The Pastor’s Pen: May 27, 2018

We welcome to our pulpit today for the 10:55 service, Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, National Director of Healing Communities and adjunct professor at Howard School of Divinity. Dr. Trulear has focused his ministry on the effects of incarceration on Black families and churches. We are honored that he is with us and look forward to an inspiring message of hope.

On Monday, May 28, 2018, our nation will observe Memorial Day. There will be barbecues, parades and various and sundry activities. To most, the importance of this day is that it functions as the unofficial beginning of summer; snowplows, wind-chill factors and frigid days will have yielded to beach vacations, amusement parks and baseball. In the midst of enjoying the commencement of summer, let us not forget the bloody history that led to the establishment of this holiday.

Memorial Day began as Decorations Day, a custom originated when graves of men and women who died in war were decorated, and cookouts were often held at grave sides and churches to commemorate the sacrifices of those who paid the ultimate price in service to our nation.  The move to nationalize this observance began as an attempt to heal the gaping hole left in the American psyche from the Civil War; a war in which more than 600,000 Northern and Southern troops lost their lives. General John A. Logan, leader of the Civil War Veterans Association in 1868, chose May 30 for the observances; a day during the Civil War when no battles were fought. By 1890, Decoration Day was observed by all of the northern states. Waterloo, New York is commonly referred to as the location where Decoration Day, as a national event, was first observed.

But we must never forget, as we enjoy our cookouts and pool parties, that the Civil War and the struggle to end it is the genesis of today’s racial antipathy in America. The South never forgave Blacks for ending their lucrative agrarian lifestyles. Northern immigrants never got over that freed Black slaves became their chief competition for menial jobs.

The Civil War left scars on this nation that have yet to heal. The bitterness of the divide is typified by the fact that southern General Robert E. Lee’s plantation in Arlington, Virginia was used as the nation’s Memorial Cemetery. The raging debate over Civil War monuments in the South, most of which were erected during Reconstruction to frighten Blacks to stay in their place, is another indication of how the Civil War continues to live in the American collective conscience.

I don’t know if I will attend any holiday cookouts, but wherever I am, I will reflect on the massacre at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, the site where the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment — the first Blacks to fight in the Civil War — were sent on a suicide mission to take that fort. As depicted in the movie, Glory, the 54th Massachusetts was slaughtered trying to prove that Blacks are equal to whites. The watermelon and other cookout favorites will not taste as savory as I reflect on the bitter legacy of the Civil War for Blacks and for the entire nation, and that Memorial Day originated as a result of that same Civil War.

Statement to the City Council of the District of Columbia May 22, 2018

Councilmember Mary Che

Dear Councilmember Che:

The Clergy for Community Wealth Preservation, also known as CCWP, is a group of DC area clergy representing approximately 50 churches throughout the District of Columbia. We address both local and national issues and how they impact the communities we serve; we organized primarily, however, to help African-Americans stay in the city by helping families and churches to maintain their meager wealth and pass that wealth into the hands of succeeding generations.

We are growing increasingly concerned about the escalating water prices in our city and the impact it has on our churches, cemeteries and the poor of our communities. We are aware that the federal government has filed a suit against the city to cleanup the Anacostia River, which is another indication of the heavy-handed tactics the federal government imposes upon us because we have no statehood. However, levying communities and certain institutions the higher rates necessary to clean the river is a grave imposition on longtime residents who are already suffering from the effects of escalating living costs in DC. Exorbitant water rates will drive more and more African-American churches and individuals out of the city as DC becomes an increasingly unlivable city, but for the wealthiest residents.

Roughly 30 churches have left the city due to the increasing challenges [they] met from the rising cost of living; this is unconscionable!  Our churches not only provide religious and spiritual support, they also deliver social services to day cares, seniors, and many other groups. A city with fewer churches and houses of worship will be a city whose spiritual and moral core has been decimated. We cannot bear to lose more churches to the suburbs.

We are aware that it will cost the city  $1.3 billion over the next several years to repair old water pipes and infrastructure that in some cases date back to the Civil War. We also are aware that citizens will be charged for the building of a new tunnel that will carry water to the Blue Plains treatment center. DC citizens, our churches, our cemeteries and our longtime residents, need relief in this present stifling economic environment.

