There is a difference between Black theology and the theology of Blackness. The theology of Blackness starts with the theory of the origin of life and that all life started in Africa, and that all life started in the cradle of blackness. Africans are the parents of humanity. Children left the continent birth –place, and their parents, and walked through the far corners of the world over a period of thousands of years. Environmental changes resulted in the differences in skin color, eye color and hair texture. Life styles, character development and response to environmental factors account for the diversity in cultures, and a common thread of family and community links all mankind. The soul of Blackness was brought to the new world to help give birth to a new area in human achievement. America is God’s newest experiment on earth, and without the African presence in this part of the world, there would be no America but an extension of Europe reaching into new areas. The dominance of the white man’s rule over the world has lasted for only 400 years, a short period in the time span of earth’s existence, and as that dominance comes to an end, it will be the African who will again give birth to a new man.

Leadership Challenges in Theologies In Transition, a Study in  The College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources, and The Historical Black St. Marks United Methodist Church

The story of the birth and struggle of the Black experience and achievement in America inspires movements all over the world to change the power structure whereby the minority controls the lives of the majority through education and religious manipulation. The power of the minority to control the majority was a masterful piece of work, which has lasted for over hundreds of years, and it was done through mind control. The ability to convince the peoples of the world that they were inferior, and that a superior group selected by the “white” God on high, had chosen the ruling class to lead them out of their darkness. The wave of the future is in the appreciation of blackness, as the peoples of color of the world change the dynamics and the power structure gripping the world and releases the songs of billions of oppressed people ready to create the music of freedom. Researchers seeking to find the truth behind who are these people brought to a continent and destined to change the world; are turning to archives on the study of the black experience in America. Volumes of that research can be found in the Schomburg Center for the study of African Americans, located in the middle of central Harlem in New York City. Millions more pieces of research located in the National Archives in Washington D.C. are also in the research process. This study is often hampered by the surrounding culture whose belief systems are influenced by the media and a slanted and often untrue education system. Heroes and rules must be created in the minds of people if they are going to be effective and Hollywood and our public education system created our white heroes and our blacked oppressed. In spite of these fictional and altered historical events, some how the theology of blackness took root in the souls of black folks and the oppressed.

The oppressed of southern Europe immigrated to America and created an entertainment industry born out of that oppression and viewing the stories of another oppressed people through their own eyes and realities. Much of the information is incorrect and provides an historical and cultural account of peoples of color living in the new world. They wrote scripts based on their own life stories and their limited exposure to the ruling class. Black Americans showed up in Hollywood scripts as a backwards inferior group doomed by an oppression, making it impossible to achieve any level of competence and greatness. America and the world learned about Black people through the entertainment media rather those personal or historical interactions of an invisible people. The tragedies of pre World War 2 Europe, which included a body of information designed to prove to a ruling class that an oppressed people were not worthy of living. Millions died as the results of this hatred of one man for another based on cultural and religious differences. Those who escaped the terror of Europe came to America in search for freedom, and bring with them the seeds of confusion and a design of how to educate groups into submission and inferiority. The Silent movie, the Birth of a Nation became the story of a people of color, and the Alex Huxley’s series of Roots on National Television became the anthropological research on black people, their origin and potential. Oppression and the oppressed were given a face and the face was given a color and the results were that Hollywood enables racism to be spread all over the world. It was all a movie and a lie, and it did more to hurt the image of the Black man in America, than 200 years of slavery.

The theology of blackness uses the Bible formatted on the Abrahamic scripture with a change in cast, characters and script. Abraham has color, and he is headed for Egypt, the capital of blackness and it not only saves his life, but represents a profound change in who the represents the chosen peoples of God. The story focuses on Ishmael, the son cast out into a wilderness to die, but lives to build great nations of the unwanted and the oppressed. The American Ishmael story covers about 400 years and tells the story of a people leaving slavery and wandering through the wilderness of the post Civil War period through the continual struggle to become true to core of American values. Moses for Black people is understood through the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Our spiritual prophets are Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas and Marcus Garvey. Our apostles are embodiment of Fannie Lu Hammer, Medgar Evers and Harriet Tubman. Our heroes are Ophra Winfrey and Maya Angelou. Our historical angels are Robert Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, The Quakers, our Catholic and Jewish brothers, who marched with us into battle, and shared our punishment in America’s prisons, and in some cases, shared the sting of death in a final resting place.

