During a recent service celebrating Black History Month at the 12th Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the president/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), expressed gratitude and reverence for the church’s rich history. He also highlighted the importance of the Black Press in 2018.
“There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this church,” said Chavis, greeting the congregation.
Located in the historic Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., the congregation, led by Rev. Dr. Paul H. Saddler, boasts a professional, eclectic crowd of the best of the district’s ‘Chocolate City’ past. From a Superior Court Judge as the First Lady to one of the first African American drag racers as a third pew member, the 12th Street Christian Church represents the diversity of Black excellence, distinctive of the nation’s capital.
Dr. Chavis presented a timely sermon titled ‘The Faith That Strengthens’ from Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
The message was extremely relevant for an African American congregation working to keep their traditional values rooted in a gentrifying neighborhood.
Concluding a Black History Month series of distinguished special guests, Dr. Chavis challenged the crowd to remember that, “God has been good to Black people.” Reflecting on his expansive history on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, or as he likes to call it, the ‘Freedom Movement,’ Dr. Chavis wove seamlessly through a timeline of Black history and its relationship to the familiar text.
Encouraging the audience to both vote and pray, Dr. Chavis explained that waiting on the Lord was no excuse for complacency. He wrapped up his remarks by reminding the crowd of a traditional question asked by every civil rights activists that followed Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘What would Martin do?’
“We live in the wealthiest nation in the world. There should be no poverty. There should be no homelessness. There should be no inadequate education for our children. It shouldn’t be an absence of healthcare for those that need healthcare,” Dr. Chavis said. “Dr. King would be disturbing our consciousness, making us uncomfortable in the name of Jesus, in the name of the gospel and the application of righteousness.”
The congregation shared their appreciation for Dr. Chavis’ message of motivation through their open arms and wide smiles, during a reception after the service.
Dr. Chavis said that we must choose community over chaos, “a beloved community where we treat each other fairly, treat each other justly and look after not only the least of these, but all of these in our community.”