It’s time for the African-American community to organize and mobilize around public education.
In the wake of changes at the School District of Philadelphia and School Reform Commission, the African-American community cannot sit idly by hoping, praying and trusting that our elected officials, the School District and business leaders will act in our children’s best interest.
As I’ve said before, the changes at the School District are not about the actual education of our children, most of whom are Black. The real fracas is about who will control the School District’s nearly $3 billion budget. When you understand that Philadelphia's school budget is one the largest in the nation, then you will understand that the recent turmoil at the District is about financial resources — specifically, who controls them and who will benefit from them.
In a recent article, Helen Keller argued forcefully that “public schools are critical to Center City's growth.”
A few days later, former School Reform Commissioner Robert L. Archie gracefully resigned, and then Dr. Wendell Pritchett, Chancellor of Rutgers-Camden and a Center City resident, was appointed as Archie’s replacement on the SRC. And on Oct. 10, a national writer, University of Pennsylvania professor and Center City resident, Lorene Cary was appointed to the SRC.
Why is this significant?
It is clear that the Center City coalition is plotting and dictating how the School District will be run post Archie and former Superintendent Dr. Arlene Ackerman. While the recent appointments of Pritchett and the two “executive advisers,” Lori Shorr and Edward Williams, appear noble on the surface, we must dig deeper.
Who is representing the non-Center City interests? Who will fight to ensure the masses of children — the overwhelming majority of whom do not live in Center City — receive an adequate education? And who will ensure that all communities benefit from the District’s billion-dollar budget and not just those who are perceived as more politically valuable and/or as paying more taxes?
Certainly, these new political appointees will have their ears tuned to Center City residents, but we cannot leave it to chance that our interests will be equally heard. Access to an excellent public education is not a Center City right. It is our civil right!
“So, what’s next? We know what the problems are, but what am I, what are you, and what are we going to do about it?” These questions, posed by one of my mentors, have haunted me all week.
Like many of you, I am frustrated with the weekly changes at the school district. However, frustration alone will not advance our public education agenda — which is to ensure that all children, Black, white, rich and poor, have equal access to an excellent education. Action is what led to civil rights victories, and it is action that is needed for Philadelphia’s present civil rights battles.
Given our new and particular battle, we need to have the spirit of Oliver L. Brown. Fifty-seven years ago, Rev. Brown was a devoted working father, family man and an assistant pastor at his local church. He was a welder by trade, who simply wanted to provide the best life that he could for his family. However, he faced a problem: segregated schools.
Fed up with the educational inequity all Black children were subjected to in Topeka, Kansas, Reverend Brown, joined by many others, filed suit against the School Board of Topeka. It became the landmark case known as Brown vs. Board of Education.
Today, receiving a quality education for students in the City of Philadelphia is even more critical than it was in 1954. I recognize that we are confronted by an onslaught of political and social problems, not the least of which is the need for quality education for our children.
But I also recognize that the select few are thriving while the poor and disappearing middle class bear the social, economic and political brunt of the ills plaguing our city.
A strong education, for those who are fortunate enough to receive it, remains the great equalizer.
It’s time for concerned citizens of and for the African-American community to organize and mobilize around education. If Center City and other communities are fighting for their children and securing appointments to ensure their interests are met, then the African-American community must be equally (if not more) vigilant.
Hence, on Oct. 30 at 1:30 pm, there will be an organizational meeting for “Imagine Philly Children” at Bright Hope Baptist Church. We are inviting all concerned citizens of Philadelphia, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or class, to attend.
Horace Mann, one of the great advocates of public education, said: “Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but [rather] give us the determination to make the right things happen.”
Beloved, it’s time, in fact, past time for our community to organize and mobilize for our children’s civil right to receive a quality public education.
As always, keep the faith!
The Rev. Kevin R. Johnson is senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, located at 1601 N. 12th St. at Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia. For information, visit www.brighthopebaptist.org or www.imaginephillychildren.org.
Can anyone answer for me the question, Can you really put your life in the hands of the Lord? I have some experience in attempting to give my life to Christ, arguably with some degree of success and failure. I ask the question because I want to share the exhilaration. I use the term exhilaration because I think it comes close to what it feels like to give an honest effort in this regard. I can only share with you what I think. The obstacles in the way of making an honest effort to embrace and then step to God are at times huge and obvious. But at other times, I believe the obstacles are more subtle and practically indiscernible. For example, pride can get in the way because pride has no place in your relationship with God. It is important to recognize that pride is not supposed to have a place between you and your relationships with your fellow man either. To pride, you can add envy, greed, vanity, lust, selfishness and bitterness, to name a few more impediments to your honest attempt to let God order your steps.
