Poetry From The Chest – The Home Of The Heart

              Poetry From The Mind And Heart Of Miss Dee 

You Do Not Know Who People Are- Or What Message They Have To Give.

                                             Finding A New world and a new people 

Distinguished guest from the religious and educational community – It is indeed a privilege to have this opportunity to speak to you this morning. Two months ago, I had the unique opportunity of being selected to go to Korea. I am sure many of you have made several trips to Korea and Israel, but the extent of my life travel was confined the continental United States and the Caribbean. This trip for me was a life growing experience.

I had an opportunity to see God’s work in action through the works of an outstanding visionary man. The decision to bring together educators and religious leaders from the four corners of the world, has of course been done before. The vision however, comes in how you treat these individuals.

We were of course the people who influenced the thoughts and directions of thousands of people. Most people will pass through the wisdom of the educators who prepare individuals to enter the professions of the world. Without the educator there would be ill prepared doctors, lawyers, businessmen, presidents, rulers, congressmen, kings , queens, prime ministers, informed citizen, and yes clergy. Without our religious leaders of the world, man would follow his animal nature, and not the will of God.

We are the people who can and do have a significant effect on the world, and God’s people throughout the world.

Dr. Moon understand this, and his decision with respect to how we treat these individuals who effect the wisdom and spirituality of the world, stand out as a guide for those who are called to be Ambassadors for Peace. He not only assumed the cost of bring people from all over the world, but somewhere the decision was made to demonstrate a taste of the kingdom of God. When you are doing God’s work, you should always give your best. Treat the people of God as if they were royal visitors in the kingdom of God.

Korea was a demonstration of how were should conduct our ministries. When God’s people come into our churches, temples or houses of worship, give them the best that you can. Korea was prepared for us, the red carpet was laid out, and the fatted calf was presented. The message I received was that when you demonstrate that each person can be treated as royalty, you are doing God’s work. We can go back and look at our classrooms, family centers, houses of worship, and ask ourselves, have I prepared this place to receive God’s people.

                       Feedback From A World Cultural Experience

                                       I received an e-mail from a woman I had shared a room with, when we went to Washington D.C. She wrote about how much she enjoyed the trip, and meeting so many exciting people, who were doing the same thing as she was in her small mid western town. She was concerned about one part of the event, and had discussed it with friends who questioned why she attended or became involved with our group. I wrote her back and said, the event was about bringing people together from different parts of the country in order that we could share our work and ideas, and go back into our communities and become more effective leaders. She was from a German Irish background, and I was from a black native American background. We met each other and we became friends. I told her that this was the purpose of the affair.

I told her that sometimes we must learn to see and tell no man. Sometimes if you talk too much about how God is preparing you to do your work, you will receive negative comments from friends and family. Some of Dr. Moon’s work is so visionary, that people will try to find ways to talk against it. The vision is not for everyone, but it does have the power to help millions of people in the world.

She will go home and talk about the black republican college professor she met in Washington, and I can go home and talk about sharing a room with a woman who was voted teacher of the year for her outstanding work. Peace starts in the minds and hearts of people.

In Korea, the seeds of peace were being sowed at gourmet meals, served round the clock. It was interesting to note that Jews, Christians and Muslims, were enjoying the great food and sharing their human stories. Dr. Moon provided an opportunity for us to share our humanity in an environment of elegance and grace

I remember an incident during breakfast of the second, day. I was on the line trying to make a selection from so many wonderful choices. I saw a woman who was several places in the line before me. I remember thinking, that she was a very large woman, and the skirt she was wearing did not cover her very large calves. As is my usual way, I blessed her and her difference became part of me, and it was no longer an interest to be stared at.   That afternoon, I went shopping in town.

Standing at the bus stop was a well dressed man. We started to talk. I learned that he was a High School principal from the Fiji Islands, and he was doing some of the same community work that I was doing back in my hometown. I also learned that he was the person I had seen in the morning in his native attire. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting this Ambassador from the Fiji Islands. I also met a medical doctor from Africa who was an Ambassador of Peace working in aids hospitals. I started talking about the wonderful time I was having studying at UTS, she stated that she would love to come to the US to have the opportunity to study the ministry. I at once put her in touch with the outstanding faculty at the seminary.

Wherever we go in our lives, people are watching us. However we behave in our homes our loved ones are watching us. Whenever we work on our jobs and professions, our coworkers are watching us. What ever we do with the gift and resources that God has provided to us, the world is watching. Each human being is an Ambassador for peace. Peace in our homes and our families, peace in our communities, peace in our state. Peace in our country, and with God’s help peace in our world. I ask God, let my mouth be an instrument of your peace, and let my hands be the tools of your peace. And so it is…God Bless us all, and God bless Dr. Moon as he shares his wealth to make universal peace a reality.

