My Dear Shiloh Family:

I pray that this letter finds you well. I write this evening to give an update on the ever-evolving development of the dangerous coronavirus – Covid-19.

The past several days have been challenging, to say the least.  We receive new details on the spread of the virus every day and those details are constantly changing.  We understand the fear and uncertainty that may be created as Special Reports continue to pop up on our screens.  

Finding new ways to cope with the threat of a menacing and deadly virus is difficult enough.  And yet, unscrupulous individuals seek to use this crisis to take advantage of our elders. Shiloh Seniors, please be careful.  As our kids say, “Stay Woke!”  Please don’t share any information or make any new decisions unless you are certain about the source and use of the information.  If you have questions, don’t do it.  Wait until you talk it over with a trusted friend. I know that we are unable to gather in our physical church building.  But we must remember,we are the church. The church is in us as we continue to meet to pray, study, worship, evangelize and even fellowship through 21st Century technology.  We hope to use every means available to us to maintain, as much as possible, the tie that binds us together. Here is what we are continuing to do to keep our congregation connected, spiritually, and emotionally:

  • Our regular Monday morning prayers with Rev. Bowen will be extended to Monday through Friday. The call-in number is 1-717-275-8941, access code 9331271.
  • As we have done for over a week, our noonday Lenten services will continue Monday through Friday until April 3. The call-in number is 1-857-232-0155, access code 428058.
  • On Thursday nights, March 18 through April 2, I will lead our Lifestyle Institute at 7:30 pm by phone: 1-857-232-0155, access code 428058.
  • Rev. Mensah along with some of our Associate Ministers, in the next few days, will be making phone calls to our Seniors 65 and older. 
  • Until further notice, we will continue our weekly worship service by livestream. This Sunday join us for a rebroadcast of one of our services at 10am; and at 11am a Conversation with your Pastor. For Livestream log on to Shiloh’s Website: www.shilohbaptist.org click on Livestream. To engage Pastor Smith by asking a question: Text toll free 1(202) 558-0917 OR Email:SBC@shilohbaptist.org

As we take shelter in this health crisis storm, recall the lesson in Mark 4:35-41, “Jesus calms the storm.” As you recall, Jesus was sleeping in the boat with several disciples when a violent storm raged the Sea of Galilee. The frightened disciples awake Jesus. Jesus awoke with authority, rebuked the wind, and calmed the sea. Jesus is in the boat with us and has the power to calm all storms and bring peace to His people. Let us continue to fix our eyes on Him, the Master of ocean, earth, and skies.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Smith

The Pastor’s Pen: March 8, 2020

During our Communion service a week ago today, God stood with our church
family as we prayed together for Deacon Elias Kibler.  Deacon Kibler was
overcome with an emergency medical challenge that caused us all to collectively
hold our breaths. Deacon Kibler fell unconscious and remained in this state for
nearly 1½ hours. Fortunately, the emergency medical team arrived quickly after
the 911 call was placed. Deacon Kibler was taken to the hospital, where he
received excellent medical attention. As we concluded our Communion service, we
received word that Deacon Kibler had been revived and was sitting up and
communicating with the nurses and doctors. What an awesome God we serve!
What might have resulted in a much worse outcome was avoided by the quick
response of members of our congregation. I commend, specifically, the lifesaving
skills of Anita Jordan, Juanita Bailey and Dr. Alvin Reaves, all of whom are medical professionals. They immediately sprang into action and provided emergency medical protocols for Deacon Kibler. Their untiring, persistent, and diligent efforts before the
paramedics arrived, I believe, made the difference in his life/death ordeal. I have
shared countless times that Shiloh is at its best in times of crisis. This was another
example of Shiloh at its best.

For all the wonders of technology, we must never forget that it was God who
performed the miracle. Those of us who have no medical experience did our part
by praying mightily for healing mercies.

That evening, First Lady G. Elaine Smith and I visited Deacon Kibler at
Washington Hospital Center. We were both amazed to see what God had done
through him and for him. He looked great, his voice was strong, and his mind was
clear! He told us he remembered enjoying the worship service, but nothing else.
When he became conscious, he found himself in the hospital, recovering from
emergency surgery, and wondering how all this had come about.
I believe God allows certain circumstances to be occasions for teaching the power
of faith. What happened last Sunday was such an example. The medical emergency
of Deacon Kibler showed us that when we all come together in fervent prayers and
believe mightily in our prayers, miracles can and will happen. Hallelujah!