In athletics they say it’s not whether you fall or fail, it’s what you do after you fall and fail. You can never win without doing both. Falling and failure are necessary parts of the game. If any of us are honest with ourselves, then falling and failing are also parts of the Christian experience. The question is, after doing either, what do you do next? Time and again we fall. Time and again we fail. It is in this context that the effort to place one’s life in God’s hands is tested. Many of us, present company included, want to hold on to our own abilities to solve our own problems, cure our own ills, blame others for our circumstances and rescue ourselves out of the troubles that we put ourselves into. We routinely pass judgment, act as if we’re better than others and refuse to give God credit for the many blessings that he bestows. Now let’s see you put your life in God’s hands from this backdrop. Can you honestly let go and let God? Relinquish your so-called power and step out on faith. Really?
You see, without complete submission, I don’t think any of us are in a position to hear the Word of God. I just believe Satan shouts and God whispers. If you’ve ever been whispered to, then you know how you have to pay attention and block out the extraneous in order to hear what you deem important enough to listen to. I know as a parent, as many of you can too, I can and have heard my child in a crowd, in a park, in a room full of otherwise loud and boisterous people. You can hear your child cry, particularly if that cry is the result of pain. “Mommy, Daddy, I need you” does not have to be screamed. It can almost be whispered to be heard. There is a singularity of God calling you and a consciousness of spirit when you call him. The plurality comes when we both hear the same thing. It’s that honest effort that you know he knows you’re trying. Failure then becomes a mere byproduct of the attempt. The expectation is that you’ll keep trying. Your effort becomes consistent. You will fail, but you’ll also succeed. The key is to build upon the successes and not the failures. When you fail, the devil shouts. When you succeed, God smiles and encourages you to keep on truckin’. Do you hear that?
May God bless and keep you always.
“Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but [rather] give us the determination to make the right things happen.” — Horace Mann, American education reformer
One of the joys of serving as pastor of a historic, national congregation is that it not only requires the pastor to serve and minister to every member of the church, but also to advocate for “the least of these” — those who are poor, live in crime infested neighborhoods, and desire a quality public education.
Being a prophetic pastor in the historic Black church tradition is who I am as a minister. It would be impossible for me to be something else. Bright Hope, you will never know how much I love you and appreciate the way you love, support and empower your pastor. There is no better feeling than to know that your congregation has your back! I am only able to speak prophetically on critical issues affecting our community because you make it possible. I love you dearly for your empowering me as your pastor and leader.
Since January 2012, the School District of Philadelphia has been undergoing radical education reform. Decisions are being made for our children’s future when there is no superintendent — “captain to steer the ship” — or permanent, experienced executive leadership. With a potential budget deficit which could top $400 million, the district is moving forward with a plan to radically decentralize the public schools with no publicly stated and clearly articulated vision, no input from taxpayers, parents, students, teachers and voters, and no explanation of how this radical education reform will benefit all children in the School District of Philadelphia.
I raise these points because the radical education reforms occurring at the district could take us back to an era before Brown vs. the Board of Education. In 1957, the reason Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston led the Supreme Court legal fight of Brown vs. the Board of Education was because of the issue of “neighborhood schools.” Those who were Black were not allowed to go to the high-performing, all-white “neighborhood schools.” African Americans had to attend their own all-Black “neighborhood schools,” which were inferior to those from affluent white neighborhoods. They were inferior because they lacked the proper resources to run them properly. Thus, children were receiving an inadequate education.
Today in Philadelphia, there is a big debate brewing over “neighborhood schools” versus “access to good schools.” Those who advocate for “neighborhood schools” want decentralization, which in turn means an emphasis on neighborhood schools, or schools located where a child lives. On the other hand, those who advocate for “access to good schools” are not concerned if the school is in the child’s neighborhood as long as the school is a “good school” and the child has “access” to it. Currently, this is not the case with lower schools in Philadelphia. Many in our communities are those who are in poor-performing schools, which means their dreams are compromised or unfortunately eternally deferred. While advocates for “neighbor schools” argue that they want to create “good schools” for all children in their neighborhood, the reality is, public education reform only lasts as long as our conscious and concerned elected officials are in office. We do not need “neighborhood schools” — that’s segregation — but rather we need “good schools” in every neighborhood and equal “access” to them — that’s real education reform!