CCWP is also concerned with DC’s method of choice to determine water usage for churches and cemeteries.  It is flawed; aerial photography cannot accurately detect how much water is being used. Hotels and many apartment buildings are using much more water than our churches, however, they are not paying their fair share because their parking spaces and garages, in most cases, are underground and escape aerial detection.

We are asking the city and the federal government to appropriate $50 million in perpetuity to lessen the impact of these sky-rocketing water bills.  The evidence is clear; exorbitantly high-water rates have driven and will continue to drive our citizens out of the city.  All communities matter.


Wallace Charles Smith

Pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington DC

President of the Clergy for Community Wealth Preservation

The Pastor’s Pen: May 20, 2018

At the time of this writing, 60 people have been killed at the Gaza-Israeli border for protesting our government’s move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem – one of the worst decisions the present Administration has made. On the surface, some may see this as a good idea, but they have a profound lack of historical knowledge.

Reviewing biblical history provides some context for the ancient tensions that are antecedents to the present crisis. Although there is some debate, the present-day Palestinians are more than likely the descendants of the Philistines who were the arch enemies of the Jews in their attempts to take over Palestine. The city of Jerusalem itself was conquered militarily by David, from the Jebusites, another ancient Palestinian people. Then, centuries after David’s victories, the Romans, the occupying force of Israel during Jesus’ time, totally destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and exiled the Jewish people to places throughout the Roman Empire. At that point, neither Jew nor Palestinian controlled the city but the Romans.

However, for more than a thousand years, Palestinian people lived in the land, under the control of a number of Moslem caliphates and military leaders.

When we fast forward from antiquity to the modern world, the present Jewish nation was born with the United Nations Resolution 181, November 29, 1947. This action was largely a result of the U.S. and Europe’s guilt for doing so little to protect Jews from the Nazis during World War II. The Resolution recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states from the partition of Palestine and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem.

Resolution 181 recognized the tension of partitioning a land that for more than a thousand years was occupied by Palestinians. The present Administration’s unilateral decision to place the US Embassy in Jerusalem sparked the present violence; it will do nothing to heal the feelings of hopelessness of the Palestinian people who are separated by razor barbed wire, covered walls and military controlled check points to simply get to their jobs on the other side of Israel’s checkpoint. Not surprisingly, it is the Palestinians, like the Hispanics in this country, who perform the menial labor.

If World War III ever happens, it will be in the Middle East. There is too much at stake here for our government to consider epic decisions such as moving the embassy, with such cavalier disdain.

The Pastor’s Pen: May 13, 2018

We welcome to our pulpit today Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook as our 2018 Mother’s Day-Women’s Day preacher.  Dr. Cook has been a tireless warrior for justice and a champion for the rights of women and people of color around the world. She has worshiped with us many times and has always electrified us with messages of encouragement and hope. We know that on this special day she will yet again arouse our spirits with sermons of inspiration.


In our continuing effort to fight and work for justice, we are partnering with Dr. William Barber of North Carolina to participate in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Campaign for Moral Revival. Several of the Campaign’s objectives are: 1. We are rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all. Moral revival is necessary to save the heart and soul of our democracy.

  • We are committed to lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.
  • We believe in the dismantling of unjust criminalization systems that exploit poor communities and communities of color and the transformation of the “War Economy” into a “Peace Economy” that values all humanity. We believe that equal protection under the law is non-negotiable.
  • We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.
  • We recognize the centrality of systemic racism in maintaining economic oppression must be named, detailed and exposed empirically, morally and spiritually. Poverty and economic inequality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.
  • We aim to shift the distorted moral narrative often promoted by religious extremists in the nation from issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights to one that is concerned with how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, LGBTQIA folks, workers, immigrants, the disabled and the sick; equality and representation under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.”

For the remaining objectives, please visit:

We applaud Dr. Barber for bringing the nation’s attention to the realities of poverty in America. According to the Henry Kaiser Foundation, 22% Blacks, 20% Hispanics and 9% Whites live below the poverty line. According to the 2016 census, a whopping 44.1 million Americans were living in poverty. Shiloh is honored to join the Poor People’s Campaign to address this egregious suffering for all too many Americans.