Posted by: morgan1965 | August 20, 2022

Bill Russell: WHAT A LEGACY

The recent death of Bill Russell brought to mind some fond memories. My classmate, Ervin, and I were divinity students at Drew University. We enjoyed watching NBA games on the old TV in the dormitory recreation room. It was during the Bill Russell – Wilt Chamberlain era. Ervin and I decided that we would go to Madison Square Garden and see what we knew would be a thrilling basketball game. It was the Boston Celtics vs. the Philadelphia Warriors. We would get to see Russell and Chamberlain go head-to-head on the basketball court.

We caught the train in Madison, NJ and made our way to New York City’s Old Madison Square Garden. We went to the ticket window and to our chagrin, the game was sold out. Now what would two poor theologues do to get into an NBA game when the only tickets available would be the tickets offered by the scalpers. As we stood in the milling crowd, a man approached us with tickets in his hand. He asked if we wanted tickets for the game. We said yes (but was this guy a scalper?) We asked him how much he wanted for the tickets.

The man’s response surprised us, because he only wanted what he had paid for the tickets originally. He was a scout master and he had brought his scouts to see the game. We bought the tickets and went into the Garden. We were blessed by an angel sent by God.

After we arrived at our seats and sat down for a time, I looked down into the section in front of us. I had a second surprise of the evening; my brother was sitting there. Because there was a barrier separating the sections, I asked a man if he would go down and summon my brother who was stationed in New York at the time. Bill walked up to my location and we chatted for a while prior to the game. We had no idea that we would see each other at this game. It was a pleasant surprise encounter.

I can still see the image of Russell and Chamberlain leaning on each other in an effort to gain some advantage as they played the game that night. Russell knew that he could not readily stop Chamberlain from shooting, so his effort focused on stopping him from getting the ball. We witnessed the battle between the two premier NBA centers.

As a fledging high school basketball player in the late fifties, I greatly admired Bill Russell as a basketball plyer. It was exciting to watch him play and to witness his defensive prowess. At times he would cause an opponent to miss a shot simply due to his intimidating presence which caused an opponent to think that Russell might block his shot. He was my basketball idol, and he inspired me to be a better defensive player.

Bill Russell died on July 31, 2022 at the age of 88. He and his teammates won 11 NBA championships. Russell was an MVP champion on the court and a civil rights champion off of the court. He did not hesitate to advocate for the civil rights causes of Muhammed Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He stood tall for freedom and justice. It is fitting for the NBA to retire his number “six” leaguewide to honor his legacy.

What a legacy. Think about it!

Posted by: morgan1965 | June 19, 2022

Celebrating Juneteenth & Beyond

Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. Note that President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, however, two full years lapsed before this emancipation news reached Black folk who lived in Texas. There was exuberant celebration on that day, Freedom Day. There was vibrant rejoicing, clapping and singing.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun

Let us march on till victory is won.

(James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”)

The Juneteenth news enabled the newly freed Black folk to face “the rising sun of a new day begun.”

The ancestors who arrived on slave ships and had endured the horrors of the middle passage were here when the Declaration of Independence was published on July 4, 1776. The Declaration reads in part: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Slaves were not free and Black people were excluded from the original constitution. They lived a life of slavery. They had no liberty. They were denied the pursuit of happiness.

The spiritual, “Oh, Freedom,” portrayed deep meaning for our ancestors. On the one hand, this spiritual refers to freedom in the world beyond this life. On the other hand, it covets existential freedom.

Oh, freedom!

Oh, freedom!

Oh, freedom over me!

And before I’d be a slave

I’ll be buried in my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free.

Couched in this text is the not-so-subtle desire to be free, both now (earthly home) and in the future (heavenly home).

But “freedom delayed is freedom denied.” This was a matter of justice.

Because “justice delayed is justice denied.”

In his “I Have a Dream” Speech (August 28, 1963), Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the matter of freedom. He envisioned the day when freedom would ring from every mountainside.  He intoned the need for freedom to ring from the great mountains and the lesser-known mountains, including hills and molehills.

Dr. King said, “…when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” We are still dreaming of that day.

Equality denied is freedom denied

Economic parity denied is freedom denied.

