Monday, March 26, 2007

Introducing Father Crunk

Since hearing of him some months back, I've had a keen interest in Fr Ricardo Bailey of the archdiocese of Atlanta, whose multiform ministry's been profiled on the "Today" show and Ebony magazine, among other media hotspots.

Known as "Father Crunk," Bailey, 33, serves as a parochial vicar in a suburban parish and Atlanta's assistant director of vocations. But his claim to fame has come in the form of regular appearances on a Top 40 station's morning drive-time show, where he riffs on pop culture, the news, and whatever else he can weave the Gospel into.

And now -- not soon enough -- Bailey's gotten the BustedHalo treatment.
For those who may be hip-hop impaired, “crunk” is a type of hip-hop music that originated from the South. A fusion of the words ‘crazy’ and ‘drunk,’ “crunk” music is meant to be more high-energy than the typical hip-hop beat. You might not expect the man holding court as “Father Crunk” to be a Catholic diocesan priest, but the 33-year-old, whose real name is Father Ricardo Bailey, is the Parochial Vicar at Holy Spirit Catholic Church and the Assistant Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. A priest for almost four years, the Atlanta native has strived particularly to impact the lives of young adults and he’s willing to meet them where they are, even if it means preaching from the pulpit of Q100, an Atlanta all-hits radio station, where he’s known as “Father Crunk.”

Initially approached by show producers to pray for the parish’s losing high school football team, Father Bailey’s appearance received such a tremendous response from listeners that he was asked to come back for a regular segment. These days, as a regular guest on “The Bert Show,” he uses the Gospel to comment on tabloid fodder and other pop culture obsessions....

BustedHalo: What do you consider is the main challenge facing the Catholic Church today?

Fr. Ricardo Bailey: I believe the challenge facing the Roman Catholic Church today is the continued challenge to be relevant to the wider society as well as continuing to do the work of evangelization. We need to continue to imitate the ethos of the Incarnation that calls all of us as the Body of Christ to enter into the very fabric and essence of the world that we live and work in.

BH: Reaching young adults is a challenge for most religious denominations. What is your strategy?

RB: One of the ways that you reach young adults is to meet them right where they are. However, that means that we do not “water down” the Church’s teachings in any form or fashion, but we use modern images, “baptize” popular music and lingos and then bring the Gospel message in a manner that will not alienate or even make people feel that they are not loved or even welcomed into the Church....

BH: Tell us why the goings-on in Hollywood are prime fodder for your segments.

RB: As the producers of “The Bert Show” say so eloquently, there is so much dysfunction in Hollywood that totally amazes all of us on the other side of the movie and television screen. While it is true that we all are influenced by the way people in Hollywood make decisions and do certain things, we know that it is totally weird. Therefore, rather than scratching our heads and just dismissing it, we try to learn form that dysfunction and apply real lessons that will empower us in our lives to make good and intelligent decisions....

BH: What’s next for “Father Crunk?”

RB: I would say that we all must remember that I am a Roman Catholic priest and I love every minute of that. I intend to keep listening to the Lord and doing what He and my Archbishop (the Reverend [sic] Wilton Gregory) call me to do. I pray that I can serve the Lord and His Church until He calls me home. Therefore, I guess I can say those words that Archbishop John F. Donoghue said to me when he ordained me to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the words said to every new priest when he places his hands in those of the ordaining Bishop: “May the Lord who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.”