The Pastor’s Pen: June 24, 2018

On this Annual Music Appreciation Sunday, we welcome to our pulpit, Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr., Pastor Emeritus of Metropolitan Baptist Church. Over the years, Dr. Hicks distinguished himself as a compassionate pastor, a “preacher’s preacher,” and one of this nation’s most effective preachers. He has been a friend of Shiloh for many years and we are delighted he will join us at our 10:55 A.M. worship service. We know he will deliver an arousing message through his gift of great preaching and storytelling.

On Music Appreciation Sunday, we celebrate the work of all of our singing units. Visitors to our church often say that they have experienced some of the finest choral and gospel music anywhere. Choirs work hard to produce this spiritually and technically excellent music. On this day, we give thanks to God for all of the singers and musicians who make our musical ministry an exceptional offering to God and God’s people.

The latest chapter in the sad account of our nation’s indifference to human rights is the new fiasco of the government’s separating asylum-seekers’ children from parents. The international outcry has been deafening. The leaders of Germany, Great Britain and Canada have joined with other political leaders and Pope Francis, to decry our inhumane treatment of asylum seeking families. It has been reported that these thousands of families may be separated from their children indefinitely. Toddlers, who hardly know their parents’ names, and surely not their addresses, may wind up in the system indeterminately. One is hard-pressed to understand why this policy was ever adopted, other than to prove the strength of American leadership. However, there is nothing strong about bullying families into untenable positions. Of course, there are those who will say that it is the parents’ fault that they were separated from their children. Had they not sought asylum, these families would still be together. What that position overlooks are the futility of so many citizens of Latin American governments that have become fearful for their lives. Due to gang and governmental violence at home, families and individuals were willing to risk everything to find safety in the United States. There is no question, that all seeking asylum do not have justifiable claims. In the past, those without legitimate claims were processed and returned to their countries. However, the overwhelming majority of asylum-seekers have come to us because they are terrified of what will happen to their families in their native countries.

Many conservative Americans have denied the fact that immigration fell precipitously under the Obama Administration. The reason for this was because the North America Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA, worked so well economically in Mexico, that the Mexican economy was growing and people were finding sufficient work. If we want to stop asylum-seekers, then we must send American workers into those countries with strong financial incentives to rebuild those countries and restore their decimated infrastructure.

Courses in economics begin with a simple proposition:  Should a country direct its resources to “guns or butter?” Dictators choose guns. Enlightened societies have always understood that entrenched poverty is the single largest cause of violence throughout the world. Rather than separating families, we should work to eradicate poverty. The Bible is replete with the fact that God intends for God’s people to be healthy and whole. Turning our backs on the horrible effects of poverty will never be the way to fulfill God’s plan.

The Pastor’s Pen: June 17, 2018

The Shiloh family joins with congregations throughout the nation to acknowledge the exemplary fathers who have made such a difference in the lives of so many. Shiloh is blessed to have been led over the years by extraordinary pastors: Shiloh’s first pastor, Rev. William J. Walker, was a part of that courageous and fearless team that took the grueling trip from Fredericksburg, Virginia to Washington, DC after church life at old Shiloh was disrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War. History remembers Walker as a courageous leader, a powerful orator, and a scholar at a time when slaves could be hung for simply attempting to secure an education. Shiloh’s second pastor, Rev. James Anderson Taylor, is remembered as a man of culture and refinement. Under his leadership, Shiloh became known as a congregation second to none in merging the spiritual and the performing arts. Shiloh’s third pastor, Rev. Dr. Milton Waldron, brought to the pulpit a determined stance for justice and freedom. At a time when Jim Crow segregation was at its height, Dr. Waldron preached and taught Black liberation through self-help. During the depression, Shiloh was led by its fourth pastor, Rev. Earl L. Harrison, a Texan with a national reputation for oratory and matchless leadership. God brought him to Shiloh during the time when African-Americans suffered the worst effects of the Great Depression, as well as the unyielding challenges of entrenched bigotry and racism. Rev. Henry C. Gregory III, a Harvard trained scholar and Shiloh’s fifth pastor, was a peerless motivator and matchless pulpiteer. His insight as a visionary is evidenced through the construction of the Family Life Center, the first of its kind in the U.S. built by a Black congregation.

Along with the stellar leadership of five legendary preacher-pastors, Shiloh also is blessed to have deacons, trustees, choir members and musicians of rare talents and abilities. Shiloh men have been leaders in education, politics, medicine, the judiciary, the military, law enforcement, as firefighters, transit and postal workers, and various and sundry other significant positions through the breadth and depth of Washington society. Shiloh men displayed their love of family and community as loving husbands, exemplary fathers and excellent community leaders. One could surely make the case that Shiloh men have been in the forefront of all that has made Black Washington an effective city and the model for Black people in cities large and small. Shiloh men have thrived in spite of the appalling realities of economic deprivation, cultural denigration and ubiquitous racism.  At this time in our nation’s history when the very fabric of our democracy seems in jeopardy, we continue to thank God for the strong courageous men in our midst who refuse to give in to the reactionary forces that have taken over our government. And, we are hopeful when we see the youth and young adult males within our congregation who refuse to yield to schoolyard bullying, the violence and drugs in our community, and all the forces that attempt to make them feel that striving for success is for whites only. The next generation of Shiloh men have taken up the mantle from their fathers and grandfathers, and are set to write the next chapters of wonderful stories of Shiloh men. May God continue to bless and keep our Shiloh men as they hold high the mantle of godly leadership.  Happy Father’s Day!


