A prominent New York City pastor shocked many viewers by getting a tattoo in his own church during a recent episode of VH1’s Black Ink Crew.
Rev. Michael Walrond, who appeared for only a few minutes at the opening of Monday’s episode, started out providing advice to cast member Dutchess and then rolled up his t-shirt sleeve for his tattoo.
By the time Dutchess completed her handiwork, the 44-year-old pastor had “I am the embodiment of infinite possibilities” tattooed on his upper right arm.
And many Twitter users, who made #BlackInkCrew a trending topic, were not pleased.
“The pastor is getting a tattoo?! What a contradiction #BlackInkCrew,” tweeted @ShaniceAliciaa.
“What kinda pastor gets a tattoo? #BlackInkCrew,” tweeted @IamSoniaGrace.
“Wait a tatted pastor? Isn’t there something in the bible about marking ones body? #blackinkcrew,” tweeted @Verbose_KV.
But Walrond, who has 10 tattoos and an Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. brand, told theGrio.com that the “critics don’t faze him.”
“I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I live the life that God created me to live, and I do that by honoring God, by serving God and by being faithful to the call that I believe God has placed on my life,” said the pastor of Harlem’s popular First Corinthian Baptist Church.
According to the church website, its membership has grown from 300 members to 9,000 members in a 10-year period under Walrond’s leadership.
As for critics who contend Walrond’s actions contradict the words of the Bible, the pastor remained unfazed.
“We are very selective when we use certain portions of the Bible to critique or judge other people,” he said. “It’s amazing how those who claim to be Christian, who raise critique or judgment, say, ‘Isn’t it somewhere in the Bible that you are not to mark your body?’ The same way, I could say Jesus says, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.'”
Walrond said he agreed to do the show after being first approached by church member Maria Davis, who was also tattooed on the show by Dutchess. He said Davis told him the reality show was interested in having him on as well.
He agreed, especially after seeing Davis’ moving appearance on the show in 2013.
Davis, a HIV/AIDS awareness activist who has lived with AIDS since 1998, spoke to the staff at the Black Ink Tattoo Studio about the disease and got an HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon tattoo.
Dutchess said during the episode with Walrond that she was doing his tattoo at the church because she didn’t want him to deal with the “chaotic environment” at the shop.
Watch the full ‘Black Ink Crew’ episode below:
But Walrond said the show used the church for the segment because the Black Ink shop wasn’t available because it was under renovation.
Walrond’s had the tat for over a year now. The brief scene was shot in June 2014, he said.
During that time, Walrond was in the midst of a Democratic primary race for New York’s 13th Congressional District. He picked up about eight percent of the vote in a losing effort to Rep. Charles Rangel.
Still, not everyone slammed Walrond’s ink.
Twitter user @KayAyeEye tweeted, “nothing wrong with a pastor/minister having a tattoo.”
“Pastor Mike YASS #blackinkcrew his tat is dope,” tweeted @FirstLadyBri34
“I don’t why people are so shocked that a pastor getting a tattoo. What’s wrong with that?? #blackinkcrew,” tweeted @RayTheDreamer__.
As for Walrond, commonly called ‘Pastor Mike’ by his congregants, he just wants to be himself.
“The one thing I won’t be is disingenuous to myself. I always want to try to be authentically me,” he said, adding that he also enjoys riding his Harley Davidson. “I have to be who I am. I just happen to be this person.”
His two college-aged children both have tattoos, as does his wife, Lakeesha, also a pastor at the church.
“When you put yourself in the public sphere, you expect criticism,” he said. “I’ve been through fire. That campaign last year wore me out.”
This wasn’t the first time a reality show visited First Corinthian Baptist Church.
Diddy brought the women of Making the Band 3 to the church 10 years ago, the pastor said.