder of the past he hasn't abandoned but has overcome.

"Their sins are like mine," says Samantha Turner of Bluff City, who has been attending the Warehouse of Worship for four months. "All have been through life."

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"When I wear this vest, people know who I am and what I stand for," said Ernie "Deacon" Lingerfelt, pastor of Warehouse of Worship and Soilders of Truth in God's Army, two non-traditonal churches in Henderson. "At first they are confused or even frightened, but I'm just here to talk about God."

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Erine "Deacon" Lingerfelt sings gospel songs with Betty Eades and Nick Pruitt while picking up members of his congregation for a service. Lingerfelt makes sure that every member of his church has transportation to and from every service.

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Ernie Lingerfelt hugs his sister, Sue Gill, while visiting her at work. Ernie was asking his sister, who works for the State of Kentucky, if he knew anyone in the Owensboro Police Department so he could attempt to visit a prisoner.

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Ernie Lingerfelt gets his bike ready for a ride to Paducah. "Most people hear the bike and see the clothes and they automatically think the worst. But once we get to talking, that all changes," says Lingerfelt.

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Ernie Lingerfelt (middle) dances with memebers of his congregation at Warehouse of Worship before the start of service. Lingerfelt usually starts services by dancing and singing.

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Ernie "Deacon" Lingerfelt performs an "anointing of the oils" on Ro Woodley during a church service. "I've been suffering. I've been angry," said Ro, whose son is facing a possible 50-year sentence for committing a violent crime. "I know God is good, but He has put me through so much and I said some horrible things. I'm so sorry for saying those things."

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2012 Workshop in Henderson, Kentucky - Story list