In sum, if the School District of Philadelphia’s current radical education reform of decentralization means that good schools will be only in affluent, homogeneous communities, then we cannot support it. If decentralization means that only the haves will keep having while the have-nots keep suffering, then we cannot support it. If this is the district’s model and definition of decentralization, then this model is flawed. It is nothing more than a return to pre-Brown vs. the Board of Education and a 21st-century model of segregated schools based upon class and race.
Beloved, our children deserve a quality education. It’s time to fight for good schools and equal access to them!
The Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson is senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church.
Family-like environment, close relationships and intimacy are attributes a small church environment can bring to its congregation, and it’s those qualities that Jones Temple Church of God in Christ prides itself on.
Pastor Roland Thompson is proud to pastor Jones Temple, as he finds it to be a church filled with loving people. After contributing to building the sanctuary itself, Thompson truly feels a close connection to his congregation.
“Well I have been here 40 years and I became pastor 10 years ago—before that I was the head elder,” he said. “I also helped build the sanctuary. It was a little lot and it took us, a small congregation, about 20-some years.”
Jones Temple was founded in 1927 when senior Bishop Charles Mason sent Elder Daniel Jones Sr. from Georgia to Philadelphia. Daniel Jones III, the founder’s grandson, said his grandfather told his wife, Estella, “The Lord has called me for work in Philadelphia.”
The name of the church was changed to Macedonia Temple shortly after its start in Philadelphia. This was its official name until Bishop C. Range Sr. proclaimed the church should have been named after its founder, Pastor Daniel Jones Sr. The church was then given its current name, Jones Temple Church of God in Christ.
Pastor Thompson and the congregation work to maintain the “community feel” Jones Temple has provided to Philadelphia throughout the years.
Jones Temple works to reach out to all generations of the church by hosting a children’s ministry, a youth or teen ministry, men’s and women’s ministries, weekly Bible studies and a young adult ministry. Along with this outreach, Jones Temple hosts prayer nights on Tuesdays and Fridays. Pastor Thompson notes that along with their other prayer services, he makes sure their Sunday service is fulfilling — even if it goes over the scheduled time.
“We start our morning service at 11:30 a.m. and normally we’re out by 1:30, but if the spirit gets a hold of us we’ll be out a little later,” he said.
Children and youth are also important demographics for outreach for Jones Temple. Thompson and the congregation make an effort to reach out to the youths, valuing them for maintaining the longevity of the church.
“We are also training our children to be able to take our place, because without youth in the church, the church is a dying church. We have a lot of older members and we’re trying to train our youth through Sunday school and evangelism,” Thompson said.
In an effort to conduct outreach for the church, Jones Temple plans to visit various areas of the city with cards that will state, “Jones Temple, the church of hospitability.” With pictures of the church and other materials, Jones Temple plans to reach the community to promote growth and visit different areas every other month.
“Church growth is very important,” Thompson said.
Daniel Jones feels the dedication to uplift the surrounding communities is an important aspect of Jones Temple and its goals and initiatives.
“We feed the community and minister to the needs of the people of the community. We have pioneers that would have the young ladies of the street come, sit and eat; food was always left out for them,” he said. “When they come they would have the opportunity to come and get nourished—they know they have a shelter here where they can come and be nurtured, both with food and spiritually.”
The work outside the church is equal to that within it, and Kelli Britt has felt encouraged by the relationships she has built within Jones Temple. Britt feels she has positively benefited from the intimate church setting.
“I’m a member; it’s an honor and pleasure to be under the leadership of Pastor Thompson, I’ve been a member for about 18 years and this is my family church,” she said. “One thing about this church is that the people of Jones Temple are so warm and compassionate, and this is the church of hospitality.”
Although Jones Temple works to maintain a distinct separation of church and state, it consistently encourages the congregation and community to register to vote, regardless of party affiliation. The Rev. Chester Williams of Jones Temple has particularly made it a point to educate community residents on voter ID laws and the importance of having their voices heard in the upcoming November presidential election.