The Pastor’s Pen: March 1, 2020

Last Sunday’s observance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) was a joyous time for all of us to connect with our roots by celebrating our HBCUs. HBCUs have an important role in our culture and community. Since the time of their inception, HBCUs and their respective Greek organizations have been dedicated to academic excellence, kinship, social justice, leadership, and uplifting African Americans. A few years ago, it was expressed by many that in a post-racial world, HBCUs were no longer necessary. The recent reversing of political gains and economic advancements have clearly shown that we need our HBCUs now more than ever. We must not forget that HBCUs have greatly contributed to the nation’s workforce by producing a mass of distinguished graduates in many fields of study, most notably in science, technology, and mathematics. Overall, HBCUs provide a value that predominately white institutions do not have. As Christian churches have played a role in the establishment of HBCUs, I express my deepest thanks to Shiloh’s HBCU Council for keeping us accountable to our roles in helping our youth achieve an HBCU education. Job well done!
On February 24, 2020, the Washington Post reported the death of Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA mathematicians depicted in “Hidden Figures.” Last year, our Senior Citizens Club, in one of its many offerings of quality events, hosted a screening of the movie in Heritage Hall. I was blessed to have shared with some of our seniors in this significant event. We laughed, talked back to the characters on the screen, and just had a great time together! This was the first time I became aware of the enormous contribution Mrs. Johnson made to science and particularly to space travel. Washington, DC’s own, Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson with an excellently understated depiction of Johnson’s complex character   while providing deep insight into the resolve and courage of Black people and Black women particularly. Henson portrayed Katherine Johnson as a woman of class seasoned with sass. We must be mindful that Mrs. Johnson functioned in an era when Black women were still viewed by much of the nation as little more than mammies, maids, or entry-level secretaries.
The Post indicated that Mrs. Johnson died at 101 years old. Her remarkable career was marked by the fact that she developed NACA’s (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a precursor of NASA) codifying mathematical principles that to this day remain at the core of human space travel. One particularly interesting fact the movie illustrated was that John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, would not launch his mission to space until he directed NASA to, “get the girl to check the numbers.” “If she says the numbers are good, I am ready to go,” said Glenn.
It is an interesting coincidence that as Black History Month ends and Women’s History Month begins, we celebrate the life of a woman who was an icon of Black American excellence. We also celebrate Katherine Johnson as a pioneer in the Women’s Rights Movement, demonstrating that women can excel in a field usually reserved for men. Katherine Johnson was not only a woman ahead of her time, but a Black woman who showed the world that Black people are as intellectually gifted in mathematics as any culture or race of people. To God be the glory!

The Pastor’s Pen: February 23, 2020

On this Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Sunday, we welcome to our pulpit, renowned theologian and preacher, Rev. Frank A. Thomas, Ph.D. Dr. Thomas is the Director of the Ph.D. Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric and the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana. We thank God for this preacher and teacher of the gospel. We look forward to his insightful and spiritual presentations.

We thank God also for the continuing good work of our HBCU Council. Over the years, the Council has helped to keep us critically aware of the important role of HBCUs in the African American community and across this nation. HBCU graduates have blazed trails in civil rights, made great contributions in science, law, and medicine and developed entrepreneurial and business enterprises. Unfortunately, HBCUs have struggled with the realities of racism and prejudice that have forced these schools to function from their inception with insufficient funds, inadequate support, and the misperception of many in the majority community that anything Black is inherently inferior. We are proud of our HBCU Council here at Shiloh. It has taken root in our congregation and become a model for churches around the nation.

As we have observed the nation’s politics in the last few years, the notion of a post-racial America is nothing but a myth. The doors of economic opportunity remain boarded up and nailed shut. Although the success of the Civil Rights Movement made it possible for African American students to attend predominately white institutions, also known as PWIs, the nurturing and equipping of Black students to face the challenges of a racialized world have always happened best in HBCUs.

 In 2002, the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) under the leadership of the late C. Mackey Daniels, encouraged PNBC churches to intentionally support the work of our HBCUs. I brought this notion back to Shiloh, shared it with J. Otis Harris, Jr., and David Hayes, who immediately began to develop an HBCU Council. From meager beginnings, this ministry has grown and flourished into what it is today. We must never forget that without HBCUs, the history of race in this country would be taught by the victors and not the victims. Also, the extraordinary contributions of such stalwarts as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, and Dr. Charles Drew might never have been fully appreciated or valued without the teachings from HBCUs.

Thank you, HBCU Council, for your tireless efforts to promote the health and life of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. To God be the glory!