Voter suppression allowed is freedom denied.

Lurking racism unchained is freedom denied.

Freedom delayed, is freedom denied.

We unite with the ancestors and concede the pain of our past. We are traveling a stony road, but we celebrate with hope as we hurdle the many challenges. Yet, we continue to pursue freedom and equality for all of God’s children.

While celebrating Juneteenth, we are “marching in the light of God.”

Think About It!

We ARE MARCHING

Posted by: morgan1965 | January 1, 2022

Pondering The New Year: 2022

The 24-hour news media has worn out the phrase, “Breaking News” simply because of overuse. There is a tendency for the cable news stations and the digital media to label too many stories as breaking news. What is breaking news? A formal definition defines breaking news as “newly received information about an event that is currently occurring or developing.” A significant percentage of what is reported in this category of newly received information is negative, sensational, criminal, partisan, and untruth, etc. What about news stories that have a positive flavor? Perhaps there should be more sufficient reporting of positive breaking news.At the beginning of this New Year 2022, I am mindful of numerous events that have unfolded during the past year 2021. Some of these events made the breaking news headlines and some did not. The January 6th Insurrection was a headliner at the time and continues to creep into breaking news. Nonetheless, it was a negative event that has damaged the American democracy. On the other hand, the announcements of Covid-19 vaccines were positive “breaking news”. Significantly, these underutilized vaccines are protecting the lives of millions of people.

Is there any breaking news that carries theological and existential import? It was “breaking news” when the birth of Jesus was announced. It was “breaking news” when Jesus performed miracles, healed the sick, fed the five-thousand folk and raised the dead. It was “breaking news” when Jesus died on the cross and was raised from death to life on the third day. It was “breaking news” when Mary Magdalene declared, “I have seen the Lord.” It was “breaking news” when two of Jesus’ disciples declared: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” It was “breaking news” when Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. It was “breaking news” when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “I have a dream.”  It was “breaking news” when Rev. Jesse Jackson said, “Keep hope alive.” This kind of “breaking news” is positive, theological and existential.

In a group conversation a few days ago, we grappled with the question: “What are you hoping for in the New Year? In this New Year, I am hoping to witness some BREAKING NEWS FROM GOD. Yes, from a political perspective, I want Congress to pass a new Voting Rights Bill. Yes, it would be nice to see the Build Back Better Bill passed. But, I have a theological concern: What is God going to say to us in the midst of all the Turmoil, the Covid Pandemic, Racism, and Economic Hardships? What is God going to do or what action is God going to take in our world? God’s wondrous works always constitute breaking news.

The Contemporary Gospel Lyrics, “I’ve Seen Him Work,” are apropos here:

“Even though what you see

Doesn’t match what you believe,

Hold on, wait and see.

Remember that God is working it out.

Formed the mountains and the wind,

Told the heavens where to begin.

Everything that you’re going through,

Don’t you let it worry you.”

God’s breaking news is God’s breakthrough, and I believe that it will come in God’s time. Let us never forget that we have an on-time God. It is my hope that we will hear from God. It is my prayer that we will be blessed by God’s omnipotent power with God’s “BREAKING NEWS” in 2022.

Let’s Think About It and Pray About It!!!

Posted by: morgan1965 | December 6, 2021

God’s Unchanging Hands

There is something special about our hands, perhaps because of the many ways in which humans use their hands to perform a variety of tasks. The hand can convey sensitivity and it can exert power. In football every coach has a hands team consisting of wide receivers and tight ends. They are called into service when there is an onside kick so that they can recover a short kick from the opponent. The hands team includes mainly receivers because they are accustomed to handling the ball, especially a bouncing football.

While my mother’s hands were gentle and soft to the touch, Dad’s hands were big and somewhat rough from hard work. Mom’s hands would knead the dough and shape yeast rolls. Her hands would stir the batter for our birthday cakes, and prepare the hot meals that we enjoyed so much. Her hands would wash the clothes, then hang them on the clothesline to dry, and finally iron them. Her hands would comfort us when we were sick or in pain, as long as there was no bleeding.

