A Moment for Mission
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.” — Psalm 138:7, NRSV
February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on issues of race and religion and celebrate the important roles African Americans have played in the development of the United States. Recognition of those roles from a historical perspective is an important step in celebrating the contributions of individuals and the collective changes the African American community has accomplished.
“Black History Month is with us because, for a variety of reasons, Black history has been ignored, revised or distorted too often in our history books,” the late Rev. Gilbert Caldwell, who was active in the civil rights movement, wrote in a UM News commentary several years ago. “We find it difficult to explore honestly the reasons a study of Black history makes so many of us uncomfortable.
“We know it is essential to be historically correct about the issues in England that energized the efforts that established the United States,” he said. “However, there is difficulty for some people in admitting the existence of American slavery made necessary the abolition movement and the reality of racial segregation provoked and evoked the U.S. civil rights movement.”
If we do not remember accurately the negatives of the past, he said, we may repeat them. “Failure to remember the negatives deprives us of the opportunity to celebrate the magnificent progress we have made as a nation since slavery and legal racial segregation,” Caldwell explained.
Adapted from Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference website. Used by permission.
Does your school or church celebrate Black History Month? It’s a time to honor all Black people from all periods of U.S. history – from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.
Last month, we observed the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose dreams for equality for all people continue today. You probably can name other well-know African Americans who have helped to make God’s world a better place.
During Black History Month, we also honor the Black people in our community who show us how to treat all people fairly. We may not read about them in our history books, but their contributions truly make a difference.
Loving God, as we observe Black History Month, remind us of the past as we move into a future filled with hope and appreciation for all of your precious children. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany — Gracious and merciful God, we offer our gifts to you this day with open hands and open hearts. We know there have been days when we have clung to money for our security, to try to control our future. At times, we’ve been tempted to believe that in gaining more, we would find salvation. Open our ears and minds to hear the truth from your apostle Paul: we need only hold firmly to the good news of Christ’s death and Resurrection – it alone will save us. In the holy name of Jesus, our redeemer, we pray. Amen. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)
How will your congregation observe Black History Month? You might borrow an idea from Haven Chapel United Methodist Church, Meridian, Mississippi.
In 2015, the congregation wrote, directed and performed a play titled “The Committee,” which featured historical figures engaged in the Civil Rights movement. These included Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., song artist Sammy Cook and the mother of young Emmett Till who was murdered in 1955.
Another year, Haven Chapel focused on the power of the Black church in the life of the community. Each week, two people (one older and one younger) shared how their faith was shaped during hard times by the presence of the Black church. They focused on historic hymns and how music sustains the Black community. Sermons tied Scripture with the faithful actions of heroic people who sometimes paid the ultimate price for a small share of freedom. The month closed with a program featuring drama, music and readings.
Be creative in celebrating Black History Month!
Adapted from Mississippi Annual Conference website. Permission requested.