 

 

July 30, 2008

 

 

How effective is kindness in changing human behavior? Can results be achieved without perceived threats of physical discomfort? Will some human beings choose paths of least resistance, or are some people hard wired to choose difficult paths?

 

What part does rearing practices have on the character development of some individuals? How does transformation take place in the lives of some individuals? What part does the concept of being born evil and sinful play in the development of a whole individual? What changes will take place in the Church in order to meet the future needs of Christians?

 

Saint Peter has delayed the role call and dying has been delayed, and as a results some people are finding that they have more time to spend on the earthly sphere before traveling to the heavenly sphere. Pastors , as a results, have to spend less time preparing people for their heavenly life, and more time helping them to live effective lives in the physical form.

 

That awe inspiring picture of men, women and children all dressed in white, and walking up the golden stairs to heaven is no longer the dominant theme in many churches. New and different images must come forth to sustain the people. Images such as men walking out of prison and into the arms of loving friends and relatives; images of men walking into an employment office, and receiving a hand shake, a second chance, and a job that enables him to care for their families. Images such as women walking out of the culture of poverty, and walking with her children in hand, into a life of hope, security, promise and opportunity. Images of men looking on the face of their sleeping wives, and seeing the pure face of God laying beside them, and being filled with the love of the Holy Ghost, so powerful, that tears of joy stream down their cheeks. Images of a market square where people of all races, colors, ethnicity and sexual orientation, shop in their varied colorful garments , which celebrate the diversity of their cultural identities. Images, not of a place where women and children sit on dry crusted red mud, while flies eat at the eyes and tissues of their frozen children, no longer moved by an itch or a sting, but images of children running and playing in fields covered with wheat and grain, watered by the rivers of life redirected to run through towns and villages.

Ministry today requires that we deal with these images of life, and speak to them. Speak to that mother suffering from the pains of relationships and life, and give her the knowledge that God sees and knows the conditions under, which she live, and God is working with her to get through and improve those conditions. Speak to that man who feel helpless when applying for a job, and the computer stops him by bring up past mistakes. Help him when he wants to lash out at an unfair system that has taken human faith, trust and intuition out of the equation, and replace it with technological judgment.

Ministry must do more for him than talk about heaven and a bye and bye later in the sky time of life. Ministry must speak to his right now needs, of dealing with the reality and transforming that reality into Godality.

God starts where reality ends and transforms the impossible to the possible. Man needs solutions to his day to day concerns and problems, he needs a God who is concerned about his earth existence, and who he can trust to make a way out of no way. Man needs to know that somebody or some entity can and has touched the hearts and mind of employers, who turn off the computer, look him in the eye, and say, “ this is your chance. God is giving you a second chance to order your life.”

 

                                           Crime, Prison Ministry, and American Culture.

 

All major ethnics groups in America have made transformation out of poverty through crime. The history of many major corporation in America have a theme of one generation entering into a life of crime so that the next generation can have a life of wealth and progress. Therefore, it is wrong for members of the minority population to place such a heavy burden on young men who have chosen to follow a life of crime for the purpose of accumulating wealth. Religion played a significant role in the lives of these men of crime. They followed their religion and they followed their passion, and those passions resulted in the establishments of corporations, which today support many of the families in America and the world.

 

Trip to China

Delores E. Harris Harrison

Ambassador for Peace NGC United Nations

Woman’s Federation For World Peace

2005

 

China was one of the greatest cultural challenges, which I have experienced in many years. I had completed the traditional research in preparation for the trip. I had research the Hotel accommodation and the weather. I thought I was prepared, but I was wrong.

 

Now, I must admit, as a public school teacher, and college professor, I have been accustomed to teaching history about the world and its populations. I have taught about the accomplishments of the western world, from an American perspective. I am grateful to the Women’s Federation for giving me an opportunity to experience this trip. We as educators cannot change the world until we see the world.

We cannot trust our books or our media. We must go out into the world and find out what is going on, and be prepared to roll up our sleeves and be the hands of God. History is a political arm of government. We must find other methods of studying and knowing the world.

The arrival at the airport in Beijing China gave me some indication that I was not in the back woods. I can only give the American perspective. We are taught that we in America have the most modern and sophisticated system of any and everything in the world. China burst on to my consciousness as an explosion into reality and humility. We were not the greatest, and we were not the only major players in the world.

China is rushing towards modernity at great speed. At the rate she is going, she will take capitalism to a new level. China identifies her political system as a socialist market economy. The words, although different seems to demonstrate capitalism from what I observed.

There were major department stores, specialty shops, and individuals hustling their wares on the streets. I noticed many businessmen talking on cell phones and driving expensive cars. I saw apartment buildings similar to some in Brooklyn or Manhattan. Construction sites were presents all over. Some of the heights of the building could match the mind-boggling heights of many sky scrappers in New York City. As an anthropologist and social scientist, I was interested in the people and their lives. I watched the interaction of the people moving through the streets during the business hours, and also in the evening hours.