When we had a wound or ache, we always went to Dad who would render the needed first aid. Dad’s hands would plant a large garden annually, harvest the produce, and prepare the same for canning, freezing or a meal. When necessary, his hands would discipline us too. I remember well that both Mom and Dad had praying hands. Their hands conveyed their love for their children.

There are no hands, however, like God’s hands. Jennie B. Wilson expressed this faith reality in her hymn, Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand. The first verse says:

Time is filled with swift transitions,

Naught of earth unmoved can stand,

Build your hopes on things eternal,

Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

The refrain in part says, “Build your hopes on things eternal, Hold to God’s unchanging hand.” There are no hands like God’s hands.

When my siblings and I were bruised, we wanted Dad’s hands to fix the wound. If we were not feeling well or we were frightened of something, we wanted our mother’s hands to comfort us.

In these troubled times, framed by a worldwide pandemic, we need God’s hands. In the midst of life’s struggles, there is a God who knows “just how much we can bear.” That’s why we cry out to God and say: “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand.” We need God’s hands when we are feeling weak, worn out, and just plain tired. In all circumstances, we can depend on God, because we know that God’s hands are unchanging, kind, loving and gentle. Our God has got the whole world in God’s unchanging hands. Yes, Advent is in God’s hands.

Think About It!

Now, let’s prayerfully open our heart and hands, and hold onto God’s unchanging hand during this Advent Season and beyond.

Posted by: morgan1965 | October 31, 2021

Pastor Appreciation & Care

Pastor Appreciation & Care

October is the month when church folk pause to express appreciation to their pastor for the work of ministry that she/he does in their local church and community. As a retired pastor, I can testify that pastors are grateful for all expressions of appreciation. In the former Delaware Conference of the Methodist Church, many congregations had a practice of formally expressing their appreciation to their pastor on an annual basis and this expression often took the form of a formal banquet.

I have fond memories of my father’s pastoral years at Asbury Methodist church in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Each year the congregation would have a formal banquet for their pastor.  They would serve a delicious full course dinner followed by verbal expressions of appreciation and the presentation of gifts to the pastor and the first lady. I remember this event because there would be a gift for me and my siblings. The whole pastoral family was included in the congregation’s expression of appreciation and love.

What does it mean to appreciate your pastor? Appreciation is “the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone,” in this case the pastor. There are several qualities that parishioners like about a pastor. First, people like a pastor who loves them. Second, pastors who care for parishioners in a time of personal crisis (sickness, death, separation and divorce, job loss, etc.) are respected. Third, pastors who are effective preachers and teachers garner a reputation for feeding their sheep. Fourth, a congregation is inspired by a pastor who is a spiritual leader; one who is on the spiritual path with other spiritual leaders. Fifth, a ministry of presence takes a pastor to the places where people are living, working and making their way in life’s circumstances. Sixth, congregations are encouraged by pastors who are effective leaders. Sixth, parishioners tend to like a pastor who manifests appreciation for the laity, and engages in ministry with them as a partner.

The qualities enumerated are appreciated, and acknowledged when a congregation learns to express its appreciation for their pastor’s ministry. Pastors are human beings and they appreciate being appreciated. Appreciation should be a mutual expression.

 A congregation might not choose to have a banquet; however, a congregation can express pastoral appreciation in several other ways: 1. Send a card with a hand written note, or letter. 2. Make a telephone call. 3. Send a text message. 4. Take the pastor out for a meal together. 5. Give the pastor a gift card. 6. Remember to say thank you when appropriate. 7. Keep your pastor in prayer daily. There is no need to wait until October, because these actions can and should be done year-round.

The reality is that pastoral ministry can be lonely for a variety of reasons. It is encouraging and supportive when families include the pastoral family in their activities – Thanksgiving Dinner, backyard Bar-B-Q, a fishing trip, family reunion picnic, etc.

I am deeply appreciative of the pastoral ministry that I have been a recipient of, especially during my years of supervision as a district superintendent and as a bishop. Now that I am retired, I am blessed continually by the ministry of several different excellent pastors; thank you, pastors. Finally, we pastors appreciate the ministry of the laity who are the backbone of the church.

Think About It!

