What time is it? This was the title of my sermon, this past Sunda (Sept. 26). I have had a lot of time to think about time as I’ve been in recovery from a recent illness and this is the first Sunday since late August that I was able to preach. During this season of recovery, I’ve reflected about a great many things.
By way of testimony, I’m a third generation Pentecostal preacher raised in the best of the black church tradition. And so I began to consider the signs of time somewhat personally as my “Dad”, Pastor J.D. Ford, passed away Father’s Day weekend 2002 as we began our ministry in Hartford. At this same time, my friend Bishop Carlton Pearson and his family suffered a very public fall from grace being declared a heretic to the faith by the Joint College of African American Pentecostal Bishops. Earlier this year, Bishop Norman Wagner, former Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World of Youngstown, Ohio died and this summer Bishop Walter Hawkins of Oakland, Calif., gospel music legend, icon and bishop of the Love Fellowship made his life transition, as well. On last Tuesday morning, (Sepyt. 21), I was awakened to the report that Bishop Kenneth H. Moales, Sr. of Bridgeport, had passed from this life to the next and by the end of the same day, the allegations of sexual misconduct of Bishop Eddie Long of Lithonia, Georiga had begun to be reported as breaking news on CNN. My cell phone has buzzed with texts and calls. My computer inbox filled with emails and facebook messages asking questions regarding the events of the week now just past. What time is it?
The word in my heart and in my mouth is transition. As my colleagues, friends, and family are transitioning from this life to another, as we mark the transitions at our congregation, and as the Black church is having to look at its own theology, we need to reflect on transition. If we stay the way we have been we die. That “Old Time Religion” which was good for my dear grandmother is “Bad Religion” and not good enough for me today. We’ve got to consider the fact that the way we’ve done “church” may not continue to be the way we should do “church” now or in the future. When we ask, “what time is it?,” we’ve got to ask are we breathing new light and hope into our institutions and churches toward transforming them into new and different communities of faith or are we forcing them to conform to an old way that doesn’t fit for us anymore.
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