Black History at ABC
by Pastor George Van Alstine
ABC is blessed to be one of the most ethnically integrated congregations in the Pasadena area. There is such a mix of Filipinos, Latinos, Koreans and others in an average Sunday morning service that it’s hard to imagine the church once could be seen as having Swedish Baptist roots. RLou Norquist may be our only token Swede right now. Certainly the dominant groups in the current church family are Caucasian- and African-American. We have been worshiping together for so long that it’s hard to imagine not being in a multi-cultural fellowship.
February has been designated nationally as Black History Month, and at ABC we have been commemorating this since 1984. We might do well to have a similar celebration on our calendar for all the other racial and national heritages among us, because every one of these distinctive cultures has its own beauty and wisdom. But in the USA, the history of people from African roots has been systematically eclipsed during centuries of slavery and segregation. That’s why we feel it’s important to emphasize it in these years when we’re trying to undo the errors of the past.
During February, we will be doing several things to affirm God’s gifts through African-Americans. Our worship services will incorporate some special elements, including pre-service devotionals that are part of the Black church tradition and special music during the service. Fuller Seminarian Garth Battick, who has Jamaican roots, preached last Sunday’s sermon, and Roland Wiley each week will share some insights as Lay Worship Leader. Sunday evening, February 27, at 6:00 pm, we will have a chance to view some Civil War era issues of “Harper’s Pictorial Magazine” (thanks to Brenda Mitchell), and J.R. Ray will give a talk on African-Americans fighting in America’s early wars. The first Sunday evening in March, Roland Wiley will enlighten us about Black Superheroes and give his own personal testimony.
But the big event of the month will be our 27th Annual “Black History Celebration,” this Sunday evening, February 20, beginning at 5:00 pm. Our young people, under the direction of Robert DeVaughn and Felita Kealing, are working hard on an exciting skit around the theme “Faith for Our Future.” The African Choir, the ABC Gospel Choir, and other special musicians will inspire us. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Don Cheek, author of the book “Assertive Black; Puzzled White.” Afterward, everyone will be invited to enjoy some great soul food and desserts.
History is not just an objective recounting of clear-cut facts. It is always colored by the perspective of the writers. A description of a 17th century South Carolina plantation will be very different depending on whether it has been written by the plantation owner or by one of his field slaves. Anne Frank’s Diary tells a much different story about the “work camps” than you would read in the camp warden’s report to his superiors. If you listen to a wife’s account of an argument with her husband, then hear his side of the story, you may have a hard time believing they’re talking about the same event.
So, is there any really true history? Yes, the final word on history is that it is his story. The Bible gives us some profound insight into how differently God views the events of human history, in light of his ultimate purposes. We only understand his perspective in a hazy way, but when all is said and done, in the final analysis, the only history that will matter is His story.