Posted by: morgan1965 | September 11, 2021

Personal Memories From 9/11

The day began as a normal Tuesday, except that I had decided to work on an important project at home rather than go to the office, thus avoiding any interruptions. Having delayed my breakfast to gain a head start, around 8:30 am, I decided to take a break for a light breakfast. Sitting at the kitchen table, I turned on the television news and heard the report that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, North Tower (8:46 am). A few minutes later the news flashed the announcement that a second plane had crashed into the South Tower (9:03 am). There was obvious confusion in the reporting, because the unexpected had happened. But what had happened?

Pondering the question about the circumstances, I recalled the many flights when I arrived at LaGuardia Airport. I quickly concluded that this was no accident even though there was initial speculation and scrambling for factual details. I felt that no pilot, even in bad weather, would accidentally fly into the towers. Soon the reporters announced that this horrific event was an act of terrorism. There were additional terrorist acts at the Pentagon and at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The hijacking and crashing of three planes quickly became known as 9-11. America would never forget the horror of this day, nor would we be the same.

Innocent people lost their lives in the 9-11 carnage, and still others were seriously injured. All of us were victimized by the images that were flashed on the television screens. Life was disrupted for thousands of people who were attempting to complete their air flights around the nation. On that fateful day, authorities closed the George Washington Bridge.  My wife who worked in Paterson, New Jersey had to drive further north and use the Tappan Zee Bridge to arrive home in New Rochelle, New York.

It was Tuesday and our son and his fiancé were scheduled to be married on Friday in New Jersey. We were worried, but the wedding, which I officiated, took place as planned.  Several family members and friends were not able to fly in for the wedding because of the moratorium on all flights. In our family, there was joy and celebration in the midst of the sorrow and devastation of 9-11.

The next day was my birthday (no birthday party), Saturday the 15.th. I got up early that morning, and with three clergy colleagues, I traveled to Ground Zero. When we arrived at the outer perimeter, we made our way through an NYPD checkpoint after providing identification and stating the purpose of our visit. A short time later, we were given a hazard hat and a mask to wear for our protection. We walked in silence. The destruction was massive – twisted steel, collapsed buildings, fire trucks destroyed, burned out automobiles, etc. We continued to walk in silence.  Along the way we encountered a small contingent of Chicago firefighters, and we stopped and invited them to share in prayer with us. We formed a tight circle in the street, and we prayed. We thanked them for volunteering their time and resources at Ground Zero. Moving on, we eventually made our way to the Old John Street United Methodist Church, located about one and a half blocks from the Towers. We stopped in front of the church and prayed – for the dead, the survivors, the volunteers, the city, the nation, and the nations of the world. We prayed for peace and the healing of the nation. The church had not been damaged. The streets at Ground Zero were littered with paper, office stuff and debris. There was a stench in the air – smoke, charred metal, incineration. United Methodist Churches in the area opened their doors so that people might enter for prayer and meditation.

I have a still vivid memory of our visit to Bellevue Hospital. There was an extensive wooden construction barrier in front of the hospital. Posted on those walls were the pictures of men and women who were missing. This collage of pictures evoked silence from the watchful, searching crowd of people who viewed the faces of the young and the old. This makeshift monument represented a sense of hope in the early days following 9-11 – hope that loved ones would be rescued and not recovered.

A sense of hope was buoyed by the prayers of people around the world who prayed fervently in the aftermath of 9-11. United Methodist people came to New York City as volunteers. U.M. Congregations contributed financially to the relief effort through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). My episcopal office received numerous phone calls of inquiry and well wishes, letters, and cards. We experienced the support of United Methodists as well as members of the ecumenical community. The New York Annual Conference convened a conference wide worship service at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Manhattan. In that service we remembered the dead, we prayed for the bereaved families and the survivors. We worshipped our God. Soon thereafter, the New York City Council of Churches and the NY City administration organized an ecumenical community service which was held at Yankee Stadium. The gathered people honored all of those who died as a result of the destruction at the World Trade Center – workers, first responders, and passengers and crew on the two hijacked airplanes.

On this 20th anniversary, we remember that fateful day on September 11, 2001. We honor the nearly three thousand people who died. We pray for the survivors and all affected families.