We were also afforded an opportunity to see Chinese families at play and social activities. I am also trained to observe, record and analyze information, this was indeed an enjoyable and educational opportunity. We were lucky, the government did not want us to hold meetings, so they kept us busy outside of the hotel.

The Women’s Federation arranged for us to take many tours through out the city and countryside. Several modern buses arrived at the hotel early in the morning ready to whisk us away from any opportunity to interact with the local women. We were however, able to see them in their daily activities. We saw clerks, waitresses, bank tellers, and entertainers.

God intended for us to meet the women, and we met them where they were. I was excited, this was a picture of China that is not included in our schoolbooks. China is a giant, and if we are not prepared to address and respect this giant, China will eat our lunch. One of the greatest enjoyments of the trip was the opportunity to meet the women who were members of the Federation. Women from all over the world came to this special meeting place. They brought their own stories and cultures. The tours were good because it gave us an opportunity to interact with the women of the world in a social manner. W

We shared bus rides and rooms together. It was a powerful gathering of women

We still must be reminded that we as women have to join forces with our sisters in Asia and the rest of the world. We know that women still kill their infant daughters because the life of a female child is considered worthless and too expensive to support.

We know that young girls are forced into arranged marriages, or sold as workers or sex slaves. We know that women are helpless to prevent the spread of Aids because they do not have the power to protect themselves from dangerous sex. We know that in Africa many young girls are forced to submit to genital mutilation. We know that in many places in the world there is much hunger and poverty.

It is possible to eliminate this shame of poverty and oppression of women if we can share the kingdom of God with the women of the world. We are our sister’s keepers and we have the responsibility of knowing their pain and helping them to know that change is possible. We can use the tools of education to help women in the depressed areas of the world release the power and strength within themselves, and know that God sees them as worthy of a new and improved life. God sends his Holy Spirit in the form of women with the Wisdom to change the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Spiritual Formations – Purpose – Process – Product

 

Born Black is either God’s greatest joke on the human family, or the instrument through which She planted the seeds of greatness. Blackness has its own definition of life and rules of survival. Blackness is the core foundation of human beginnings, and from it sprang the diversity of human form and complexities. Black turns into white yellow and brown; black mixes the various adaptations of the human gnome and genetic adaptations to produce a rainbow spectrum identified as homo sapiens. Blackness is the ability to be flexible and adaptable as creatures made in the image and likeness of God fight for their place and purpose in the universe. Blackness is at the center of the human life cycle dynamics where each man serves his time as ruler or slave depending on the time frame, geography and environmental conditions. My awareness in Blackness started in America; here the cycle of who is on top and who is on bottom and the excitement of what happens in the middle made up my human journey to awareness.

My spiritual journey has always been centered on service to others and what could I do to improve the quality and spiritual life of children. My earliest memory of my mother is related to her working in churches, and developing programs for children.

My mother was a music teacher and concert promoter. My brother and I were professional singers from the ages of three and fours years old. By the time I reach the age of twelve, I had already been elected the youngest superintendent of the Sunday school in the Baptist church. I was the lead singer with a group of adult gospel performers, and I was able to conduct a praise and worship service, in place of my mother. My mother earned her living from the performances and skills we had as children. I will admit, that I developed a love hate relationship with music, church, especially small, storefront churches. Today I am uncomfortable with ministers in financially challenged communities, collecting the small coins of women who are desperate for some relief from their pain and suffering, and hope by giving their last, God will provide some hope and release.

My relationship with God was not very clear; this was a relationship defined by my mother and the music performed as church organist and choir director. I remember attending mega tent rallies. It was at these rallies that I learned that ministers depended upon the music and the organist to manipulate the emotions of the people. The preacher could preach the people into the readiness for a good shout, but it was the organist or the music, which gave the shout its beat. The preacher depended upon the organist to capture the rhythm of the heartbeat, and play a set of chords that inspired what was called the “holy dance.” Looking back, I can see, that I was angry with God. We were in the God business and the music business as a means to avoiding poverty.[1] I was on automatic pilot. I could carry out most of the responsibility relating to conducting service, except preaching, and if called upon, I could do that also. This was remarkable because this was before reaching the age of puberty.

Churches had an intimate relationship with children and their families, and some of the ministers played significant roles in our social life. As a child, somehow I thought it was wrong to rob women and widows out of their meager funds. I thought the church should be giving to these women rather than taking from them.[2] This was the beginning of my resentment towards the “storefront churches.”