“We set up tables across the community stressing for people to fill out brand-new registrations,” he said.
With a grand goal of reaching out to the city from a small church with intimate appeal, Thompson feels his members truly benefit from their setting and relatively small size.
“Some of the things we do here are unique; we have a lot of love, and most of all we have the spirit of the Lord in the house. There isn’t a time that I can recall that we had service where the spirit of the Lord didn’t come in. People had cancer that God has healed. God has done great and miraculous things in this place. God has blessed us with faithful members,” Thompson said. “It’s like family—when you’re not there and you don’t come, you’re missed.”
I have often wondered how a lawyer feels when he or she knows a client is guilty. Their job is still to defend that client regardless of this very real information. Many a guilty person has been acquitted based upon what we know as a legal technicality. Legally, the person is innocent, but morally is as guilty as, dare I say, sin. I’ve come to believe that this must have been one of the most important issues being debated by the traditional Jew of Christ’s time and the radicals who chose to follow him. It seems to have been the focal point of what got Christ killed, and indeed, the focal point of many a debate today.
You see, what Jesus was trying to get the Pharisees and the Sadducees to understand was that the will of God was more important than the antiseptic interpretation of the Law of Moses. They were apparently more interested in being right than in being moral. “Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” Over and over again, throughout the New Testament, Christ lets us know he is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the embodiment of God’s Word. He is the point; not the rule. The point of the law, any law, is to protect the innocent, punish the guilty and thereby preserve the social and political order of man. Technicality or not, the law was never intended to let a murderer go free.
The point of God’s Word is that Jesus indeed is his son, raised from the dead, who died for our original sin and through whom we obtain everlasting life. Out of love and compassion for our fellow man, out of service in his name, out of honoring him, will we also fulfill our purpose here on Earth? Law or no law, the Word of God was never intended to punish the pure of heart when acting on behalf of the Almighty. So Jesus was constantly at odds with religious scholars of his day about the literal interpretation of Scripture (the Law of Moses) versus daily activity in the service of the Lord. Hence, his parables were constantly illustrating to those who would listen that yes, you might be right, but according to the will of God, what’s your point?
Do you know people who just have to be right all the time? Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, their need to be right and have you acknowledge their ‘rightness’ supersedes all logic, common sense and purpose. Can’t you just hear Jesus imploring the traditionalists with, “Okay already! Technically, you’re right. I shouldn’t be healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, feeding the hungry or teaching the Gospel on the Sabbath. But what are you arguing about? I’m merely doing my daddy’s will. It seems you’re more interested in being right than in bringing the righteous closer to God. So what are you gonna do; crucify me? PLEASE!”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is just like it. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37–40. It sounds simple enough. But watch your back if you choose to live by these principles. Yes, please play by the rules, by all means. But don’t ever forget the point. Remember, Christ said it best. Some rules are meant to be broken.
May God bless and keep you always.
Steeped in a rich history of ministry, Beulah Baptist Church celebrated its 107th anniversary Sunday, Nov. 11. The pews were filled with faithful members and residents of the community who joined them during their anniversary service.
In 1905 a small prayer band decided to form a church, which they named Calvary, in the Eastwick section of the city. The congregation eventually outgrew its building, and with a new home, Calvary became Beulah, which means “The land of peace”.
The church has longevity and many of its members have worshiped there for decades.
Donald Foxworth began attending Beulah with his mother and father in 1940 and remains a member of the church in which he has worshiped for 65 years. Both of his parents were active members.
“It was six of us in the family, five boys and one girl, and we all served at Beulah. In our younger days we had served on the young adult choir, and I was a member of the ensemble for over 30 years, and was a trustee,” he said.
It was the people who kept him returning to the church.
“The church was originated in the Eastwick and Elmwood section and later we moved to West Philadelphia at 50th and Spruce, but it’s a more family -oriented church,” said Foxworth.
From its early origins, the church has been family-friendly, and its members have developed a close family bond, which remains to this day. Foxworth has lived through four previous pastors and recalled the days when his father, Costello Foxworth, Sr., served as the first Scoutmaster for the Boy Scout troop hosted by the church at the time.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. We’ve got more young adults involved in the church, and the church has grown from where we came,” said Foxworth who said it was a privilege to have been a member of the church for so long.
Another longtime member of the church, Leota Watson Thompson, 88, joined at age 10 and has been a member ever since.