Posted by: morgan1965 | September 1, 2021

A Back-to-School Prayer

Listening God, we are so grateful for your presence with us during this Covid-19 pandemic. Although the pandemic still rages, we now have a safe vaccine which our scientists have developed and made available to the public. Experience has taught us that we can help to mitigate the spread of the virus by wearing a mask, washing our hands, and social distancing. We know that you hear our prayers, so we thank you, Lord, for this significant progress in the arena of public health.

Holy Teacher, summer is over and now it is back to school time. We pray for the safety of our children, their teachers, the administrators and all staff members who are a part of the educational enterprise from preschool thru college and graduate school.  We are concerned about our children because of the increased incidence of covid infections among children and youth. We want our children to have the opportunity to return to school, but they can thrive only in a safe environment for learning and personal development. We want all schools – public, parochial, private, and college – to be a safe haven for learning.

God of Wisdom and Science, help all eligible unvaccinated persons to overcome their reluctance, or their fear, or their misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccination. We desire to have a safe environment in our schools and in our places of work. We also pray that soon there will be a safe and effective vaccine for children under twelve years of age.  

God of Grace, we pray that you would deliver us from this pandemic. Continue to give wisdom to the scientist, doctors and health professionals who are working diligently to save lives. Grant courage to our political, religious and civic leaders as they encourage all Americans to be vaccinated for the safety of us all. Give each one of us a good dose of Mother Wit so that we can make good personal medical and health decisions, rather than to be persuaded by misinformation and untruths.

This is our prayer, offered in the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen

Posted by: morgan1965 | May 9, 2021

Fond Memories of Mom

A few years ago, we went to a Mother’s Day Gospel Concert in Newark, New Jersey that featured such artists as Yolanda Adams, Sissy Houston, The Clark Sisters and Shirley Caesar. Caesar was at the end of the program and her first selection was one of my favorites, I Remember Mama. The first line of the song captures the essence of motherhood: I remember mama, and the love that she gave.

I have fond memories of my Mom, Attrue Virginia Logan Lyght who died unexpectedly forty-two years ago. Etched in my memory is the ardent love that she had for her four children and her five grandchildren. Like Shirley Caesar, I remember mama in a happy way.

My Mom was an excellent cook who enjoyed cooking, and serving a hot meal. Her delectable meals often featured items like fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, collard greens, fried fish, fried crab cakes, fried potatoes, fresh tomatoes, fried squash and other vegetables. She often served homemade biscuits. On some days she would serve biscuits for breakfast and biscuits for dinner. Mom did not serve any leftover biscuits; instead, she made fresh biscuits for each meal. Oh yes, there were desserts too, but I especially liked her rice pudding, sweet potato pie, coconut cake, and gingerbread. We enjoyed delicious meals, because Mom would take ordinary food and season it so that it had an extraordinary taste.

Once when I asked Mom for some cooking instructions, she gave me a pinch of sage advice. First, season food to your taste. Second, cook your food slowly, especially meat. Third, cook the food until it is done, and avoid overcooking your food. In reality, I learned a lot about cooking when watching Mom cook as I sat talking with her in the kitchen. 

My siblings and I were blessed with a stay-at-home mom. When we came home from school, Mom was always there, so we did not have to enter an empty house. She was there to help us with our homework. My mom helped me to learn how to spell efficiently and prepare for the weekly spelling tests. She was a big encourager and always supportive.

When we had bumps or scrapes, however, we did not go to Mom. We went to Dad, because Dad always took care of the wounded. After our wound was cared for, then we would go to Mom for her tender aftercare. She did not like a lot of blood.

Our Mom was a quiet, peaceful, loving, kind and gentle woman. She was not the disciplinarian. So, when we got into some kind of mischief, she would send us to Dad with only a few exceptions.

During Dad’s tenure as a district superintendent, Mom served as his secretary, because the district office was in our parsonage. Mom still found time to knit and crochet, and occasionally play the piano. She immensely enjoyed participating in the Women’s Society of Christian Service. She was a devoted lifetime Methodist, and her love for Jesus Christ spilled onto her children.

Shirley Caesar’s song goes on to say:

Now mama is sleeping in the bosom of Jesus Christ

Somehow, I know she’s smiling, she’s smiling on us right now…

Although my mama’s gone, she’s right here in our hearts

We’re all gonna pull together and stay in the holy place

I remember mama in a happy way.