The Pastor’s Pen: February 9, 2020

During Black History Month, we commemorate the achievements and legacies of African Americans and recognize the role of Blacks in American history. Today, I pen my thoughts on the memory of an African American legend who worshiped with us for many years. Although Harry Roberson, Jr. contributed much to our community and beyond, many of us knew little about him because he was a “quiet giant.”  Today, we launch the Dr. Harry Roberson, Jr. Memorial Scholarship. Meet this “Prince Among Men.” 

A native of a tiny town in Arkansas known as Malvern and born to humble circumstances, Dr. Harry Roberson, Jr., fulfilled a lifelong quest to advance professionally and to inspire and help others to excel regardless of social, racial, and economic barriers.

Dr. Roberson believed that a better life could only be achieved through education.  Nevertheless, when he graduated from high school in 1946, he had no idea how he would manage to pay for his college education. But as fate would have it, one of Dr. Roberson’s former teachers–Ms. Fanning-Bailey–opened the door for Dr. Roberson to launch his education. Dr. Roberson never forgot the encouragement and opportunity provided by Ms. Fanning-Bailey that enabled him to advance and succeed in his chosen career of finance, business, and management. Consequently, Dr. Roberson vowed to “pay it forward” by supporting students seeking educational opportunities. 

Dr. Roberson began doing so the day he graduated from his beloved Philander Smith College (PSC) in 1950.  Since that day, for nearly 70 years, Dr. Roberson provided scholarship assistance to eligible students. As part of Dr. Roberson’s activities, in 1988, he established the Harry Roberson, Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund to provide financial assistance to students at PSC.  He also established the Fund to demonstrate his gratitude to the school that had given him so much and made it possible for him to attend college and lead and live a successful business career. 

For his philanthropic and altruistic desire to improve human welfare, in 1989, Dr. Roberson received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the National Alumni Association of PSC after serving more than 40 years of active membership. Also, in 2010, Dr. Roberson was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by PSC in recognition of his unstinting service and devotion to the ideals and precepts of the College. 

A proud life member of Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity, Inc., Dr. Roberson was a “man after God’s own heart.” He passionately sought God’s wisdom and word and recognized early on his journey that God’s grace ordered his steps. Throughout his quest for higher education and successful entrepreneurship, Dr. Roberson remained faithful to God and the church. 

Dr. Roberson’s quiet strength of humility and integrity were the essences of his generosity.  The scholarship named in memory of this “Prince Among Men,” bequeathed to the historic Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington, DC, under the stewardship of the Shiloh Scholarship Committee, is a testament to Dr. Roberson’s love for his church of 35 years, and affirms his commitment to providing financial assistance to youth who are pursuing a college education. The legacy of Dr. Harry Roberson, Jr., will live in perpetuity.


“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his ways.”

– Psalm 27: 33 


The Pastor’s Pen: February 2, 2020

The tragic death of basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, a week ago today felt like a body blow for many of us. I first heard the news of Kobe’s death on Sunday afternoon upon my return from San Antonio, Texas. As I grappled with this shocking news, I also pondered why this one tragic loss of life has us all so heartbroken, especially when we encounter death every day, either of friends and loved ones or of persons we don’t know. Death is part of the human condition; it is a natural part of life. My understanding of death, however, was challenged when I learned that Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna (“Gigi”), and several others were aboard the helicopter and perished as well. It all was a great shock. As details emerged over the next few days, it was clear that the extremely dense fog played a role in the crash. By one account, the pilot determined that it was too dangerous to continue going forward. When he “attempted to gain altitude to avoid the cloud layer,” the helicopter hit a mountain and the deadly crash ensued. 

I never met Kobe Bryant although I’d seen him play many times and marveled at his athleticism. I joined the masses who prayed for him when his marriage was in jeopardy over the sexual dalliance that became public after charges were filed against him for sexual assault. Kobe and wife, Vanessa, muddled through the challenge and endured the pain, and as a result, became a stronger and healthier loving family. Restoration of the Bryant family was evident when Kobe took his daughter to a Mamba event. The Mamba Sports Academy was created by Kobe to help children work through their personal challenges through sports. The happy picture of Kobe with “Gigi” wrapped in his arms caused many of us to feel the tragedy of their deaths and realize in our hearts that Kobe and his daughter were gone too soon.

Whether or not we knew Kobe personally, we watched him grow up before our very eyes, we watched him soar to international basketball stardom, we prayed him back from challenges and setbacks, and we will remember him as the quintessential family man. Yes, Kobe’s passing is an enormous body blow.

As a church family, we will pray for the Bryant family and the other families who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. As we come to grips with the enormity of this tragedy, we will lean on God because no matter how random and unexplainable Kobe’s death, God is in control. 