As Black Christians were thrown to the lions, but angels had removed the teeth and claws of those lions giving a chance to fight animal to animal and survive. Our Jesus did not get nailed to a cross, but many sacred men became the fruit swinging from trees grown in Christian yards. Moses used liberation theology in his role of delivering the Hebrew people out from the land of Egypt. Egypt symbolizes a state of living where people are oppressed and submit to that oppression in the belief that they are helpless to do anything about their conditions. Social scientist and social workers come to help them to understand the oppression and the helpless of their situations and to provide them with spiritual talk to help them accept an impossible situation with grace. God in His hidden wisdom, place us in conditions under the Great Britain system, which although believed in conquering the world, and benefiting from their resources, believed in education and leaving her subjects with the tools of the oppressor enabling them to excel. Fascism as a system of rule would have used a final solution as a means to handle a people who many considered inferior. Today most of Great Britain’s subjects are free, thrust into the 21st century acting and speaking like little Englishmen, but ready and able to hold their own as members of the round table designing the future. Would India be a world player if her conqueror had been Germany instead of Great Britain? Would non-violence have worked with Fascism? We are the results of a British North American colonial system, designed to control, sustain but educate, and our former owners knew that if they destroyed God’s people, they themselves would be destroyed. Therefore, they put in a two- tiered educational system, one for the rulers, and one for those destined to be ruled. Those who were ruled, if they paid attention, learned both systems and were able to move freely between both systems. The Bible was the major rule book used to give the rulers the courage to rule, and the subjects the guidelines and the rationale for accepting their conditions.

Black theology is the exact opposite of Christian theology. Christianity as practiced in European culture provides a framework for the minority to rule the majority. Christianity made it possible for Rome to rule the world. Christianity made it possible for Great Britain to rule the world, and conquer continents, transporting millions of its citizens all over the world, without a major military battle. The Bible was more powerful than the sword, and with careful use it subdue whole continents into submission enabling the conqueror the exploit the wealth in human resources and earth resources with courage and entitlement. With the use of a white Jesus and a large image of a white God pointing a finger at a large white man in the Sistine Chapel. Christianity has provided the means by which, the weak were able to conquered the strong. Fist it was necessary to teach the strong to believe and say I am weak and helpless; second you must place into the minds and heart of a people the sense of delayed gratification, and convince them to give up willingly any right to earth’s resources, and instead wait for post death rewards of the after life. Third and most important it was necessary to whiten the Christian Mythology Theology system. God had to be white, Adam and Eve had to be white, Noah and his family had to be white, Abraham had to be white almost avoiding his slip up with the Egyptian woman. Hollywood comes along later and makes Egypt white. Historians and mapmakers had long placed this country outside of the African continent to dilute any color suggestion. We get a white Cleopatra and white pharos and a mental theology of the rightness of white and the wrongness and weakness of Black. Satan was portrayed as either black or red and a source of all that is forbidden and evil.   Jesus, the Messiah of the white man had to be white, White people were given the earth and life, and black people were given heaven and a spiritual life of salvation. The earth was described as the devils playground, and any and all pleasures of the earth was under the rule of the boogieman referred to as Black Satan.

With black people praying to a white Jesus and carrying around a white plastic Jesus, and having a white bleeding Jesus hanging around their necks, the task of rescuing them out of Egypt was going to be difficult. It is possible to see the role the Black Church had to play in order to rescue a people from their own religion, which was designed to keep them in bondage. Enter the role of the Black Church, Black Theology and Liberation Theology. White society was not going to give up its prize easily. White Christians did not like the idea of Black Christians attending their churches. Those who did believe in Heaven were not too happy about sharing their eternal resting places with those who they were taught to believe were not made in God’s image and were in fact God’s pity and mercy people, who out of the kindness of his heart permitted them to gather the crumbs from his table.

The role of the Black Church and Black theology, was to present the truth to a confused people, open the eyes of an emotionally blind people, help the cripple emotionally helpless to stand on their own two feet and walk, and bring back to life a dead Lazarus. Jesus is the Moses for Black people, and in order that the message is received for those for whom it is intended, His words are coded and spoken in parables. An oppressed people cannot go up against the oppressor with physical strength. The oppressor has used mental conditioning to get the subject to willingly accept oppression without revolt or violence. The oppressor has convinced the oppressed that it is the will of God for them to be oppressed, and that they must be obedient to God’s will and the messenger of his will. Jesus come in and says the He is the way the truth and the life, and no man can reach the father without going through the truth. The Black theology had the daunting task of providing that truth but providing in coded form so that it would not be blocked out from the ears and heart of those intended for the message. There were many in the Christian church who had the role of Judas, and to turn in all those who tried to teach a different theology. Many ministers had to leave main line churches and denominations and open up their own independent churches. Mainline churches are usually owned and operated with a European format and Litigury, and control what can and cannot be said in institutions bearing a corporation name. The Black church, in America, became a separate society within a society, and can be credited with the development of the wealthiest most educated peoples of color on earth. They did not change the color of Jesus or any of the main characters, they focused on decoding the Bible and the parables spoken by Jesus, and made them relevant to people’s lives and human conditions. Jesus walked in the gardens of our hearts, and stepped out on the waters of obstacles and adversities and conquered forces in the environment sent to defeat him. He demonstrated to an oppressed people how to endure the death of their old life of mental and physical oppression and resurrect into the Easter of a new day.