I did learn that some churches were takers and some churches were involved in helping people to deal with life’s problems. This was the post depression period in America, and the Black church was the leading social service agency in the community. The country met the needs of young people during the twentieth century. Those needs were met through the churches.[3]

The question is, can the children and grandchildren of that generation reconnect with God?[4] Can the church be the vehicle for that reconnect?[5] My spiritual journey has been a lifetime of seeking answers to some of these questions.   Jesus was very concerned about children. The question is how concerned is the church about the children in the community? I find that there are many churches, but many seem to have little effect on the lives of children.[6] Many of these children are from homes where parents and grand parents were brought up in the church. What was it about the experiences with their parents and grand parents that appear to have turned some of them off from church? Are they disappointed in the God of their parents?

The church was the means by which people could handle their life problems and maintain strong mental and emotional health. There were very few, if any, mental health clinics, but there were many small churches in each neighborhood. Reflecting back on that time, called post depression area, there were also few children who could be called “emotionally disturbed.” My first license with the New York City Board of Education was in Special Education. My first assignment was working in the department with children labeled “Emotionally Handicapped.” These children had normal and above normal cognitive ability, they did indicate difficulty accepting day-to-day responsibility. Usually some traumatic event in their lives had caused the development of behavioral skills that made it difficult for them to attend classes with traditional students. This was a difficult assignment requiring patience and sacrifice. The students in the EH classes spend a significant amount of time talking to guidance counselors and school psychologist. In the post depression days, the church handled these responsibilities.

 

The pastor of the churches would focus on scripture relating to hardship encountered by peoples in biblical times. There was always some scripture or biblical story, which could provide some degree of relief from suffering. Children hearing the suffering of their parents presented before the congregation during what was called “testimony,”[7] were careful not to add to the burden of their parents.

They learn to adjust and accept the conditions of their lives. This was also the time when religion focused on the “here-after life” rather than worry about the problems of this world. Oral tradition coming down from slave literature and the experience of slavery, suggests that one of the reasons that slave owners in the British North American colonies were encouraged to teach their slaves Christianity was that it was an effective means of control.

I sometimes wondered if God had something against women. Why were women the ones who were in the churches and the ones who were talking about their suffering? Where were the men, and what God were they serving? My spiritual formation was influenced by these stories, and by the acceptance of some of these women to the conditions of their lives. I separated God from the physical, social and economical environment I found myself living in. I wanted the kingdom in this life, and on this earthly plane. My view of God was that He was not a God of poverty and injustice, and with a change in mental attitude it was possible to achieve more and improved conditions in life.

The advantage of going to church frequently and attending many different denominations is that you hear the word of God over and over again. Somewhere in those repeated words of the bible, the image of God emerges. Not the image of the God of my mother, father or grandparents, but an image of a God who walks in the middle of difficulty, and will see you through to the end. This also was the beginning to my questioning if Christianity was the right religion for Black people. I must admit that I began to read about the different religions of the world and develop a belief system that took the best from all religions and go on this search for an understanding of God.

Somewhere the image of God as the symbol of strength and endurance in the time of hardship comes through. From the perspective of slavery, the slaves were freed from the bondage of the Pharoses of the Americas, and made a mass exodus into the wilderness of freedom. I see God in the events of the past. I see God in the survival of a people who could have been emotionally handicapped by the events of their lives. God held the emotional health of the people, and there were few if any recorded records of mass insanity as the results of the institution of slavery. The stories told in the Black Church has always been about endurance, survival and making a better life. The strength of the Black Church has been its ability to help people remember when they were in bondage, and how they got over that period.

One of the problems experienced by some ministers who seek to work with congregations of diverse ethnic histories is that the stories are not the same. It is difficult for a pastor coming from another culture Caribbean, African and Asian ministers, understand oppression, but they often come from cultures, which expressed their frustrations out in the open. American Christianity did not permit the open expressions of frustration. Therefore, it is difficult for some to understand why they are resented in some Black Churches.

If you were a fighter against injustice it is not easy to emphasize with a culture that accepted the injustice, and released their frustration through unanswered prayers. The presence of some of the ministers is viewed as a condemnation of their survival tactics. The fact that if the Blacks in America had been more violent they would not have survived is lost on this group.

History would have written about them as a glorious people, but a dead people. It is a respect for these differences that are important in ministry to a diverse population. and another history, to relate to how a people see God, and use Him in their worship. Slavery is an important part in the spiritual formation of Black people.

The period after slavery, called the wilderness period or the racism period, is where people put on the armor of God, and began to use the teaching of Jesus in the acts of forgiveness and acceptance. It is through slavery that Christianity is introduced. It is through Christianity that character formation is developed. Without Christianity there could not have been a slavery system. A violent oppressed population would have destroyed the colonies God had to become real to a people who were living face to face with the realities of life. Ministers had their hand full with helping people to accept the idea and fact that they, the slaves and the peoples of color, were indeed the chosen peoples of the earth. It was only with a complete knowledge of scripture that ministers were able to cite chapter and verse in the bible, which related to the conditions of their lives.

