Sue Bell Cobb Issues Advocacy Challenge to Children’s Conference Attendees

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb addressed the Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children’s Conference in Tuscaloosa urging attendees to advocate for a $1 increase in the cigarette tax.

A tobacco tax is what stands between Alabama and its ability to serve the needs of its youngest residents.   And, those who are advocates for children need to make that known to their legislators.

Former Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb urged those attending the Doing What Matters Conference to advocate for a $1 increase in the state's cigarette tax.

That was the message today from Sue Bell Cobb, retired chief justice from the Alabama Supreme Court as she criticized those state lawmakers in Alabama who took pledges not to raise taxes without considering the needs of state’s children.

Cobb called for the state’s electorate to become more informed about the difference between federal taxes and Alabama’s taxes.

Alabama has the fifth lowest cigarette tax in the country at 42.5 cents per package.

The average cigarette tax is now $1.46 a pack, up 11 cents since 2010.

The organization Children First is advocating for Alabama’s tax rate to be raised to $1 to $1.42 a pack.  The millions of dollars generated would be distributed to the Children First Trust Fund and the General Fund.

Cobb had a message for lawmakers, who were elected in 2010 because of a promise not to raise taxes.

“If you signed a ‘no tax’ pledge you’re basically saying your election and re-election is more important than anything else,” Cobb said.

Cobb’s advocacy for an increase in the tobacco tax capped her morning address to the “Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children ” Conference, which is underway today at the Bryant Conference Center here on the University of Alabama Campus.

“Whatever we’re doing folks, we’re not doing enough,” Cobb said.  “Part of getting it done for kids is just raw, hard core advocacy.”

Most of the hundreds of attendees stood and pledged to contact their representatives in the legislature to advocate for the cigarette tax.

DC Pastor Urges Richmond Crowd to Catch the “Scent of Rain” in 2012

H. Beecher Hicks of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC delivered the Emancipation Day address at the 72nd observance of Emancipation Day at Richmond’s Fifth Baptist Church.

More than 100 voices from churches across Richmond made up the Greater Metropolitan Choir, which ministered in song at today's Emancipation Proclamation Service at Fifth Baptist Church.

RICHMOND, Va.– Even though it was a bright sunny day, a near capacity crowd at one West end church heard a lot about rain on this Emancipation Proclamation Day service.

The hundreds who packed Fifth Baptist Church on Cary Street for the city’s 72nd celebration of the famous proclamation signed January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln that freed slaves in Virginia and nine other states, also heard from  both the Richmond’s first black mayor and the city’s current mayor, the second to be directly-elected.

Scent of Rain

H. Beecher Hicks, senior pastor of Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Baptist Church, in his address, drew parallels between the prophetic words of Ezekiel about shepherds who were irresponsible in not caring for needs of the unfortunate and some in government today who have abandoned a sense of a social agenda.

“What do you do?” Hicks said when “the poor get poorer and the rich go to tea parties.”

H. Beecher Hicks, senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC gave the address at Richmond's Emancipation Day Service.

The “scent of rain” Hicks spoke of blessings that come from unexpected showers from God

“If I smell the rain before it comes, it’s a sign of what God is about to do,” Hicks told the crowd of attendees from dozens of area churches, many of which have pastors who are members of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Richmond and Vicinity, the sponsor of today’s service.

Full disclosure:  Dr. Hicks was my pastor for four years when I was an undergraduate student at Howard University in the early 1990s.

Usually held on New Year’s Day, this year’s Emancipation Day Service was delayed a day due to the New Year coming in on a Sunday.

Former Richmond Mayor, Current Mayor Speak

Not scheduled to speak, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, who until recently pastored First Baptist Church of South Richmond, reminded the crowd of mostly African American attendees how important it is to know where we’ve come from and who brought us here.

He was one of several speakers who made reference to some of the conflicts even among those within the movement for civil rights and human rights. 

“All of our enemies are not on the other side,” Jones said. ” Some even look like us.”

Near the conclusion of the service, State Senator Henry L. Marsh, who was Richmond’s first African American elected mayor in the mid 1970s, spoke of his pleasure with Jones’ leadership as the second so-called “strong mayor”  despite Marsh’s own reservations about the switch from the council-manager form of city government several years ago.

Marsh urged attendees to join him in fighting proposals in the upcoming Virginia General Assembly to change state’s Voter ID laws.