The Pastor’s Pen: June 10, 2018

Today, we thank God for two outstanding ministries of our church. First, our Children’s Ministry: our young people are active as ushers, in Sunday school and worship services and beyond.  They are valuable contributors to all aspects of our life at Shiloh.

We need to promote and support our youth as young people around the world are experiencing tremendous challenges. Sex trafficking is one of the most despicable injustices imposed on our children here in the U.S. and globally.  Too often, in countries where there is abject poverty, wealthy nations fund the sex trafficking by brokering with families to sell the children as a way to insure their family’s survival. Although the United Nations has attempted to address this horror, wealthy nations such as the U.S., Europe, China, and Japan close their eyes to this burgeoning disgusting practice, and do little to impede or thwart its vile movement.

Another horror experienced in war-torn nations that has also invaded our nation is gun violence.  Too many children are faced with the terrifying realities wrought by gun-toting offenders. In warring societies, it is the crackling of automatic weapons that turns streets into killing fields. In the U.S., it is too often our schools that become the scenes of mass killings.

And let us be clear; mass shootings such as the one in Parkland, Florida, attracted the headlines instantaneously, but throughout all the major cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and DC, gun violence from drug turf wars, that too often put our children in the crosshairs as collateral damage, do not equally attract the headlines. Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss has announced a new initiative on school safety; however, it does not address the proliferation of automatic weapon access in our country. While the government remains silent, too many of our children face gun violence every day.

We applaud the young people of Shiloh, their parents, and advisors for keeping Shiloh a sanctuary where they can clearly recognize values and experience the lifesaving power of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we thank God for the continued wonderful work of our Shiloh Scholarship Committee. Today, they will announce the recipients of this year’s scholarships and host a reception for the graduates and their families in Heritage Hall following the 10:55 worship service. Many of us know and understand that education is key to overcoming societal bigotry. Carter G. Woodson in his book, The Miseducation of the Negro, made clear that to deal with social and economic inequity, we must arm ourselves with comprehensive education. Many people of color, especially, have understood that rigorous training in the basics of English, science and math, and the knowledge of sociology and history, is key to overcoming our people’s shattered self-image and paving the way to freedom and equality. Our Scholarship Committee, through its diligent efforts, provides monetary encouragement that helps our young people go forward with their pursuit of education.

On this National Children’s Day and Graduates and Scholarship Sunday, we commend all who work tirelessly to keep Shiloh’s scholarship program one of the most effective of its kind of any Black church in the nation. God bless and keep our Scholarship Committee as they continue to do such exemplary work on behalf of the youth of our church.

The Pastor’s Pen: June 3, 2018

The latest example of the egregious racism in our nation was the tweet of Roseanne Barr, star of Donald Trump’s favorite show, “Roseanne.” Barr, true to form, unjustifiably likened Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama, to a baby from a “Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes.”  Thankfully, the ABC network took immediate action and canceled the show; no mean feat as this was ABC’s most popular offering and its cancellation could cost ABC millions of dollars. However, there is no cost too high in fighting the poisonous tentacles of racism.

Not surprisingly, the White House did not condemn the tweets but only commented that “the President also deserved an apology from ABC for the mean things that have been said about him on this network.” Donald Trump’s narcissistic abilities to turn every issue to himself would be laughable if the realities of Roseanne’s twitter storm were not so outrageous and dangerous. Racial violence has escalated since Trump took office. The confrontation between white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia and the Unite to Rally supporters led to the death of a young woman by a white supremacist who gunned his engine and plowed his car into a crowd.   This is but one example of a nationwide epidemic of angry whites venting their frustrations on Blacks and their allies. Listening to talk radio is like entering a parallel universe, one in which legitimate news is called fake, and at least one network (Fox) has become state-run television.

Although the far-right hated President Obama, his entire presidency was about bringing people together.  Early in Mr. Obama’s tenure, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, distinguished professor at Harvard, was arrested by the police as he attempted to enter his own home.  Mr. Obama invited Dr. Gates and the arresting officer to the White House to attempt to settle their grievances. We don’t know how effective it was, or lasting the results of that discussion, but Mr. Obama understood clearly, the first job of a leader is to bring folk together, not to drive them apart.

The Bible is clear, that there are dark and demonic forces within the human psyche that, once unleashed, can cause enormous suffering. The murder of 6 million Jews during World War II is indicative of how pervasive and dangerous evil can be when it goes unchecked. Closer to home, for Black Americans, is the nearly 100-year reign of terror known as Reconstruction which caused thousands to die brutally as lynchings went completely unchecked. To this day, it sickens me to see pictures of lynchings and mutilations of helpless Blacks, strung from a tree until their agonized bodies finally stopped kicking as death came as welcome relief.

If this nation and its political leadership do not aggressively end the racist hatred in this country, the results of hatred and division will become the roaring fire that consumes us. Hosea 8:7 states, “Those who have sown the wind, will reap the whirlwind.”