The Pastor’s Pen: March 24, 2019

This week’s Pen is provided by Deaconness Gladys Myatt.

Looking inward at Shiloh’s women’s contributions to history, culture, and society during Women’s History Month, we commemorate Dr. Elaine R. Jones, Esq.  Dr. Jones carved a path of ‘firsts’:  the first African American to serve in Turkey as a Peace Corp volunteer teaching English; the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law; after having served in the 1970’s with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), in 1993-2004 she became the first woman to be appointed its president and director-counsel; and she was the first African American to serve on the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association.  

The LDF, which is a leading civil rights organization established in 1940 by Justice Thurgood Marshall, primarily focus on justice, civil and equal rights for Blacks, women, people of color and the poor.  Dr. Jones also led the legislative advocacy arm of the LDF and she secured passage of extension of the Voting Rights Acts of 1982, Fair Housing Act of 1988, Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, and Civil Rights Act of 1992 as well as judicial confirmations. She eventually expanded the LDF’s litigation into new areas such as health care and environmental justice.

Only two years out of law school, Dr. Jones fought the court’s decision of a Black man sentenced to death in Georgia for the death of a homeowner during the commission of a robbery. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as it was then applied in 37 states as cruel and unusual punishment due to inadequate standards to guide judges and juries on which defendants would receive a sentence of death.  A welcome outcome of victory in the death penalty case is that 600 lives, then on death row, were spared by that decision as a result of Dr. Jones and her co-counsels.  She was one of the first African American women to defend death row inmates.  

Dr. Jones argued employment discrimination cases, including class actions against some of the nation’s largest employers (e.g., American Tobacco Company, Monsanto and Pullman Standard) and won.  She was fearless when she represented 2,500 Black male employees against Pullman Standard, the maker of railway cars.  In her two-year tenure with the U.S. Department of Transportation, she assisted in writing policy that opened the Coast Guard to women.

Inspired by her parents, Dr. Jones knew from the age of eight that she wanted to be a lawyer and to commit her life to the pursuit of equal justice.  A graduate of Howard University and LDF Director-Counsel Emeritus, Dr. Jones holds 16 honorary degrees.  Of her numerous awards and recognitions, she received the Jefferson Medal of Freedom (the highest honor awarded by the University of Virginia); Ida B. Wells-Barnett Justice Award of the Metropolitan Bar Association in New York City; Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 2000 from President Bill Clinton; Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair’s Phoenix Award presented by the CBC Foundation; and was the first recipient of the Brennan Award of the DC Bar Association.

These are but a few of the litigations, policies, and changes in which Dr. Jones was involved and defended as a woman of direct action.  She could have chosen to work for a prestigious firm on Wall Street, but instead she fought for us.  We are reaping the benefits of her decision to fight for our rights and liberties and will be forever grateful.  We salute and honor, Dr. Elaine R. Jones!  

The Pastor’s Pen: March 17, 2019

Today is the second Sunday of Lent and the 21st anniversary of our joyous march into our brand-new glorious sanctuary. On that day 21 years ago, news media lined up along Ninth Street, and sent instant footage back to their studios of our march into the sanctuary. We marched around the church and ended up at the front steps of our doors, where we cut the ribbon and joyously processed into this great worship space given to us by God. We marched to the strains of, “He has done marvelous things.” We sang it over and over until the entire congregation rose to a peak of high spirituality. Joy and laughter and tears of gratitude filled our church. That was 21 years ago. Every year since, we have marched and presented our gifts to eradicate the debt on our church. This year we continue that tradition at our 7:45 and 10:55 a.m. worship services to show our appreciation for the great gift that God has given to us.

But, our march and praise for the gift of our sanctuary stands in the shadow of our gratitude for the sacrifice of our Savior who gave His life in death and resurrected so that we may have a right to the Tree of Life. During this Lenten season, we have adopted the theme, “A Season of Commitment and Sacrifice.” As we march today, we focus on this greater commitment of presenting our lives to God with our time, our talents and our treasures.