“A bunch of us little kids joined the church, and I’m 88 now,” she said.
“I have seen so many changes, and almost left my church, but I said, ‘No, I’m going to stay and see what the end brings’,” said Thompson, who recalled the leadership of a former pastor, the Rev. Timothy Ruffin, who instituted new rules and procedures for the church.
“He was good,” said Thompson with a laugh.
Ruffin instituted a new rule that required newcomers to attend a new members’ class and made other changes for congregants to adhere to.
“When he came to Beulah, he straightened it out,” said Thompson. “He had strict rules, and strict rules are good and they didn’t want to abide by them, and I said, ‘Uh, uh. I’m not leaving my church.”
Ruffin also could speak for hours at a time, said Thompson.
“My husband was outdone, he would say, ‘You mean Rev. Ruffin kept y’all at the church all that time?’ And I would say ‘Yes, and he was good!’,” said Thompson who said with a laugh that even Ruffin’s concluding remarks took two or three hours. It was Ruffin who expanded the church at 50th and Spruce streets. Adjacent property was purchased and an annex to the sanctuary created where the members now have services and which can accommodate the growing membership.
Pastor William Henley has served in that role since 1999. He said he was 35 when he first walked into the church.
“I came in right before my conversion. I heard some preaching, not knowing what was going on at that time and the Lord was working on me at the time,” he said. After visiting the church, he gave his life to Christ and has been a member since that time.
“I came to Beulah Baptist Church in 1979 under the late pastor, Rev. Timothy E. Ruffin. I grew up there, I served there, I became an associate pastor and was ordained there,” said Henley.
Henley looked back on the days when he first attended Beulah and said that he first went to the church along with some of his young friends. His sister also attended and was an active member of the choir.
“So when I joined, not too long after that, some members of my family began to join. My mother, three of my sisters, my aunt, a cousin, that’s how some of the family became members also,” said Henley.
“Besides the longevity, they kind of remain and bonded together as family,” he said when asked about the church’s longstanding members. “Even when they transported to this area, they remained a family unit which kind of stayed together, and that brought a kind of stabilization and a commitment to serving God.”
Asked what he thought was the highlight of his days as a member of Beulah, Henley recalled his trip to Nigeria as a missionary during which he took his wife and one of his sons. The second was the burning of the church’s mortgage.
“We had a drive and a push where we were able to burn the mortgage. When the church could come together and do something like that, it just shows the support there,” said Henley.
He described the church as a missionary-intensive one which has a desire to reach out to the community.
“That’s what we would like to be and see ourselves as,” he said. “We want to engage the community and show our compassion in practical ways, showing that it is a church about them and their families.”
The church, says Henley, would like to be a part of the community and to have the community become a part of it.
Asked why members of the community would want to visit Beulah, he said the church’s unashamed worship of God through his son Jesus Christ makes it the ideal place to attend.
“We do not try to get people to think that we are other than what we portray ourselves to be. We are not the best church around, but we seek to live the way the Bible says, and to also be open so that we are not an isolated institution in the community.”
A while back, I remember referring to everything in this world as being temporary. It was in response to a minister answering someone’s query about life, to be told, all of this is a “temporary gig” anyway. As believers, life in the physical world is supposed to be temporary. Life eternal is what faith tells us is permanent.
That being the case, the subject of temporary surfaced again recently and I thought the reality of spiritual permanence was worthy of putting in this column. The Bible is full of Scripture and verse that remind us of just how fleeting physical life really is. There is the Biblical truth that Jesus conquered death and thereby salvaged my soul and secured immortality for me and anyone else who acknowledges him as Lord.
Now this temporary thing I’m talking about comes into play as we look around and seek to attach permanence to people, things, relationships, status and so forth; all of which we’ve been told will surely fade away. And when it or they do go away, all we’ll be left with is the reality of God and our relationship to him. That is, was and will always be a permanent situation; the only cast-in-concrete thing you can count on. That means everything we hold dear, every person who means anything to us, all material things we acquire and happenings that exalt us are but gifts and blessings from God, to be acknowledged as such with the proper (gr)atitude and appreciation.