Black Church, a major institution in the lives of the Black people, provided the social, educational, intellectual and moral service needs of the community. Men played significant leadership roles in the church, and were considered role models for the community. The women were the pathfinders, guides, head and heart of these institutions often taking the back and powerful role of overseer of the operation. Men were placed and supported in the leadership positions of these churches, and the clear lines between power and leadership were played outside the view of the general public. In public religious education classes young people received academic support through Sunday school classes and After School centers operated through the churches. If a child way falling behind academically in public school, this was corrected in the religious support system provided by the church. The Bible was an excellent book for teaching language arts, and analysis and discussions of the many Biblical stories, provided opportunities for you people to sharpen their problem solving skills.

Political decisions, economic decision, relational decisions and education decisions were sanctioned and formulated in these sacred locations. Men and women of outstanding intellectual ability were elevated to positions of leadership in the church. The Black Church operated its own teacher training academies; where men and women learned the skills of organizational development, classroom management skills, lesson planning and instructional delivery. Churches operated their own after school programs, Sunday school programs, adult Bible study classes and Seminaries Black Christianity was also different from traditional Christianity. Black people viewed Jesus as a living Savior, guide counselor and friend. It was he who made it possible to endure difficult circumstances in the personal realm and the political realm of society. Black Christians did not develop an anger or rage against the oppressors of the Christian community, who went to church on Sundays, and some wore white sheets on Monday to attend rallies planning violence and even deaths of individuals.

The Black Church prevented the development of emotional and mental victim personalities as the results of individuals in the outer society placing obstacles in the pathway of progress for countless men and women of color. Jesus was a God of love, and the Black Church and Black Christianity taught people how to truly love the enemy and not permit the sins of the enemy to become their sins.

Men were encouraged to study and become preachers, and women were encouraged to study and become teachers. These preachers would hold the family of God together while they endured the trials of living in a hostile environment. The teachers would dedicate themselves to the task of educating the children so that they would be prepared for a world of the future free of oppression. Teachers were believers of a better world and a better future here on earth.

Black Christianity focused on the quality of life on God’s earthly plane, while at the same time helping Christians to understand that there was life after life, with God in the heavenly realm. The Black Church and Black Christianity had the most effective anti depression and anti neurotic program in the country. Black Christians learned that the attitudes of the behaviors of other Christians, were not their concern, and they had to work out their own soul salvation.

Black Christians learned how to avoid the psychotic behaviors of other Christians who were determined to destroy them in mind, body and spirit. There was a spiritual separation of the two groups and a separation of theologies presented in the churches. Black Christians learned a Black theology, and a theology of liberation.

Fighting An Education System Designed to Create The Superior And The Inferior Class.

The Black Church played a major role in transforming the message of white society into a positive one for black society. I was not alone in that role. The school system in the country as hard as it tried to provide an inferior education to some sections of the population was a major force in helping Black people to not only prepare to leave the Egypt of their oppression, but to be prepared with the gifts and talents provided by Egypt in order that they would be able to survive in the wilderness, in the event they decided to leave the area and start out on their own. Black parents made it possible for their children to sit in the middle of white children so that what ever the teacher was teaching they would be exposed to the same body of information. The had to teach some of the children how to shut up listen and learn, because the knowledge they were receiving was not intended for them, but they were going to get it anyway. Students struggling in educational systems, which did not want them, and which made every opportunity to shut them down, referred them for counseling or special services, or just frustrate them until they just left. Most stayed, endured and learned. The cost of trying to use injustice on a segment of God’s people enacted a great toll on teachers. Many became unaware of the reasons for their despair and frustrations as they slowly burned out of a system set up to restrict and prevent the movement of a smart people. Scientific data was complied to convince teachers, parents and students that the Black student was incapable of learning. The result was that the student remained to fight for his rights, and the teacher left. This burnout of a significant percentage of teachers was noted by the Black Church, and researchers blamed parents and students for the teacher’s ability to remain in an unjust system.