The Old Testament demonstrated that, peoples of color, they were not alone in the trials they were going through. The New Testament gave them a personal savior who would carry their burdens and their pain and sorrow. The spiritual formation of any person of color with roots in the Americas centers in and around a personal responsibility and relationship with God and His son Jesus the Christ.

There are many different groups of color in America. Each has a different history and a different spiritual formation. Color is not the uniting factor in spiritual formation it is shared history. The Black American got through as a group. God was a group member. If the Christian church did not have Jesus, the American institute of slavery would have invented him. Christianity and Jesus were taught in a certain way, helped to make the institution of slavery manageable. This is not to say that the religion was not true, but the techniques used to teach it were for economic and social survival than spirituality.

I think Black men more than Black women came to this reality, especially during the period after slavery, when they were the victims of Christian abuse and lynching. There we few if any men in these storefront churches. Many have one man, who was the pastor, and women dragging their well-dressed children. The men would fight the women about attending these churches, and the more the men fought, the more devoted the women were to attending the church.

Some thought it more important to attend the needs of the pastor than to the needs of their husbands and their homes. Christianity as taught to the slaves required a condition of submission, and women were further taught that they must remain in a state of submission in their lives. These storefront churches appeared to play on this need for submission to a powerful force. It was, in some cases, the minister who had assumed the role of the master in the lives of these women. Men were reluctant to adopt a role of submission after centuries of oppression.

The women would pray out their concerns, and lay before the church the hardships of their hearts. Lot of good music, and plenty of food, and the women would give their few coins to the minister, who was usually, the only male in the church. After service my mother would return home to our apartment, which was sparsely furnished by her bi monthly welfare check. She had played the music, which permitted the women to shout and cry out their pain, and she, had shouted many times around the organ, not missing a single beat.

Some how to me this was not God’s house, this was a house of pain and sorrow and the women felt better after releasing their sorrow load. There we few if any men in these storefront churches. Many have one man, who was the pastor, and women dragging their well-dressed children. The men would fight the women about attending these churches, and the more the men fought, the more devoted the women were to attending the church. At the age of twelve, I was able to leave this church of sorrow, and go in search of my God. I did not see God working in these storefront churches and lives of these women. Each week they came back and repeated the same story, and added another pray event to the list. As a child, I had heard enough biblical stories to know that God had and does work in the lives of people. I could not see him working here.

There was almost a celebration and acceptance of this poverty, it was as if the more poverty and pain one confessed and demonstrated, the closer one could feel to the God of poverty. I could not accept a poverty God, or a poverty Jesus, therefore, I rejected the God of my mother and my community, and went searching for that unknown something that I knew was there. With the permission of my mother, I visited several churches to see if I could find a place where God was working. I did find such a place. There we few if any men in these storefront churches. Many have one man, who was the pastor, and women dragging their well-dressed children.

The men would fight the women about attending these churches, and the more the men fought, the more devoted the women were to attending the church. Some thought it more important to attend the needs of the pastor than to the needs of their husbands and their homes.

Christianity as taught to the slaves required a condition of submission, and women were further taught that they must remain in a state of submission in their lives. These storefront churches appeared to play on this need for submission to a powerful force. It was, in some cases, the minister who had assumed the role of the master in the lives of these women. Men were reluctant to adopt a role of submission after centuries of oppression.[1] I had a rich and varied religious ecumenical background. I was born a Catholic, raised in the Baptist church, baptized through submersion, attended the Seven Day Adventist church, attended several Pentecostals, and several churches that were called “Holy and Sanctified.” My extended family was members of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, after many searches and visits; I found my place in that denomination. At a young age, I was only permitted to travel the distance of Harlem, which could be considered less than three square miles. So my search for my God was kept in those three square miles.[1] I was impressed with the size of the church. I was impressed with the large number of men, husbands and fathers in the congregation.

The church had beautiful stained glass windows depicting stories from the Bible in beautiful display. Thousand of people attended the church, and they praised God for the wonderful things that were happening in their lives. I wanted to know more about this God and this religion that was being demonstrated in the lives of these people.

I joined the church. Joining was easy, telling my mother would prove to be the difficult part. I became totally involved with the church. I attended alone, but I was welcomed into the church family. I became a Sunday school teach and member of the senior choir. My leadership roles continued and were supported in the church. I was still living in poverty, but poverty was no longer living in me.

Through the early deaths of my father, sister and mother, I felt the presence of God in my life, and I knew that whatever the trials and adversities, I had a companion in life. Through his power and grace, I began to live the life of the people in the St. Mark’s church. Began to see wealth, happiness and prosperity demonstrating in my life. I wanted to help others to know this companion. I wanted others to know the power of correct focus and beliefs.