When you think about it, everything and everyone, even existence itself, is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation to God for our being the recipients of his grace. Now think about that. Your child is a momentary gift; so are your mother, your job, your car, your bank account, your house or apartment. All of these things are fleeting gifts to savor while we have them. I’m reminded of those who we know are dying. We get a chance to acknowledge their pending death and hopefully, prepare accordingly. What if you or I treated all life in the same manner? What if we looked upon it all as the gift it really is; a gift of love from the Almighty? After all, life is essentially a gift in and of itself. Someone gave it to us out of sheer love. It’s because of that supreme kind of love that we rightfully and humbly should say thank you to its giver.
Do you remember when someone gave you something you really didn’t expect, didn’t really deserve, but you truly appreciated? Do you recall how you felt toward that person who really didn’t have to give or share or love you as much as the gift indicated? Now think about all of the gifts from God, particularly time, and look at it from the perspective that these gifts of love and life are but indicators of the tremendous love God has for you. All I’m suggesting is that permanent appreciation is the only appropriate response, particularly since you know beforehand that these gifts will not be here forever because you will not be here forever. But your relationship to God will be. It is the one permanent thing that you know will be here forever. Think about it while you still have time and please, as a result, act accordingly. What’s the saying / Tomorrow is not promised.
May God bless and keep you always.
I cannot begin to share with you how wonderful God has been to me. He has richly blessed me. As I reflect over my life, I am truly amazed how far God has brought me. It is out of that spirit of gratitude that I have been inspired to author a book I am entitling, “It’s Not Where You Start, But Where You Finish.” This book is really not about me, but more importantly, about how God has granted me his favor. With the help of my chief of staff, I plan to take the next year and a half to recount my journey from early childhood to the present time, displaying the magnificent power of God.
I am deeply indebted to Robert Bogle, CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, for allowing me to write this monthly column. In several of my columns I expressed some of the pain in my life as the result of coming from a broken family. I have come to realize more than ever the importance of one putting his faith in God, no matter the family circumstance. It is out of some of those experiences that I have a deeper appreciation for the word of God. Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” I must admit I have heard this Scripture many times; in fact, I have even preached it. It became clear to me as I trace and track God over my days as a youth that I am not alone, for there are some things that happen in our lives that are far from good. It is amazing how God can take some of those bad things and turn them into blessings. I plan to share in this book the pain of seeing my father beat my mother; he abandoned us, thus leaving my mother, with the help of my grandmother, to raise me and my two sisters.
Now, I look back and see how God has placed persons in my life, like the late John F. White Sr., who became a strong role model in my early teens; and the Rev. Dr. Albert F. Campbell, pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, who believed in me when I did not believe in myself, to license and ordain me at Mt. Carmel under his leadership. I went back to school to finish my education and attended college. It is my fervent prayer that this book will inspire others to understand that “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.”
I am in a wonderful season in my life, with blessings still unfolding, and I owe it all to God. I do not plan to leave out any of the pain and shame of my early years, nor do I plan to leave out any of God’s blessings. I have come to realize, as the songwriter said, “My good days outweigh my bad days, and I will not complain.” I know full well that the same God who has blessed me is able to bless others. There are so many African-American youths who have given up on themselves. They feel life has no value, even at an early age. Perhaps that is why we see so much violence in our communities. Many of them have no hope, dreams or aspirations. One of the greatest tragedies in life is to wake up every day and not have anything to look forward to. This book will show how God can take you out of the valley of despair to the mountain of hope, and turn grief into joy.
Every page of the book will have words that will flow from my heart to your heart. It is God, and he alone, who deserves the glory for all he’s done and for all he will do. Blessings are still unfolding, and I look forward to new blessings each day, for I know that morning by morning new mercies I see. Don’t dwell on your past, look to your future. It may be repetitious, but it is true, “It’s Not Where You Start, But Where You Finish.”
Rev. Charles Quann is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
As I write this article, I pray you will feel my passion and commitment for social justice. The Black church has always been at the forefront of human rights. Unfortunately, in far too many cases we have become so preoccupied with praise and prosperity, and we have forgotten our commitment to help the least, the lost and the lonely.
Our political system has turned its back on the poor and the underserved, and to make matters worse, far too many African Americans have disconnected themselves from voting. We suffer from amnesia and forget the countless people who lost their lives for the right to vote. When a candidate who aspires to be president speaks negatively about the poor, it should anger us. There is such a thing as righteous anger — Jesus himself became angry at the way people were treated with little or no respect. In fact, it was the religious and political leaders who sought to have Him killed.