 

The College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources, A Catholic College

       One of my first assignments as an instructor was to take the good news to the people. The people were adults some who had gone through traumatic events in their lives and some were seeking an opportunity to complete a college education interrupted by family responsibilities. Some were seeking new directions in their lives, but did not know how to start. The College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources a Catholic Institution decided in the 1970’s, that it wanted to bring the opportunity to attend college to a different population. This old presitigous institutions with over one hundred years of serving the privilege Catholic families of America decided to take on a new challenge and open up this successful education experience to a wider range of students. The New Rochelle campus sits on the beautiful grounds of upstate New York, decided to expand into the down state urban areas. The decision was made to take the college to the student population. The College lived out its missions by intentionally going to the masses with the good news about the chance for resurrection in the fullness of God’s promise. The instructors were commissioned to take the news of this opportunity for a new life out into the streets.

Flyers were made up and placed in supermarkets, hospitals, welfare agencies and local churches, inviting and encouraging people to come to local community centers and learn about this opportunity. The flyers invited individuals who had not completed high school to come and learn how to get their GED and at the same time earn college credit. It invited mothers who had put their education on hold to care for families to come and expand their own emotional and cognitive growth. This was a second chance for some to work to enter the American dream. They came by the thousands, and today, The College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources is the standard bearer of what a qualitative adult education program can be. It became the major reentry program in the country, encouraging, inspiring and leading God’s people out of a wilderness of dispair into the kingdom of heaven within and without. This was spiritual transformation working and demonstrated in the lives of thousands of Americans. Miracles began to happen as Americans were able to change financial conditions through changing their lives and earning college degrees. The college found ways of developing degree plans and class schedules, which met the needs of a stressed out population. It invited men returning from problematic life situations to come and hear about this new program. The college did not focus on the pass or spend time analysizing the injustices of the society, instead the college focused on preparing student for the exciting future they would meet spiritually and financially. God had already prepared a place for the student in His/Her kingdom, the feast had been prepared and waited on the arrival of the guest. The college of New Rochelle made sure the student was ready to take a seat at the success table

The response was overwhelming. Adults from all walks and conditions in life began to seek information about this new program. The school hired additional instructors to work with the people and their needs.

As instructors, we were told that we were hired for our spiritual skills, academic credentials, and our ability to work with people. We were told that our classroom would be located the the various communities where the students had expressed the greatest interest. My assignment was located in a hospital in the Bronx. We were told we had to provide our own resources and materials.My first class had twenty three students. I noticed that several of the student were working to handle drug and alcohol challenges. These students also shared their challenges with me. We gave the spiritual challenges to God and the students stepped out and worked to make the impossible possible. The students were all ready to make major changes in their lives, and I was glad that God had placed me in that time and in that place as an instrument to bring forth a new people. The students have since graduated and gone on to successful careers.The opportunity to witness the spiritual and physical transformation in the lives of so many students reaffirmed my belief that with God all things are possible.

I was given the responsibility of teaching one of the core courses in the college. This course provided an overview of the liberal arts program, and introduced the students to some of the course work they would be taking over the next four years. The strength of the program was the title of the seminar, Experience, Learning and Identity. Students learned how to use their life experiences as topics for weekly essays. They learned the sophisticated skills of college research and writing, and began to appreciate the value of their life experiences. They research the life stories found in the classics, and made comparative studies. Important to this process was the student learning a new way of thinking and making choices in life. The identity part of the course was the discovery of their relationship with God. They learned that God was in the process of the challenge and changes they were going through. Change was taking place so quickly, that no one noticed that the addiction challenges that some students came in with were placed on the back burner as the reached for their higher selves and found their God, and their direction in life.

Day after day, week after week years after year miracles were happening. Realities were changing, and God’s work was being done. The role was helping the blind to see their endless possibilities, helping the lame to get up and walk tall into a new life and promising future. As instructors we helped students to know themselves and know their God. Through encouraging individuals to reach for their highest potentials, is was possible to see spiritual and physical transformations take place. In one class I brought my cap and gown from Columbia University, and had each student put on the gown and walk across the fron of the clasroom. They were encouraged to visualize themselves walking in the College of New Rochell’s graduation cheered on by family and friends. I had the opportunity of seeing many take that walk into a successful new life. I had the privilege of witnessing a woman kick a drug habit without the need of rehab, God was the counselor, and the classroom was the spiritual center where these miracles took place. Over the years, major educational facilities were built all over the city of New York. I moved out of the field, and on to the main campus. My ministry continues in the surrounding of beautiful trees, state of the art library and media centers. Lives are still being changed, the challenges are seen in different groups of students, but I know, with the help of God I can show the lost the way back to the purpose of God. Spirituality is the process of using the Holy Spirit to help make the fruit of the spirit a part of life and relationship with all people. Kindness, lov, joy, peace patience as a focus of all human interactions involves the spirit. Spiritual teaching is teaching that involves the issues of the heart. The process of sharing the self with others, and respecting the wholeness and truth of others as revealed through God. What is Spiritual Intervention?Spiritual intervention is the process of bring individuals back to the reality of their truth in existence. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is perfection, and as His image we are also perfection. What ever takes us away from that truth must be denied and we step back into our place of wholeness.The College of New Rochelle encouraged its faculty to be spiritual instructors. The presence of God was in all instructions and interactions. What enabled success in the School of New Resources[1] involved helping students through mental imaging and meditation to learn to control their thought. Students learned that “Thought are things,” and, whatever thought, positive or negative and individual permits in the mind, take different forms in reality. Students learned how to plant thoughts of success in their minds, and to deny information placed by and through others to control their lives. Student saw themselves as successful in the academic process. The we also encouraged to avoid information and individuals designed to encourage negative thoughts.In some situations students decided to disconnect fromsituations, belief systems and relationships deemed to have a negative effect on their chosen goals.