Today I encourage people to find a place where God is working in the lives of people, and join those people. Sometimes you have to change your environment in order to change your life. Harlem has many fine churches, and many store front churches. God has always been in Harlem; it was just necessary to find the body of people demonstrating his presence and His working in their lives. I found the St. Marks Episcopal Church on 137th street and Edgecombe Ave. NYC. Today it is called The St. Mark’s   United Methodist Church. The first thing that was apparent was that the men out numbered the women.

The men seemed to be in charge of everything. The ruling and governing bodies of the church were all men. Women were in the church, but they were not confessing adverse situations in their lives. In fact, this church did not engage in public crying and confession. Relief swept over me. I must confess, I had grown weary of hearing the intimate details of the family members in my mother’s church.

I had not reached the level of spiritual growth where I was comfortable sitting next to someone who had just confessed a list of sins I had never even heard of. I had heard that Jesus forgives, but my level of immaturity had not provided me with the strength to let go of my fear of this forgiven person.

I usually spent most of the service staring at the individual asking, “How in the world could they do that?” St. Marks was different. St. Marks was another world. There were exciting programs for children. Well-dressed children who definitely did not buy their clothes with money obtained from a bi monthly welfare check St. Marks had its own saving and loans system.

It operated the church like a major corporations. Individuals were placed in managerial positions where they learned the skills necessary to provide good and services to thousands of people. After school programs and religious education programs made use of the talents and skills of the large percentage of teachers in the congregation. The pastor held regularly scheduled pastoral counseling sessions for individuals experiencing difficulties in their relationships. He would help them to re-establish to wholeness in their relationship with God, and what God wanted for their lives, and their pain was relieved. Emotional expressions were seldom heard in the church. It was possible at times to see those individuals moved by the Holy Spirit working in their lives, when it was observed a spiritual tear falling softly down the side of the face. Occasionally, a member would wave a hand with an expensive laced white hand chief and quietly express the emotion working through her. In this church, you were respect for the extent to which you held yourself together, and not be overcome by problems. The problems did not go away.

The people would still be black when they left the building and entered into the outer world, but for a few hours, they could praise and hear the word of God without the extra beat of their own hearts getting in the way. This quiet contemplation made it possible for people to make decisions about their lives and their futures.

The Historical Black church became the supportive source of strength and provided an opportunity for them to show gifts and talents. There were women walking with their heads held high and demonstrating the workings of God in their lives. There were positive role models for living life in this exciting community called Harlem.

Children in the community hung out in the church after school and evenings. The church was opened seven day a week. All social activities were held in the church. Young people learned to date from the church, and get married and have their children blessed in the church. Whatever the community needed was found in the church, from financial planning, relationship building, management and administration, and a spiritual teaching about the love and will of God. I found my God, and I found my church. The church was so crowded that it was necessary to arrive early if you wanted a seat. The minister was feeding the people with the food from God, which they needed. Women would take young girls and mentor them into the roles of Christian women, and men would take young boys and mentor them into leadership roles and Christian manhood.

That was the twentieth century, and through the grace of God we made it through. We made it through wars, racial discrimination, and unimaginable challenges of life. We had the church to hold as a firm course and a supportive guide. As children we made it through and became adults demonstrating the blessings of God in our lives. The church was filled with children from the nursery school to the university levels. The churches success was also responsible for its decline.

The church taught its young people how to work and let God work in their lives. God did work in their lives. Many became success businessmen and women and professionals. Many demonstrating the workings of God, married, had children, and moved out of the community. They brought homes in the suburbs and other communities, they loved their church, but many could and would not send their children to the neighborhood schools.

As the school system in New York City began to decline, so did church attendance. People were not leaving the church; they were seeking better learning opportunities for their children. The church, without knowing it, had a vested interest in the quality of education delivered to the children in the community. It was directly affecting the bottom line of the financial operation of the church.

Major changes began to take place in the church. St. Mark’s church had been accustomed to middle class values, and strong Christian values. It had been selective in the members who attended the church, and since it did not concentrate on the changes taking place in the Harlem community, it became out of touch with the people who were left after the great Harlem exodus. The role models left, and were not replaced.

Young people had to role themselves to the conditions of their lives. They had heard stories from their parents and grandparents about the Harlem of yesterday, but this was today’s Harlem. Walking down the street in an expensive suit, or carrying around schoolbooks with which to do homework, could result in a black eye or a gang jump.

Young men had to appear tough for the neighborhood walk from school home or for a quart of milk and a loaf of wonder bread for the peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, which could be the evening snack. The dress style was influenced by the home – boys who had done time for selling drugs and were on the revolving door, which led to the streets. Most of the kids would struggle to hold up their pants, as they copied the styles introduced into the street by men and boys returning from a place where all belts were removed and taken.

