As a new pastor in the Glebe this coming month of February will afford me the opportunity to experience something I have not experienced before in my previous churches. At Fourth Avenue Baptist Church we are set to celebrate “Black History Sunday” on February 22nd.
Having lived in fairly ‘monochrome’ places like Kincardine, Peterborough, and Pembroke, I am grateful for the kind of diversity that my children will experience growing up in Ottawa. I am also grateful for the call to a church that regularly promotes something called “Black History Sunday” and for the diversity we find here at Fourth Avenue Baptist, in colour, music, and even belief.
Our Black History celebration this year follows soon after a historic first for America – the inauguration of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States. In watching the coverage of the event I must admit feeling quite surprised. I was not surprised that a man of colour would be chosen president. No. What surprised me was the amount of surprise evident among Americans that a Black man was now the president.
I like the American penny. Not so much because it is normally worth more than the Canadian penny, but rather because it contains those famous words “In God We Trust.” True, it often seems that “in currency we trust” are the words that motivate so many Americans. Nevertheless, the saying is there. Why then has America’s history shown a lack of trust? “In God we trust” – the God who created people of all colours. “In God we trust” – the God who is building a Kingdom for people of all colours. “In God we trust” – the God who invites people of all colours to participate in that Kingdom. A people who trust in God should not be surprised when a Black man leads.
As someone who has grown up and lived most of my life mostly among Whites, I’m shocked by the shock that Barack Obama would be president. More than that, I’m appalled when I realise the reason for that shock. People of my own race have behaved badly, worse, people of my own faith have believed and behaved badly. A people who trust in God should not be surprised when a Black person aspires to the highest office in his or her country. Forgive us, Lord. I am glad to be part of a people who trust in God and look forward to the celebration of Black History Sunday.
You are most welcome to join us for our celebration on February 22 at 11.00 am.
(written for the Glebe Report February 2009)