Our Lenten meditation last Wednesday focused on the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness prior to His public ministry (Luke 4:1-13). The 40 days of Lent is based on Jesus’ 40-day fast after His baptism. After the fast came the temptation. In life, blessings are always accompanied by challenges. Fasting is a sacrifice; however, sacrifice is only effective when it is accompanied by commitment. Jesus’ first commitment was to the spiritual, not just the physical. Satan tempted Him physically by challenging Him to turn the stones into bread. Jesus said, “…Man shall not live by bread alone…” (Matthew 4:4).  Satan then took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and told him to jump. Jesus responded, “We must not tempt God” (Matthew 4:5-7). Finally, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world which He could have if He worshipped him. Jesus responded, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve only Him only” (Matthew 4:8-9).

On this 21st observance of our entrance into our sanctuary, we couple our Lenten theme with the presentation of our gifts. We will observe a season of sacrifice and commitment by presenting more than just our dollars, but our time,  our talent and our treasures to the one true and living God. AMEN.

The Pastor’s Pen: March 10, 2019

Next Sunday, the third Sunday of March, we will observe our annual Victory March. Since the day when we first marched into our brand-new Sanctuary, we have observed the anniversary of our entry into our brand-new church by marching joyously and enthusiastically to commemorate the great blessings that God has provided us throughout the process of preparing to build, and then successfully constructing our beautiful edifice dedicated to the worship of our Lord. For this year’s March, we will couple our giving with our Lenten initiative of 40 days of commitment and sacrifice.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, that lead from Ash Wednesday to Easter.

On Wednesday, at our Ash Wednesday service, we had an extraordinary worship service and fellowship. The attendance was excellent, and the music by the Gospel Choir along with the sermon by Minister Thelma Pugh were all inspiring and uplifting.

Our theme for Lent this year is 40 days of sacrifice and commitment. We have determined that for this year, rather than focusing on what we might give up, such as certain foods or certain activities, we will instead focus on several aspects of our growth as disciples of Christ. We are committing ourselves to church attendance. By this we mean attending our Shiloh services. We know that some of our sister churches have exciting worship experiences. We also know that on any given Sunday, the Howard Chapel presents some of the preeminent voices in Black religion. However, as Shiloh members, our loyalty to our church should be first and foremost. Discipleship is the way church membership is defined. For these 40 days leading up to Easter, we will resist the temptations to visit our friends’ and neighbors’ churches, and will join with the Shiloh family in praying about and working toward a deeper commitment to being disciples for Jesus Christ here at Shiloh.

Our 40 days of recommitment and sacrifice, will include sacrificially giving of our time, our talents and our treasures. There are a number of initiatives here at Shiloh that warrant the sacrifice of our time to make our work for Christ as effective as it can. We will make sacrificial gifts of our talent toward the building of God’s Kingdom. Those with computer skills can help our Communications Ministry enhance their good work here at Shiloh. Those with musical gifts can share their talents with one of our vital and excellent choirs.  We can even volunteer to play an instrument for the Sunday school when they meet in combined session, or to work with the junior church as we put new efforts into making our junior church one of the most effective it can possibly be. Even if you are not musically talented, the various youth ministry programs would greatly benefit from those who will sacrificially commit themselves, their time and their talents for supporting and helping our youth ministry. Last Sunday, we distributed a calendar of all the ministry opportunities available here at Shiloh. Please make this 40 days of sacrifice the time when you recommit your life to building up the church of Jesus Christ.

And then, we will make these 40 days of Lent a time of sacrificing our treasures. Most of us don’t think of our financial resources as treasures; the meager amount of money that we receive in our pay envelopes hardly qualifies as “treasure.” Yet, by the standards of most people in our world, the average person who attends Shiloh would be considered by others in developing countries to be exceptionally rich. God has blessed us. Rather than tightening our fist and holding on to what we have, during this Lenten season let’s open those hands and let’s joyously share our blessings, our financial blessings, with those who are in need.

As we move toward Easter, the resurrection of our Lord, let’s make these 40 days a time in which we sacrifice our time, talents and treasures to build up the Kingdom of God.