Jazz chaplain has spent 3 memorable decades giving spiritual guidance to franchise's players and others

Published: Sunday, March 10 2013 10:05 p.m. MDT

"A lot of us come from tough backgrounds and tough lives. I think we're like the true definition of prayer and doing the best we can. No one's perfect, but we're doing the best we can and continue to be blessed and give back to other people as well."

Watson is particularly appreciative of the service that Lewis renders, and the manner in which the Jazz chaplain does so.

"He's been here for a long time," Watson said. "He doesn't put a lot of pressure on us as far as trying to be perfect. He's always the first to reveal that he has obstacles to overcome, too.

"Sometimes I catch him sleeping in the locker room before the game while the video's playing," Watson said with a laugh. "Sometimes he has the best prayers before the game. Like if we get outrebounded, we pray as a team before we come out on the court and he's saying a prayer to God that we rebound better than last game."

Watson laughed again at that last statement, but then he quickly became reflective regarding the importance of staying close to the Lord.

"It's kind of like some funny moments through it all," he said, "but I think at the end of the day, the message is always the same — continue to try to get better, continue to try to grow through spirituality and grow through Christ, and never be afraid to (remember) your blessings or the person who got you to this point in life and beyond this point in the future."

Lewis, who's now serving in his 29th season as the team's chaplain, is also a minister for The Point Christian Church in Sandy, where he offers a sermon each Sunday to his congregation of 75-80 patrons. He was formerly a minister at the Southeast Christian Church in Holladay, serving in that capacity for 24 years.

And he's thankful that the Jazz franchise has made the team's chapel services more of a priority these days.

"One of the issues has always been having a meeting place. For a long time, I have sinned and I have coveted this room," he said with a wry smile. "It's just a good location and players aren't exposed to fans much and it's not too bad for the others (visiting players).

"For a long time, they rented this room out to corporations for small gatherings, and that's all right because they're in the money-making business and I understand that. I have no complaints; I don't fault them one little bit. There were times when we were lucky to hold our chapel service anywhere, and I didn't know if we'd have a room from game to game.

"But the Miller family and the folks here at the arena have just bent over backwards to try and accommodate this because they know the players don't get much of a chance for spiritual exercise, so to say, because they're either playing, practicing or traveling on the weekends," Lewis said.

"Here they operate somewhat on the proposition that (former Jazz coach and GM) Frank Layden put forth. He said, 'There's chapel; it won't hurt you to go, and this is your opportunity to be reminded of the things you forgot that your Momma taught you.' "

Jefferson, Utah's veteran big man and leading scorer, said chapel services give him a chance to have some measure of spirituality in his life during the hectic pace of the NBA season.

"Going to church is kind of tough, especially during the season because it scares you," Big Al said. "Then when you do get a Sunday off to go ... you really want to just lay in bed. So (I) just go to chapel before every game. It kind of gets you what you've been missing from church.

"Jerry do a great job with it. He always makes sure we have a room available. It's really good to get that good talk in before games. Every chapel be different but helpful in its own way. It's always good to go have fun with it."

It should be pointed out that this is not a paid position Lewis holds. Sure, he's given a lower bowl season ticket for his efforts, but he realizes that his real reward in all of this is not at all financial, but in the spiritual service that he's able to render to those in need.

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