Visit to the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church
Last night about 16 members of the congregation joined me as we went over to the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. We sat and watched their hour of study of Christian Scriptures and then joined them for a spaghetti and meatball dinner. The food for the soul was as delicious as the dinner and fellowship we had with their congregation.
Some of our people came earlier and watched their hour of prayer and music. The ladies sang old Negro spirituals and one tall retired marine about forty two years old got up and gave a stirring sermon in song. He had a deep resonate voice that consumed the entire sanctuary. The reverend Ben Williams watched as one of his disciples led the study portion of the evening. He taught us the fifth chapter of 2nd Corinthians. The primary theme was faith and belief in Jesus. The ideas repeated themselves that the Christian way of life enabled the believer to find eternal life. Yes, there is a struggle and today’s Christian need s not to be afraid to reject some of the temptations in the modern society. Yet, that will not preclude the believer from having a joyful life. This is the way to find true joy. Another theme is the duality of body and soul. This comes directly from Paul who is the central figure in Corinthians.
They also had wonderful discussion about the meaning of the text when it describes that God is a “terrible God.” Some took it literally meaning that God will exact retribution if we sin. Others understood it as a metaphor in the sense of God as awesome rather than terror. How does a god of love be also a god who is terrible? I really liked that discussion and the intellectual effort that they put into clarifying this descriptive about their view of God.
At the end of the study hour Reverend Williams got up to thank everyone and acknowledged the presence of our congregation. He asked me to speak to both groups. I tried to emphasize that one religion studying another and deriving inspiration from their enthusiasm and insight into their scriptures does not diminish our own faith. In fact it can move us to go back to our own practice of study with renewed vigor. I quoted from Genesis the first question that God ever asked a human being. That is the story of Adam after God catches him eating from the forbidden fruit. He asks him “Ayeka?” Where are you?” That is one of the fundamental questions of humankind. Where are we in this world? What are we doing here? What is our purpose? Where are we in the journey of our lives?
Our next step is to invite the church to our congregation for an hour of study with dinner afterwards. I believe our congregants enjoyed themselves and hopefully broadened their horizons that Jews and African American Baptists can study and commune together with a sense of mutual respect despite our differences. I say we have forgotten the ecumenical movement. We need to reach out more. Jews, in particular, need to form partnerships and support other faith traditions especially if they want support and understanding from the religious community. Everyone grows and feels good about these kinds of experiences. We cannot live only in our own spiritual world. We ought not to be hesitant to reach out to others.