The Black Church Matters: Envisioning the Beloved Community
By Rev. Dr. Michael Bowie
As we begin the month of February, the nation is prepared to celebrate Black History Month. It is an excellent opportunity to remind us that the Black church matters and that the work of the beloved community is as crucial today as it was in its origin.
The idea of having a time dedicated to Black history originated with Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950). It was of concern that black children did not learn about their ancestors' achievements in American schools in the early 1900s. In 1926, the first Negro History Week was announced in February to encourage Black Americans to become more interested in their history and heritage.
This week was so successful that in 1976, fifty years later, the idea was expanded from celebrating the contributions of Negros from one week to the entire month. Woodson said, “We should emphasize not Negro History but the Negro in history. We need not a history of selected races or nations but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.”
Years later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a similar desire to address the ills plaguing America. In his first book, Strive to Freedom, Dr. King imagined the beloved community as a global vision in which all people can share in the earth's wealth. In the beloved community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness are not tolerated. Instead, an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood will replace racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice.
Friends, the beloved community is the answer to the vision raised by Carter G. Woodson. The beloved community could be the antidote to curing and closing the wealth gap, so there will no longer be the haves and have-nots.
Unfortunately, society is still inundated with white supremacy, voter suppression, mass incarceration, and other blatant injustices. However, the Black church has a significant role in making the beloved community a reality. The Black church has been the epicenter for healing, help, and hope for the least, last, and lost! The Black church has been the prophetic voice for marginalized and oppressed people who continue to rise above all injustices.
The Black church has been the epicenter for healing, help, and hope for the least, last, and lost!
Dr. King once declared, "The local church is the hope for the world." The Black church matters today! Investing and planting beloved communities needs to be a priority. For this reason, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) and Path 1 have established a covenant and are committed to providing innovative, cutting-edge, and relevant resources to strengthen the Black church. SBC21 is also committed to providing resources to educate and equip the local church to engage in restorative and social justice.
SBC21 will continue to empower young adults who will also play a vital role in seeing the beloved community become a reality. Our support in empowering young adults in our communities, churches, and HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) will shape our present and future leadership in making the beloved community a reality.
As we begin Black History Month, SBC21 believes that the entire denomination and even the nation are more vital when we strengthen the Black church. Amid so much uncertainty, chaos, and indifference, we need the Black church now more than ever. So, remember that the Black church still matters during Black History Month!
For more information on how you can get involved, email Rev. Patricia Pena, Director of Diversity, and Innovative Community Engagement at Path 1 at [email protected].