The theology section of the Experience, Learning and Identity course,[2] helped students to use the Bible as a guide through life and events. Education had the power to change lives, and major changes occurred in classrooms all over the city.

This was an adult education program designed for the working people. Faculty were incourage to work with the students and expect success. Students who entered with out college degrees, could register for classes, and upon the completion of 24 credits with passing grades, they would receive their GED and twenty four credits towards their degree.The College of New Rochelle[3] also had an excellent teacher education program. Most of the teachers graduating from these programs were placed in public school throughout the Westchester NY state area. The spiritual component of the teacher preparation program resulted in high success rates in teacher placement and retention in the New Rochelle New York area. The School of New Resources offered education courses as electives and students were able to include in liberal arts programs education courses required by the State of New York, which satisfied provisional teaching requirements. The School of New Resources did not at the time have education as an area of specialization, and students were informed that it was necessary for them to make their own arrangement with New York State with regards to certification requirements. It did however, offer several education courses, which were instrumental in helping some individuals get their first teaching assignment. As an instructor in several of the teacher education courses, it was possible to review material presented in text books considered incorrect or not favorable for attitudes in working with diverse populations. Students were also taken on several field trips, which gave them an opportunity to correct some of the misconceptions some of them had about different ethnic groups. An anportant field trip was the trip to Ellis Island, which provided students with an opportunity to research the “Peopling of America.” Trips through many cultural diverse neighborhoods provide students with opportunities to discover for themselves, the inter connections of human families.

Unification Theology Seminary

 

Walking into the seminar, it was evident that this was a class, which represented a significant amount of the diversity on this globe we call earth. There were several students from Korea, who identified themselves as South Korean. There were students from China, including a grumpy gentleman, who expressed displeasure with this whole globalization idea. He was a missionary on assignment in Africa, and he was content with working on the “Dark Continent” with all the dark people. There was a student from Italy, the only European in the class, who welcomed the idea, of any improvement of positive relations with the peoples of Gob.

A young student from the South American continent added a dimension of excitement, and focused on the economic directions possible in the global awareness concept. One gentleman, who identified himself as a Caribbean, was discontent about the whole process, and was concerned with the idea that individuals from different nations had the right to impose any idea on anyone. He was especially upset with the history of colony advancement into Third world countries, and suggested that the involvement of any outside concept or people exploited the peoples in the land.

A distinct dislike towards the United States of America was express, whenever possible. There were two students from the United States in the class. One student was a gentleman of German heritage, who indicated that his family had five generation in the country. The other student was identified as an African American of Native American heritage, and could trace back her lineage through slavery and the Native Americans crossing over the Bering Straights from Asia.

The Native American shared a desk with the Caribbean student, and as results, was able to see, hear and observe, comments about the issue of globalization. Asian women in the class, expressed a concern about the family values, which they suggested were not transferring to the next generation, they suggested that families were afraid that the globalization movement would destabilize family and tradition values.

The students brought a rich sampling of the diversity in human thought and expectation. The question of the technology effect on world globalization was met with passion and resistance. The concept of off shoring, outsourcing and an invisible work force, was difficult to get the modern mind around. America’s manufacturing base has been transferred to continents were the human capital is the greatest. America, still holds the edge on invention and creative ideas, but she no longer posses the man power to develop these ideas The cost of living prevents corporations from employing the number of people required to mass produce the goods and services designed to meet the needs and wants of the world.

China, India and Africa, have awaken the desire to have goods and services for pleasure and comfort, in the hearts and minds of billions of potential consumers. America does not have the human capital to produce the changing demands of the world. America has exposed the world to a different life style, and the world is saying yes to a life style, which gives pleasure.

Most societies will not accept the institution of slavery, therefore it is necessary to either encourage people to want to come to the United States to fill that slack in the workforce, or it is necessary to send out the manufacturing to countries with skilled people who are willing to work in the areas of service.