I have fond memories of my Mom, and I remember her with happiness.

Every day is Mother’s Day, but we shout Happy Mother’s Day officially with great Thanksgiving this year on Sunday, May 9, 2021. May this Mother’s Day be a happy day for your family and your friends.

Posted by: morgan1965 | April 4, 2021

Easter People Raise Your Prophetic Voices

The year 1968 was a memorable year for me not only because I graduated from seminary, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on Thursday, April 4th. Later that Year on Wednesday, June 5th Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, thus adding to the year’s tragedy. Today is Easter Sunday (April 4, 2021) and it is the day that Dr. King lost his life 53 years ago. The opportunity to ponder the significance of King’s death in the context of the Easter event is a powerful reminder that God constantly acts in our lives and in our common history.

Looking back in biblical history, we note that Palm Sunday was a day of celebration that marked Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was the beginning of Holy Week. Jesus began the journey that would lead him to Maundy Thursday when he would break bread with his twelve disciples. Unknown to the disciples at the time, there was one among them who would betray Jesus, one who would deny Jesus three times, and all of them who would desert Jesus while abdicating the opportunity to stand up and be a witness for Jesus. The very next day Jesus was arrested, tried and nailed to a cross.

Before his death on a cross, Jesus spoke what we refer to as the Seven Last Words. He spoke words of forgiveness (Luke 23:34), words of promise (Luke 23:43, and words of caring (John 19:26-27). He spoke words of lament (Matthew 27:46), and words of human desire, “I thirst!” (John 19:28). As the end of his life was fast approaching, Jesus declared: “It is finished.” (John 19:30). With death closing in upon him, Jesus cried out: “Father, ‘into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). These last seven words of Jesus spoken from the cross have provided the grist for numerous sermons over the years. Perhaps one can say that these profound words constitute Jesus’ last sermon before his cruel death on a cross. This sermon conveyed Jesus’ love for humankind and his selflessness and willingness to sacrifice his life for our redemption.

On the night before his death, April 3, 1968, Dr. King was not scheduled to speak at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. He was in town in spite of the fact that he had been warned not to come back to Memphis because of the volatile situation resulting from the demonstrations on behalf of the striking sanitation workers. King came back to town because he wanted to help the sanitation workers. At the last minute, King said yes to an invitation to speak to the throngs of people who had gathered at the church. It turned out to be his last oration.

In his sermon that night, King talked about his journey, fully realizing that the journey is home. He told the story of the Good Samaritan, noting that the Samaritan stopped to help the wounded victim on the dangerous road to Jericho. He surmised that the Samaritan must have wondered what would happen to the victim if he did not stop to help; so, he stopped and helped the man. King acknowledged that he had wondered what would happen to the striking sanitation workers if he did not offer to help them; so, he returned to Memphis to help them. He told the gathered audience about his narrow escape from death when he was stabbed while autographing books in Harlem. He survived that attack mainly because he did not sneeze before the surgeons could remove the knife from his chest. He rehearsed the fact that when he arrived back in Memphis, he heard that there were real threats against his life.

King’s sermon reminded the audience that there would be “some difficult days ahead.” That did not matter. Why? Because King said, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop.” He confessed that like any person he would like to live a long life. But he was striving to do the will of God. In that moment the mesmerized crowd realized that the beloved Martin Luther King, Jr. had been to the mountaintop. He told them that he had looked over and he had seen the Promised Land. Although we might not get there together, “we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” Within twenty-four hours, King was dead, struck down by an assassin’s bullet.

Simon of Cyrene, a dark-skinned African man, was yanked from the crowd and compelled to carry the cross of Jesus to the location of his death on that very cross. Surely Jesus must have appreciated that help under the circumstances. It is appropriate to ask: Does Jesus have to bear the cross alone? Likewise, we ask whether Dr. King has to bear the cross alone? Jesus gave his life for us because he loves us. King gave his life in the struggle for human freedom guided by love. Remember, bearing the cross of Jesus requires faithful discipleship.