The bright light in this tragedy was when we learned that Kobe and Gianna attended mass and received Communion Sunday morning before boarding the fatal flight. We praise God and rejoice that Kobe was in a right relationship with God, and we are comforted in the fact that he is indeed with the Lord. Amen!

The Pastor’s Pen: January 17, 2020

Each year the Brotherhood of Shiloh Men presents one of the most significant events in the life of our church, the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast. The men have made it their commitment to ensure that the young people of our community and neighborhood are represented during this special observance. This year, the Brotherhood has chosen as their theme at the Prayer Breakfast, Recognizing Women of the Movement. During the Civil Rights Movement, women worked primarily behind the scenes, supporting and advising greats like W. E. B. Dubois, Ralph Abernathy, and Dr. King. Though their roles were overshadowed by the men, women also played important roles at all levels of the movement, from leading local civil rights organizations to serving as lawyers on segregation issues. Their stories increase our understanding of, and appreciation for, the movement and provide us with tangible examples of how essential they were to the advances of the Civil Rights Movement. A few years ago, junior high school students in Nashville, Tennessee were surveyed and asked to name a public figure who was king. The majority responded that Elvis Presley was the king. For those who sacrificed and risked their lives and careers, the legacy that Dr. King left to this nation must never be confused with the leading figure of rockabilly music. 

 Recently, I watched a video of President Barack Obama angrily denouncing those who ask, “Why should we vote, our votes don’t really matter?” President Obama was correct. Voting matters because it is an insult to civil rights leaders and icons like John Lewis, who nearly lost his life when he took on the American system of segregation. History has almost forgotten the names of civil rights workers Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney. The trio traveled to heavily segregated Meridian, Mississippi to help organize civil rights efforts, but were brutalized, tortured, and murdered by white supremacists. The depth of racial hatred is so firmly ensconced as a principal embraced by right-wing politicians that Ronald Reagan choose to announce his reelection campaign in Meridian. Richard Milhouse Nixon was well-aware of the deep racial animosities in this nation. When Lyndon B. Johnson brought a victory for civil rights workers and the nation by passing the Voting Rights Act, Mr. Nixon immediately pursued what he and his cronies called the Southern Strategy. That strategy was not just a dog whistle, it was a foghorn to alert the racists in our society, particularly in the South, that he was their man. We can never forget the valiant leadership of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in 1968 was martyred for the cause of freedom. Our deepest thanks to the Brotherhood of Shiloh Men for recognizing the contributions of women of the Civil Rights Movement and for making sure that Dr. King’s legacy will never be forgotten.

The Pastor’s Pen: January 12, 2020

One of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Aldous Huxley, famously said, “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” Those of us who recall the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy remember one of the most terrifying episodes of 1961. It was the Cuban Missile crisis. At that time, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a contest for global domination. The United States ended World War II by dropping two nuclear bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was not long after that when Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime perfected the technology to build nuclear weapons as well. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and Russia. The Russians wanted permission from the U. S. to establish a missile base in Cuba. President Kennedy put forth an ultimatum. He announced that the U. S. would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the weapons already in Cuba be dismantled and returned to the Soviet Union or the U. S. would declare war on the Soviets. 

Those of us in school during that time had been practicing how to shelter in place if we were attacked. Most schools had some form of underground space where we would go to find safety in the event of an air raid alarm. For a nail-biting period of time, the world anxiously wondered if this indeed was the beginning of the end. Fortunately, Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union acquiesced. He ordered the ships to turn around, which ended (or circumvented?) the threat of another nuclear holocaust. During this anxious and tense period in our history, the Commander in Chief was known for sober and clear thinking. Using presidential protocol, he consulted his cabinet—composed of some of the finest minds in America—to advise him on the best strategy per the prevailing military intelligence. Contrast this with what we heard last week: President Trump foolishly and single-handedly ordered to kill, by ambush, one of Iran’s top generals. The order was impulsive, unconscionable, poorly thought out, and completely devoid of any strategy to deal with the aftermath of such a deranged and brash decision. Some may feel that those of us who are critics of the president may be too harsh. However, what we witnessed last week clearly affirms why we are so strident about the president. With nuclear weapons readily available to multiple nations, all it will take is the erratic, impulsive decision of one leader to start a nuclear holocaust that could not be reversed. “Tough talk” may appeal to the president’s base, but what the world faces now is not some parlor game. It is the future of the human race. Rather than being enamored with tough talk and blowhard “bullism,” we need to apply the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Foreign nations around the world know that the United States is not to be trifled with. They are aware of our extraordinary military power, our ability to make war is respected, and since the close of World War II, we have not had to utilize our military might. 