These issues are not usually discussed with the general population in the United States, therefore, when they see large numbers of new peoples coming into the country, they feel as if they are being invaded. Many are unaware that there is a shortage of labors, and the fact that many Americans work more than one job, should suggest that there is an imbalance between employer need and the work in place to meet that need.

Americans believe that they are fighting over scarce resources. This leads to resentment over immigration. Although America is a nation of immigrants, there is the feeling that one individual’s immigration status is different than another person’s status. Ellis Island suggests, that all groups resented the group, which came after them.

It is not obvious to many people that without immigration and the free movement of peoples around the world to this United States, the economy would be in trouble. Immigration is vital to the national and economic security of the country.

The education market would suffer without new people bring their youth, reproductive power and work ethic to the country. The housing market would also suffer if immigrants did not require new housing to meet their changing family needs. The health services would have to close hospitals and health care facilities without a new influx of people.

The immigration of peoples to America has significantly improved the life styles of millions of people in nations serving peoples of color. The immigrant is the new source of financial aid to families and countries. Families working in America send billions of dollars, and sending funds back home. The country benefits from this in sourcing and out sourcing.

Nations send workers in to provide the labor force needed in America, and the labor force, send economic support by into the country, which usually goes directly to the people, and is not diverted by government graft, which is often found when America send aid directly to governments. Parents in challenging countries are able to feed their children and pay school fees. This results in improvement in economic circumstances without major events taking place

This suggests that the globalization of the world is achieved through mass redistribution of human resources throughout the nations of the world

“Migration, the Larger Picture.” America. 198.1 (January 7-14 2008): 5.

Marber, Peter. “From the G8 to the “E8″: Is the Globalization Tide Turning? ” World Policy Journal. 23.3 (Fall 2006): 42-51.

 

 

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church

St. Marks United Methodist Church[i] is located in the center of Harlem. It is over 100 years old and can boast of having a distinguished middle and upper middle class membership in its past. St. Mark’s was a place where it was necessary to have what was considered the “proper” attire. In the Black tradition, that would suggest that you would wear your “Sunday best” when going to church. The church provided after-school programs[ii] during and after the depression.

The members of the congregation consisted of lawyers, doctors, bankers, congressmen and state senators. The choir was famous for the quality of its musicians. Some of the first Black Americans to sing with the Metropolitan Opera Company attended St. Mark’s Church. The members were proud of their church, and were given opportunities of leadership that prepared them to accept responsible positions in the secular world. The church can hold between 1,500 and 2,000 people. Its Gothic structure is similar to City College of the City University of New York, which is located within walking distance.

The Church is located in an section of Harlem considered “Sugar Hill’ – the home to upper middle class population. The church started to lose its population, as more and more members were able to purchase homes in the suburbs and hence moved membership.[iii] The church was not receptive to new members moving into the community devoid of role models and did not reach out to the community. [iv] Eventually many of the programs were discontinued, and today the membership consists of about one hundred people, mainly seniors.

The average age of the congregation is seventy-five years old. Most of these members remember the church the way it used to be, and are reluctant to make any changes. The flight of the middle class and the decline of the public schools serving the Harlem community stripped the Historical Black Churches of its relevance. The Church was the foundational guide and support for African Americans seeking to survive and succeed in the dual society of America. With the decline of   St. Marks – came an erasing of memory of the rites of passage programs, the grand Cotillions presenting young ladies and gentlemen to society and the thirst for excellence in academic pursuits. The remaining member of the church are reluctant to give up precious memories and a post-modern group of young people- and parents- are not interested in stories of high times- when they are struggling to put bread on the table

The Methodist conference, which owns all churches in the United Methodist denomination, has threatened to merge the church with another church, or close the church[v]. Although this would be a regrettable event to the St. Mark’s members, they are content to live in the past and celebrate the accomplishments of the church prior to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Concern about the needs of the post baby boomers were not considered in the best interest.

Thus, St. Mark’s Church is facing the issue of members reluctant to move into the postmodern world. The members live in the past and are unwilling to let the children of the 21st century step on the memories of the 20th century. An individual leading this congregation would need to have to have the skills necessary to help members respect the past while at the same time accepting the reality of the present. The leader should have strong plans for growing the Church and not permit the past to destroy the future. This position requires the strategy of courage. A church without youth and family services is a dying church. The pastor or leader must have the courage to prevent him or herself from participating in the death of a church.

Findings from Interviews

Several members were interviewed concerning this issue:

  • Mr. A is about 80 years old. He is a retired businessman, and contributes significantly to the financial obligations of the church. He considers himself ineffective in committees dominated by women.
  • Mrs. B. is a retired schoolteacher around 75 years of age. She considers herself an important leader in the church. She is reported as being the controlling voice in the church.
  • The Pastor[vi] is a relatively young man in his early 40’s. He is a divorced father of a teen-age son. He was reluctantly assigned to the Harlem congregation. He had been told that it was a difficult congregation with a reputation of being very difficult on pastors.