We need healing in our land, and we need activist for social justice. We cannot afford not to vote. Our Pennsylvania primary is on Tuesday, April 24, and we need every able person to vote. It is one thing for us to pray for our president, but it is another for us to support and vote for our president. President Barack Obama has suffered insults, accusations and disrespect. The church must speak out and urge members of our congregations and communities to take a stand for what is right and honorable before God.
We just celebrated Black History Month. Do you remember the Black church being the heart of voter registration, civil rights and almost every other humanitarian effort? Take a look at the cuts proposed in our state and in our country. They will have damaging effects upon us as a people. We cannot be silent
There is a portion of scripture that clearly speaks to us about what we must do. Second Chronicles 7:14 reads, “If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Prayer is an action word. We pray, we vote, we speak out against injustice, and we ask God to heal our land. The divide in our country is getting wider, between the haves and the have-nots. We hardly hear about the poor, unless it is something negative; we just focus on the middle class and the rich. Let’s not kid ourselves, the middle class is closer to being poor than they are to being rich.
As an African-American pastor, I am grateful to God that I have been blessed to see President Barack Obama in the White House, and I am going to do all I can to help him serve a second term. We have no choice; look at the alternatives. No he is not perfect; only God is, but he does bring to this high office hope, change, a heart for people, and a commitment to build a stronger America and world.
We pride ourselves as being part of the Black church; why not exhibit that pride by seeking a call for social reform of good will for all people, and to be advocates for those who are oppressed? I close with a question: “What would Jesus do?” Would he be silent in the midst of poverty and shame? Would he challenge the political leaders? In fact, would he stand up against religious leaders who care little about justice and equality? I believe with all my heart, when you read the life of Jesus you will find the answer to these questions. Jesus was always on the side of those who were disenfranchised from society.
Let us lift up our voices for justice. In the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
The Rev. Charles W. Quann is the senior pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Penilyn, and Spring House, Pa.
Let me not be the one who says this spiritual thing is easy. Staying focused spiritually is difficult in a world hell-bent on taking you out. I mean we live in a world where the evil one is supposed to have some power. Christ even calls the devil the prince of this world in John 12 and 14. This would suggest that evil has some hopefully limited power to function and act against the children of God in this realm.
Now I know we are in a fixed fight and the outcome is already known. Christ defeated the devil via his death on the cross and his resurrection soon thereafter. My point here is that sometimes we can lose sight of the victory which is certainly ours when, as they say, all hell is breaking loose around us.
Personally I am challenged when the world becomes such an enticing place that seems to leave no room for meditation, prayer, worship and simple appreciation of the many blessings that are showered upon me by him who loves me like no other. One of the things I have come to appreciate about this walk of mine is that the Lord has shown me those areas of my life where I’m the most vulnerable to attack. Rather than run from or deny them, I know I have to embrace them in order to fully understand and overcome them. It’s sort of like knowing what you’re praying for. I cannot claim ignorance of that which I know so well could destroy me. I have to acknowledge that when I’m confused, tempted or just plain lost, I have to make a deliberate effort to reconnect to the body of Christ. I mean, one of the reasons I stayed out of church was because I felt it was full of hypocrites, to say the least, from the pulpit on down to the pews. There was no need for me to gather at the church house, or so I thought. The irony is the devil defeated me by giving me the ammunition I needed to think I was out of God’s eyesight. The trick of the devil had me thinking I had all the answers for my own salvation and therefore did not need the guidance of anyone else.
Fortunately, as I have stated on many occasions, the fight is fixed. All God did one day was have me stumble into church one Sunday after a multi-year sabbatical. The preacher confirmed in my spirit the idiocy of thinking there was or ought to be a perfect church and a perfect congregation. His point was we’ve got to stay connected, i.e. Holy Spirit connected. Christ said the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything He said and did and clarify their meaning to us. So now when I’m stumbling I know I’ve got to consciously and with heaven aforethought, seek first the kingdom. It sounds simple. But when you have a prince plotting your assassination, it’s easy to stray. The devil is a liar, and you are his prize. Remember he knows how much you mean to your father. He’ll do anything to you to hurt the one who created and loves you. So remember this. Whatever your weakness is, name it and claim it in the name of the Lord. I promise you, he will do the rest.
May God bless and keep you always.