The prison attire and walk soon spread into a neighborhood as the latest fashion. In prison they were required to adopt the wide leg gap knee walk swaggering side to side in a sloofoot walk. Other boys tended not to tease these sloofoot walkers reading them as a sign of the “toughies.” Having some kind of reputation was the difference between keeping your lunch money and avoiding getting rough up and being able to get the milk home safely. Black boys soon learned that a well planned sloppy attire was the required uniform for the neighborhood walk and the school yard walk. Schools in the neighborhood eventually cut out recess time in the schoolyard, so many boys were able to avoid the secret torment many had to endure, which somehow seemed to be invisible to a yard full of supervising teachers.

Somehow regardless how many teachers are on lunch room duty, they never seem to see any of the bullying and abuse, which goes on in the daily lives of children. The dropped pants were threatening and also protective. If a kid had the courage to show his dingy underwear top of his drop pants, he had the courage to fight back if attacked.

The church frowned on this attire, but seldom provided a safe environment for kids to pull their pants up on their waist. To talk about being bullied was considered sissy, and the church was more interested in how many times you said Jesus than in the problems you were having living in God’s world.

The dress styles and language delivery systems were not familiar or accepted by the few remaining members. Upset with the behaviors of some of the youth using the church, and a lack of competent individuals to manage this changing population the church decided to shut down all of its outreach and youth programs. St. Mark’s had always prided itself on the outward physical appearance of its congregation. Young people in the past learned to dress and speak for the business world, because the church expectations were so high and exact.

The modern generation was having none of that. Many saw no need for special dress or attire, and many could not understand why they could not wear their hats in church. When a teenager could not wear his security pants, he was able to get a baseball cap and swing the brim around to the side. The swung brim also signaled defiance and a willingness to fight if attacked, and with the absence of adults reading the unspoken codes of what was happening in the community, kids had to protect themselves.

Removing the cap was a means of surrender and many kids were reluctant to make the dangerous move. Old folks saw this as disrespect, and began to show a dislike for the children struggling to survive in the three mile area of the Harlem community. Without a feeling of dependability on the adults in the community, the young people came to disrespect the church and its historical purpose, and this disrespect continued on into the local schools.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was not even a memory, and Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were just dead brothers who got shot doing their natural thing. Martin was a little more famous because, those who still attended school, were given a holiday to celebrate his birthday. Who they were or what they did, seems to have no relevance in a world where the enemy was black, and he hated you just because. Jesus was good in a song, but He was not there in a gang fight. Grandma attended the church, and she was more interested in making sure that they were holding a place for here to have the big funeral than being concerned with the slow death so many of the students were facing as they passed by these empty houses of worship everyday.

No one opened the church door and invited the children in, or made it known that a youth could stop by on their way from school and consider the church a safe haven. No one wanted the drop pants, sloo-footed , cocked hat kids in the church. They were loud with their normal children’s noise, and they did not look like the good God people. In the fading distance of the senior citizens memories were the sounds of boys and girls laughing, singing and dancing in these same church buildings.

Most of them met and courted their mates, and many married from this same church. Now they had come full cycle and were waiting for their home going service rather than becoming involved in the lives of children. Lost on these women, as most of them were women, was the reality that without the youth coming in the front doors, there would be no future church, and they were living witnesses to the funeral of their beloved church.

Historical significance of the Black culture was slowly fading away, and in its place was a culture of rights and privileges to act and behave as the feelings so move, and to assert the swallow importance of a lost generation. The church dropped the ball on that one, and schools began to fill up with teachers who would not even touch the ball, and who also gave up on the children.

There were however, some who knew the call and the mission, and saw the children as children who needed guidance and a structured education if they were going to be prepared for the future that was waiting for them. Who were these teachers, and why did they stay in the communities surrounded by the St. Mark’s Churches in the nation.

The church had given up on the children, and had lost the original plan of how to bring children to God through education, and bring God to the children through education.

                                             Giving Back to the Community

Finding God was a transforming experience. I had to know that this God of my ancestors was the God for me. I had to take a step in the direction of faith and trust that God would be with me in every step that I took. It was necessary to deny the reality of my present existence and just the knowledge that I was made in the image and likeness of this God. I learned to look in the mirror and see a reflection starring back at me that was a reflection of the face of God. I learn to look into the face of other people and also see these same reflections.

My decision was what would I do with this awareness of who I was. If I were made in the image and likeness of God, then I would have abilities to do things, which I could not imagine with my natural mind. My natural mind look at the reality of my existence, and told me that there was no way that an individual would be able to over come circumstances with so many obstacles blocking the way.

The still voice, which comes into your mind, during times of quiet and surrender revealed the thought that what man cannot do, God could do. It was around this time that I decided to take a closer look at these storefront churchwomen; I wanted to know what they had in common. I wanted to see the degree of their dependence on this church system.