 

Mr. A, as I will call him, held a prominent position on the Church Council. He was the vice chairman of the Board of Directors.[vii] This was the group that held power second only to the pastor and even had the responsibility of supervising the pastor. All programs were subject to their approval. When questioned why there were no youth ministry programs in the church, his answer was, “There is no space for youth programs.” This was difficult to understand, since eighty percent of the church was unused. The church was equipped with full recreational facilities, including classrooms and a gym, but they were however, no longer in use.

Mrs. B, also a member of the Church Council and the individual responsible for the financial obligations of the church, indicated that she was not going to permit children running up and down ruining property. She was responsible for blocking a computer and an after-school program from coming into the church.

I had several meetings with the pastor concerning the issue of bring some youth centered programs into the church. He liked the idea, and indicated that he was interested in youth programs. He suggested that he was “fearful” about going up against some of the older members in the Church. He further suggested that he was having difficulty helping some members to understand that he was in charge of Church’s activities. He was reluctant to go against these individuals, and was looking forward to the time when he would be leaving the Church and a replacement pastor would be sent in. He lacked the skills and the will to handle issues relating to the inter-generational conflict that was slowly destroying the church.

St. Mark’s suffered from a crisis in leadership.[viii] The older members were not willing to share space with the young, and there was no one around at the time able to help the church move from the past into the future.

Fear of a congregation is not a good indication of leadership. The pastor must take the authoritative role as spiritual leader and demonstrate competence and courage as the shepherd of the flock. St. Marks needs to select a leader who is confident in vision, and understands the challenges of the past, but with the courage to demonstrate to stand firm in the present.

Suggestions on how the church can move forward in the 21st century include:

 

  • Select a minister with a southern African American heritage.[ix] Members tend to relate to individuals that have a history and understanding of the African American experience.[x] This is not the same for all peoples of color. The members do not respond well to pastors with a lack of appreciation for the American survival experience.
  • Select a minister with a leadership style capable of handling the complexities of this congregation.
  • Select a minister with strong family ties. Members are not ready to accept ministers with different sexual orientation, an issue that is currently roiling the United Methodist Church.[xi] The Black Church has still some strong reservations on the question of the sexual orientation of its pastors. The United Methodist Church is not a Black religious organization. St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, although a predominately African American congregation, is nevertheless in the organizational structure and guideline of a White organization.
  • Change the music in the Church to attract a younger audience
  • Rebuild the Sunday School and youth programs
  • Attract and encourage individuals with skills and talents in youth ministry to join the church. The church has an obligation to help the community, not a choice.

 

The Black church, in America, became a separate society within a society, and can be credited with the development of the wealthiest most educated peoples of color on earth. They did not change the color of Jesus or any of the main characters, they focused on decoding the Bible and the parables spoken by Jesus, and made them relevant to people’s lives and human conditions. Jesus walked in the gardens of our hearts, and stepped out on the waters of obstacles and adversities and conquered forces in the environment sent to defeat him. He demonstrated to an oppressed people how to endure the death of their old life of mental and physical oppression and resurrect into the Easter of a new day.

Black Church, a major institution in the lives of the Black people, provided the social, educational, intellectual and moral service needs of the community. Men played significant leadership roles in the church, and were considered role models for the community. The women were the pathfinders, guides, head and heart of these institutions often taking the back and powerful role of overseer of the operation. Men were placed and supported in the leadership positions of these churches, and the clear lines between power and leadership were played outside the view of the general public. In public religious education classes young people received academic support through Sunday school classes and After School centers operated through the churches. If a child way falling behind academically in public school, this was corrected in the religious support system provided by the church. The Bible was an excellent book for teaching language arts, and analysis and discussions of the many Biblical stories, provided opportunities for you people to sharpen their problem solving skills.

Political decisions, economic decision, relational decisions and education decisions were sanctioned and formulated in these sacred locations. Men and women of outstanding intellectual ability were elevated to positions of leadership in the church. The Black Church operated its own teacher training academies; where men and women learned the skills of organizational development, classroom management skills, lesson planning and instructional delivery. Churches operated their own after school programs, Sunday school programs, adult Bible study classes and Seminaries Black Christianity was also different from traditional Christianity. Black people viewed Jesus as a living Savior, guide counselor and friend. It was he who made it possible to endure difficult circumstances in the personal realm and the political realm of society. Black Christians did not develop an anger or rage against the oppressors of the Christian community, who went to church on Sundays, and some wore white sheets on Monday to attend rallies planning violence and even deaths of individuals.