Emancipation Services Elsewhere

Richmond was one of several cities where events were sponsored this week to remind attendees of the historic significance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

In Athens, Ga., civil rights pioneers were recognized and paid tribute to during a service in the Northeast Georgia community Sunday.

Meanwhile, church services were held in Indianapolis and in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, an Emancipation Proclamation parade preceded that community’s anniversary worship service.

Will 2012 Be the Year The Church Really Goes High-Tech?

Some local churches are starting out 2012 will current and future high-tech ways of worship. Richmond’s First African Baptist and Nashville’s Mt. Zion are just two examples.

Because it falls on a Sunday, New Year’s Day has a spiritual ring to it for those of us in the Body of Christ (better known as “The Church”).  But, today is seems that ring has an especially high-tech feel to it.  

Can you imagine watching baptism on an iPhone?  What about one of the nation’s oldest churches doing away with the use of hymnals?   Wireless connectivity enabling computing anywhere in the church building?

These things are already the norm in many places of worship, especially so-called megachurches.   But, in 2012 it may not  just be the megachurch that’s going high tech . 

I couldn’t help but note the tweets of Bishop Joseph Walker’s parishioners at Mount Zion Baptist in Nashville.

@ Angelo1906 tweeted

Watching @MtZionNashville on my Mt. Zion iPhone app. Man oh man, how I miss Nashville! Watched nearly 20 baptisms this mornin. #GloryToGod

@06Chocolate Thunder also wrote

@MtZionNashville has an app. It’s free…. Go download it. #TeamAndroid and #TeamIphone.

These tweets from Mt. Zion Baptist in the Music City (which most would term mega-churches with multiple locations) came on the same day as Richmond’s First African Baptist launched a new media and technology initiative that will take advantage of the smartphones that more and more churchgoers are bringing to church even as others are reading their Bible on an iPad or other ereader. 

Photo Courtesy: ZDNet

“Most people come to church, they bring some sort of device,” said Rodney Waller, senior pastor of Richmond’s First African Baptist Church. “We want our church to become wireless.”

Waller says by Easter, which falls on April 8, he wants his hundreds of parishioners to be reading the scripture from a large screen in the front of the church, which is located in Barton Heights community on the city’s northside.   Instead of hymnals, worshipers will sing from words projected on screen and scripture references will be beamed so that everyone has the same translation of the Bible.

The shift in technology at the 231-year-old First African Baptist  may be  indicative of a move that is happening in more and more local churches, regardless of size.  The reality of churchgoers who use smartphones and tablet devices everywhere else mandates that the traditional ways of worship be brought into the 21st century.

Today is the first Sunday I can remember when there was no church bulletin at First African Baptist Church (my home church).  The bulletins are not distributed at every service, replaced by a monthly printed newsletter.

It will be an exciting year to watch places of worship as they gear-up for high-tech Bible Study, evangelism, mission work and community ministry.   Stay tuned.

A Double-dose of Faith Preaching from Richmond’s Waller Kicks Off My 2012

First African Baptist Church Pastor Rodney Waller delivered two messages on faith on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 2012.

RICHMOND, Va.– Two sermons, same minister within a 12-hour period– a way to close out 2011 and open up 2012- talking about Faith.

The man doing the talking, Dr. Rodney Waller, the pastor of my home church, First African Baptist Church,  a 231-year-old congregation where I grew up.

Courtesy:First African Baptist Church

The rare occasion to hear the same minister in a 12-hour period came because New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday.  So, Waller delivered a message, “No Vacancy” on New Year’s Eve.    Based in prophetic book of Isaiah, the sermonic text in the first nine verses of the sixth chapter tells of what the prophet saw when King Uzziah died.

Waller said our faith shows us that there is “no vacancy” on the throne of God.  Because he’s in control, we as followers of Jesus Christ have to look upward (toward God),  inward (towards ourselves) and outward (toward others we can help). 

Our upward, inward and outward looks are reflective of the Faith Forward that Waller says we must have in 2012.  Last night’s message was followed the first Sunday sermon on the theme of Faith with a look Abraham’s faith when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering (see Genesis 22).  

Waller challenged us that when it comes to our faith,  as we start 2012 to plan on the following:

  • Expect our faith to be challenged
  • Focus on the promise of God and not seek justification
  • Learn to depend on God to provide our needs