On 9-11 in 1979, Howard Thurman posted a letter to me during my second year in Seminary. “I am pleased”, he wrote, “to extend to you on behalf of the Howard Thurman Educational Trust an invitation to participate in a seven day intensive seminar discussion with me on the grounds and the meaning of religious experience.”
I had been raised in the Church of God where worship was not just at the eleven o’clock hour every Sunday; not just the 3:pm fellowship when we would go to another Church or another Church would come to Sup & Service with us; but also at 7:30 pm— every Sunday. I understood clearly when my PhD New Testament class studies on Paul’s Law In Romans challenged me to ‘de-mythologize grandmother’ because from Sunday school through evening service, every Sunday, my grandmother kept me at church all day, so I ‘knew church’.
During the week, I remember attending various services at so many different churches in and out of our community. Temple Baptist on Cedar Avenue where the choir would come down the aisle singing “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy word, He’s never failed me yet, Oh, oh oh oh, can’t turn around…”. And the Sanctified store front church on Central near our corner, 76th street where the door always stood open; summoning the frequent visitors to Pappy’s Bar next door; as the praise was fearful for me: “I’m a soldier, in the army of the Lord, I’m a soldier in the army. I’m fighting for my life, in the army of the Lord..”. The Watch Night services at the Salvation Army on the corner of our street; so I ‘knew tradition’. But the grounds, and the meaning, of Religious Experience???, this was a whole other matter!
Now, in Weekly Bible Life Dialogue, Facebook Live -Thursdays 6:pm @Divided We Fall-Dialogue on The Great Divides, I have for the first time parted ways with the ‘Traditional’ approach to Theology where ‘Scripture and Tradition’ comes first. I am now looking at “Sources First” from the point at which one enters the Universe having been Delivered into Life by the Primary Life Source: Mother. With a view towards “Healing The Land”! I am guided by a statement meme that I ran across that says: “The Wound is not my fault, but the Healing is my responsibility!”
Dr. Thurman wrote further to me saying, “You will be one of ten young people from different sections of the United States. All of whom have two things in common: (1) The “nerve center of consent” has been given to the religious life as a personal commitment and (2) each one is Black.” The “Nerve of him— to see my ‘Nerve center! I had begun to be concentrated on “God seeing my heart”… then along comes a man of God, committed to the highest level of faith; who can see my “Nerve Center”!
And so we gathered in San Francisco, the ten of us, two doctorals, six seminarians, and two undergraduates for a week of discussions along the line of his statement in “Jesus And The Disinherited”▪
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