With this in mind, the time has come for people of faith around the world to call on God with the fullest sincerity and ask God to restore our president, not only to sanity, but to a knowledge of God, the God of justice, mercy, and peace.

The Pastor’s Pen: January 5, 2020

People of faith around the world are praying for civil rights icon and man of peace, Congressman John Lewis, as he battles stage IV pancreatic cancer. I met Congressman Lewis when I pastored in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the keynote speaker at a banquet supporting the American Baptist College (ABC) of Nashville, his alma mater. We sat on the dais together and throughout the evening he spoke warmly of the many workshops he led at First Baptist Capitol Hill where I then pastored. He spoke also of the lunch counter sit-ins where he led workshops and the difficulty he experienced after conducting the workshops in making sure all involved in the demonstrations maintained a nonviolent posture no matter how hateful and dehumanizing the racist opposition. Congressman Lewis started his speech that evening at ABC by recounting his days as a boy practicing his sermons to the chickens on his farm. That story would become a hallmark account in his book Walking with the Wind. When our local congressman of Tennessee sent me to Washington to attend Nelson Mandela’s address to the U. S. Congress, as I wandered the halls of Capitol Hill, I ran into Congressman Lewis. Even though I was not a voting member of his District, he invited me to his office and treated me with exceptional kindness.

Years later after I relocated to Washington and assumed the pastorate of Shiloh, we invited the Congressman to deliver the commemorative Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon in January 2008. A year later (January 2009), he graciously consented to preach the historic sermon in honor of our celebration of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration. In September 2013, we invited Mr. Lewis to preach our 150th anniversary sermon, which he recalled to a reporter from the New Yorker magazine as one of the most memorable experiences of his long and illustrious career. While sitting behind Congressman Lewis in the pulpit during the anniversary service, I noticed a long scar on the back of his head. I will never forget wondering if the scar was from the beating he received during a protest march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama (1965). It is one of the many brutalities he suffered for justice. We will always be grateful that he came to Shiloh and shared the amazing indomitable zeal of his ministry. I will always have a deep fondness for Congressman Lewis. He is, and has always been, a man for all seasons. If this illness signals the coming of winter in his life, we will always be grateful for the way he has used every season of his existence to glorify God.

Congressman Lewis plans to continue to serve the people of his 5th Congressional District of Georgia. He is quoted as saying: “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life…but I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.” As Mr. Lewis battles this cancer, I ask every member of our congregation to pray for him without ceasing. We will also pray collectively that God will be with him every step of the way as he battles this fight, the fight of his life.

The Pastor’s Pen: December 29, 2019

The season of Advent, the time when we commemorate the coming of Christ, has ended. It is now the season of Christmas. The light we had expectantly waited for is now here. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king!” Even though at Christmas we acknowledge that the baby born in a manger is the light of the world, the shadows all around are just as unyielding as ever. The impeachment of the 45th President of the United States, though warranted per the two Articles of Impeachment, cast an even darker cloud on the current Administration and our democracy. Yet, the light of impeachment, with removal, is imperative to preserve our democracy. Christmas has come as it has for 2,019 years, yet, the darkness remains in our health care system—citizens cannot be guaranteed affordable health care, drugs run unchecked in our streets, communities remain unsafe, and the systematic oppression of classism, the increasing pervasion of racism and ethnic hatred are more acute than at almost any time in our history. In spite of the birth of our Lord, the shades of evil are thicker and more impenetrable than ever because we have not done our part as the church of the living God. We have been instructed by our Savior in Matthew 5:16 to “Let [our] light so shine before men…” 

All too often, shining our light is just a dim talking point that many cannot see or take seriously. We can shine our light by bringing Jesus’ life-giving messages to every sphere of our lives. Shining the light in the educational arena means promoting fair wages or classroom instructors, aids, and administrators. Transforming classrooms into modern, state-of-the-art learning spaces would be wonderful, but totally committed teachers who are enthusiastic about their calling, would also make for enlightened education for all. We can bring light to our volunteer services to spark change and improve the world. Rather than throw up our hands and yield to the belief that things will never get better, we can establish relationships with our police and other local officials to work to see law enforcement personnel and citizens as two sides of the same coin. We can bring light to our world by simply smiling and being friendly with everyone we meet. In the words of Perry Como, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be!” As the hymn-writer penned, “Let others see Jesus in you”, by so doing, you will “…lead the lost to life and light.”