I noticed that all of them had made poor relational choices in their lives. I noticed that most if not all of them, were not in any positive relationship with men. In fact most of the content of their weekly testimony related to some negative behavior of friends or relatives with whom they associated. Most of them had a considerable amount of time to contribute to church activity.

These activities included cleaning the church, arriving early to set up the church for weekday or evening services. The women would join together and cook all day Saturday and brought the food to church on Sunday. Cooking and eating was an important part of church activity. There seemed to be a sense of comfort in the shared rhythm of their lives. They were the same, almost carbon copies of each other.

This brings me to the development of my Christian witness and a major step in my spiritual journey. It is hard to praise God from an extreme position of poverty. There was a relationship between poverty and education. If parents were sending their children to schools that did not prepare them for the work world in which they would live, then some of these children would grow up and live hopeless lives of pain and suffering. The minister saw these people after the disappointments in life had led them to the church as a refuge from pain. There had to be a way to change the direction of the lives of these storefront churchwomen and their children.

It was obvious, that children who received quality education tended to make better choices in their lives. If education were the path to understanding what God wanted for us, then education would be my ministry call. I entered the education field, and with the help of God, I delivered quality education to children and the adults whom I had the privilege to serve. My ministry today focuses on helping churches to become educational centers. This is not reinventing the wheel it is about encouraging churches to do what they do best. Churches are in the transformation business .The elimination of poverty is a transformational issue. Poverty clouds the lens of the eyes and makes it impossible to see the paths that God has prepared for His people.

Churches have the power to make the blind see, and the lame walk. The healing powers of Jesus are found in the hearts and the hands of those who serve children. Today, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church sits in Harlem a shell of its former self. The church used to hold 1,500; today maybe seventy-five senior citizens attend on Sunday. There are no Sunday school or youth programs. The building is locked six days a week, and on Sunday, the one day that it is opened, the members quickly disappear after service to return to their homes. Needless to say the schools in the Harlem community has been in decline for years, and the churches have set quietly by and permitted that decline to take place. I am not impressed with churches that have loud music, exciting music, and no children.

If the children in the neighborhood are hanging in the streets and know more about the inside of a jail than they do about the inside of a church, then something is wrong. If we don’t help them with school, why should they attend our church? The saving your soul message does not work with a youth who is hurting in the mind and the body. Young people are not like their grandparents, and in some cases slave ancestors. They do not say give me Jesus, and you can have the rest of the world. They feel that there is something wrong with a religion that supports poverty and oppression, and they are unwilling to attend church building, which they consider, the building centers for the weak. When a man has a job and is able to take care of himself and his family, then he is willing to praise the God who made it possible.

When a student feels that the education system is giving him the tools that he will need to get a good job, then he will be willing to sit in school and listen to teachers who respect him and his ability. The male is like the canary in the mind shaft. He will give the first signs that there is something unhealthy going on in the environment. Therefore, we must pay attention to the absence of men in our churches, homes, schools, and even universities. Jesus first healed then he taught scripture. He did not give scripture to the blind man or the cripple man; first, he healed the condition, which they were facing.

Recently I read an article where many colleges and universities are giving first preference to males who apply. There are more women in college than men. There are more women in churches than men; perhaps men are trying to tell us something. There is something wrong with our religion and our schools. What does this say to the future of Christianity and the future of the present day education system?

 

 

 

 

[1] I must give my mother credit for the fact that she did not let the views that poverty was a gift from God, and we should suffer in grace and silence; prevent her from earning a living. Church work was the means of supporting her family. She separated religion from economic survival.

[2] The idea that there was something wrong with the Christian church in general, and the Christian minister in specific began to formulate during the early stages of my life. The search for answers to the question of who or what God was motivated me to go on a journey to find this creator of the universe.

[3] The government supported the works of these churches. The Black church was the primary tool for promoting social control over a selected group of people. The people brought their frustrations to the churches and therefore, they were not taking them to the streets.

[4] The image of God was not a positive one. He was seen as a power that permitted suffering and death. The children were asking for from God then their parents and grandparents. They resisted serving the God of the Ghetto. They would not be peaceful, and they took their frustrations to the streets.

[5] The church and religion will have to take a new direction if it is going to remain the central focus in the lives of young people. The spiritual journey will have to have a different road map, a map that does not lead to the paths of acceptance and complacency, but rather in a new direction of hope.

[6] Children in the purity of their mind and thought see a different Jesus. They see a Jesus of strength, compassion and love. Children have minds that are free and not formed by a history of fear and oppression

[7] In the churches, which I attended as a child, it was common for women to stand up in the middle of the church, during service, and report the intimate details of their home life, and ask the congregation to pray for some resolution of their concern. Children knew that if they misbehaved in any manner, it could be the topic of the weekly testimonial Every member in the congregation became involved in helping the parent to solve the problem

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