The Black Church prevented the development of emotional and mental victim personalities as the results of individuals in the outer society placing obstacles in the pathway of progress for countless men and women of color. Jesus was a God of love, and the Black Church and Black Christianity taught people how to truly love the enemy and not permit the sins of the enemy to become their sins.

Men were encouraged to study and become preachers, and women were encouraged to study and become teachers. These preachers would hold the family of God together while they endured the trials of living in a hostile environment. The teachers would dedicate themselves to the task of educating the children so that they would be prepared for a world of the future free of oppression. Teachers were believers of a better world and a better future here on earth.

Black Christianity focused on the quality of life on God’s earthly plane, while at the same time helping Christians to understand that there was life after life, with God in the heavenly realm. The Black Church and Black Christianity had the most effective anti depression and anti neurotic program in the country. Black Christians learned that the attitudes of the behaviors of other Christians, were not their concern, and they had to work out their own soul salvation.

Black Christians learned how to avoid the psychotic behaviors of other Christians who were determined to destroy them in mind, body and spirit. There was a spiritual separation of the two groups and a separation of theologies presented in the churches. Black Christians learned a Black theology, and a theology of liberation.

Fighting An Education System Designed to Create The Superior And The Inferior Class.

The Black Church played a major role in transforming the message of white society into a positive one for black society. I was not alone in that role. The school system in the country as hard as it tried to provide an inferior education to some sections of the population was a major force in helping Black people to not only prepare to leave the Egypt of their oppression, but to be prepared with the gifts and talents provided by Egypt in order that they would be able to survive in the wilderness, in the event they decided to leave the area and start out on their own. Black parents made it possible for their children to sit in the middle of white children so that what ever the teacher was teaching they would be exposed to the same body of information. The had to teach some of the children how to shut up listen and learn, because the knowledge they were receiving was not intended for them, but they were going to get it anyway. Students struggling in educational systems, which did not want them, and which made every opportunity to shut them down, referred them for counseling or special services, or just frustrate them until they just left. Most stayed, endured and learned.

 

 

[1] School of New Resources is part of the College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle New York. The School of New Resources has extension campuses located in the five boroughs of New York City. It is considered a college for adults.

[2] Experience, Learning and Identity is a core course taught at the College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources, New Rochelle New York

[3] The College of New Rochelle is located in New Rochelle New York. It is an old traditional Catholic college over 125 years old. It is the sister school to Fordham University

[i] St. Mark’s Church provides an excellent example of the role played by the Black Church in leadership training, managing large organizations, and understanding the complexities of group dynamics.

[ii] These after school programs were responsible for the high academic achievements of students in the African American communities. The church was the academic support service for the schools.

[iii] Some members tried to stay in the community, but there was a significant decline of the academic progress in the public schools, and many parents moved to where their children would have a better chance for an educational opportunity.

 

[iv] The new members moving into the community represented the large influx from the Caribbean and Africa. The Caribbean and African population did not receive a welcome response from the members of the Central Harlem community, and as such found it difficult adjusting to the cultural differences between the African American, Caribbean and the African. The church did make an attempt to bring in Caribbean ministers as assistant pastors, the language and dialect concerns made it difficult for some members to accept.

 

[v] American Methodist churches are generally organized on a connectional model, related but not identical to that used in Britain. Pastors are assigned to congregations by bishops, distinguishing it from presbyterian government. Methodist denominations typically give lay members representation at regional and national meetings (conferences) at which the business of the church is conducted, making it different from episcopal government. This connectional organizational model differs further from the congregational model, for example of Baptist, and Congregationalist Churches, among others” Methodism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methodism.

 

[vi] This pastor has requested a different assignment, and left the church. The church has a new pastor with a different leadership style and different visions for the church.

[vii] One of the major changes in the church is the representation of women in major seats of power. Women served on committees and in supportive positions of worship, they did not however, have controlling power in the operation and management of the church and its programs. Today, most of the individuals in decision-making power in the church are women, and most of the people who block programs and activities are women. The biggest problem newly assigned pastors to the church have, has been, how to solve the women control issue. Men sit quietly in committees and on boards, and let the women make the major decisions.

[viii] The previous pastor wanted to bring in a computer program into the church, and was told by one of the board members that computers were not necessary. This member stated that she used pen and pencils to do all of her work, and did not see the need for computers. Having been a witness to the remark, I was reluctant to press for out reach programs.

[ix] African Americans have a heritage that is different from other groups of color. The survival of the institution of slavery, and the greater oppression of the violence and hatred after slavery forms a common history. African American congregations draw strength from that common history. It is the history of their travels and survival after leaving the Egypt of their bondage. When the pastor touches that thread of connection, the people respond. They are not interested in the stories of other survivals; they want to know if the pastor knows their story.

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