The truth is that both men often bore their crosses alone. On this Easter Sunday, let us pick up our crosses and bear them in the name of Jesus and for the cause of freedom for all of God’s children as demonstrated by Dr. King. Death could not destroy Jesus’ truth; nor could death erase King’s dream/vision.

Jesus Christ is Risen today, and we are Easter people!

Think About It!

Posted by: morgan1965 | February 26, 2021

Camp Meeting Memories

THE BLACK FAMILY: REPRESENTATIVE, IDENTITY, DIVERSITY

Camp Meeting Memories

As we celebrate Black History Month, using the official theme noted above, a variety of personal memories have been generated. “The Camp Meeting Ground” is a small shopping plaza in Delanco, a New Jersey river town. This plaza reminds me of the Black Methodist Camp Meetings that my family used to attend. I have fond memories of the Camp Meetings that used to convene on Maryland’s Eastern Shore during the summer months as late as the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Many of these Camp Meetings were held on the grounds of Methodist churches. Some that my family attended were Marydel, Cottage Grove, Cambridge, Oriole, Kingston, Sharptown, Marion, Ridgely, Greenwood, Dames Quarter, and several others.

On weekends my siblings and I looked forward to visiting a Camp Meeting on a Sunday afternoon, because we knew that our grandfather and other relatives likely would be in attendance. As soon as Dad parked our car, we would go in search of granddad. He drove his yellow school bus and would take a “load” of people from his neighborhood to the Camp, because many folks did not own a car. When we found his bus in the bus parking area, we would climb aboard with excitement. Usually, it was mid afternoon and by then we had a good appetite. We knew that Ms. Hill, our “adopted grandmother,” would have a basket of food – fried chicken, potato salad and some homemade cake. After we ate, granddad would take us to the concession stand to buy some ice-cream and some pop. Sometimes he would give us a quarter to buy a box of Cracker Jacks with a prize in it, and something else of our choice.

For the adults, worship opportunities were an integral part of the Camp Meeting experience. There would be a church building, with a fresh coat of white paint, where the Sunday morning worship service was held. The afternoon and evening preaching services would be held in an outdoor pavilion or tent where people, while sitting on wooden benches, would gather to hear the guest preacher. Quite often we attended a particular camp because my father was the guest preacher. He was in demand as a Camp Meeting preacher.

The singing and praying bands were one aspect of the worship experience that fascinated me. Often, these groups did not begin their ritual until late afternoon or early evening. They would start their a cappella singing with low volume and gradually raise their voices until they reached a crescendo of shouting. I frequently did not understand what they were singing nor did I know the songs they were crooning with rhythm and harmony. Dad enjoyed listening to these bands, but he did not join in their circle and ritualistic actions. His sister, Aunt Pheny, was an active participant, dressed in her black dress and long, white apron. The men, often wearing a head band, would be dressed in starched white shirts and black pants with suspenders. My Aunt Marie in later life became a band member and enjoyed participating in the praying and singing.  

The Camp Meetings on Maryland’s Eastern Shore meant different things to different folks. Families and friends welcomed the opportunity to gather and visit with one another. For many it was a homecoming that enabled former parishioners to visit the church that had nurtured them in their childhood. It was a time of fellowship and some degree of fun. In the mix was the opportunity for one and all to worship God in an evangelical atmosphere and manner. The truth of the matter is that the larger the Camp Meeting, the more opportunities there were for folks to engage in nonreligious activities. Not all attendees were focused on things spiritual. Some men would find a nearby location and engage in games of chance and/or consume certain alcoholic beverages. For some attendees the Camp Meeting was a kind of fashion show because it was fashionable to come dressed to the nines.

Most of these Camp Meetings did not have tents or cottages to provide overnight lodging for families. The Camp Meeting usually was confined to one Sunday. Where there was adequate lodging, the Camp Meeting might last for a week or more. Participants usually had to get home and go to work on Monday morning.

The traditional African American Methodist Camp Meeting is now just about extinct on the Eastern Shore. Over time the historical Camp Meeting evolved into a traditional homecoming event. Nevertheless, I still have fond memories of going to a Camp Meeting on a Sunday afternoon. The African American Camp Meeting is an important part of Black Church history.

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