Remembering One of the Greatest Ministers of Music of All Time — Andrae Crouch

Andrae Crouch, who died Thursday, impacted generations with the songs God gave him to minister the Gospel. I wanted to remember what impact he had my life as a young church musician.

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Courtesy: www.positivelygospel.com
Courtesy: http://www.positivelygospel.com

Early this morning on the radio,  I heard the chorus to the song “Take Me Back, Take Me Back, Dear Lord.” But, they didn’t come from a Gospel Radio Station or a Christian radio program.

Those words were coming through National Public Radio, which carried a story about the passing Thursday of one of the greatest Christian songwriters of all time: Andrae Crouch.

While those of us who literally grew up listening to Andrae Crouch’s music were saddened, he wouldn’t want us to be sad that he’s passed on from this life.

All we have to do is listen to the words of “Soon and Very Soon” and know that he’s had his head pointed toward heaven for many, many years.   It is the ultimate confidence that we as children of God have.

As Christians, our whole attitude about death and passing from this life on into eternity is different and we know and testify to that just by singing some of Crouch’s songs.

I can vividly remember learning how to play the piano by playing some of Crouch’s music.  Like Crouch, I too played piano (and the organ) in church as a teenager.

There are so many songs from the 1970s and 1980s–“Take Me Back,” ” Through It All,” “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, ” “My Tribute”– that taught me the power of music to minister to one’s soul.

As a singer, songwriter, choir director,  Crouch set the tone for what it meant to worship through our witnessing about what He means to us.   He showed us how to let the words of our testimony minister to others.

One of his last greatest hits– “Let the Church Say Amen” is a song that like dozens of others resonates with people to the point that they are sung not only in sacred, but also secular environments.

Crouch reached across racial lines with his music, touching those from all walks of life.

Even though he has passed on,  he’s left so much behind for us as music ministers of the Gospel to carry on.   Some have called Andrae Couch the “Father of Modern Gospel Music.”

If that is so,  then we the “children of modern Gospel Music” have to carry on Crouch’s work in our own singing of his songs, sharing the lyrics with those who are unsaved and writing our own songs that God places in our spirit and heart.

We’ll see Minister Crouch again one day  “Soon and Very Soon.”

Let the Church Say “AMEN.”

10 Reasons I AM Thankful Today

Time to pause on this Thanksgiving Day 2014 to list just how many reasons I have to say “I’M THANKFUL.”

thanskgivingiamge RICHMOND, Va.–    As we reach the noon hour on this Thanksgiving Day 2014,  time to pause briefly and reflect on the reason our nation breaks with routine to celebrate each year on the fourth Thursday of November.

Millions like me travel back to their hometowns to re-connect with family and join together in giving thanks. There’s no place like your home to remind of who you of how far you’ve come and how far you have yet to go. I came up with 10 REASONS I am giving thanks today.

How many of them do you share with me?

A crowd of more than 300 packed the lower level of the sanctuary at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church for Thanksgiving Service 2014.   The historic Sixth Mount Zion is located in Richmond's Jackson Ward community.
A crowd of more than 300 packed the lower level of the sanctuary at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church for Thanksgiving Service 2014. The historic Sixth Mount Zion is located in Richmond’s Jackson Ward community.

1. I am Thankful for Life and Health

So many people have come and gone since last Thanksgiving.   In today’s Thanksgiving Day Message, Dr. A. Lincoln James, reminded us of the importance of just celebrating being here.   We cannot take for granted life itself and good health.

2. I am Thankful for A Family and A Home

Later this afternoon, I’ll sit down at a Thanksgiving Table with my extended family, some of whom have encountered health challenges over the past year.  But, it’s a joy to be able  to break bread with them another time.  My home of 44 years is intact, something a lot of people cannot say this Thanksgiving Day.

3. I am Thankful for A Great Work Environment and Co-workers

While I’m a long way from it today– Reese Phifer Hall where I work with a fantastic faculty as the assistant dean of administration for the College of Communication and Information Sciences is place of pleasure.  I am thankful to have a job and to be able to work every day with students, faculty and staff who are truly committed to what they do. This past year I’ve worked for both an interim dean and a new dean who challenged me to be better at what I do.  They’ve set a standard of excellence and lead by example.    I look forward to getting back to my co-workers and students next week.   I don’t take for granted this opportunity to love going to work every day at The University of Alabama.

4. I am Thankful for Safe Travels.

So far 2014 has been characterized by a good bit of travel to places near and far.   In spite of lost luggage along the way, I am thankful that I have arrived at each destination safely and mostly, on time (smile). Even in the hustle and bustle of my journeys, I have seen and experienced parts of our nation and world for the first time.  From Western Canada to Western North Carolina or two different regions of Texas and parts of Central Alabama, the travels have expanded my view of the world around me. Whether by car, train or plane, I thank God for safe travels to all of these places. gratefulgraphic

5. I am Thankful for the Opportunity to Make a Difference

I like the fact that in my work, I have the privilege of working with dozens of students every day.  I have an opportunity to make a difference in their lives and the lives of those in the community where I serve.   So I am thankful for the chance to see that I can make a difference every day that I’m alive.

6. I am Thankful To Be A Mentor and Be Mentored 

Both in my role as a faculty member and in various community organizations, I am blessed to be able to mentor young men and women even as I look to those who ave more experienced in life and can mentor me.   Both roles- mentor and mentee– are equally important and I’m grateful to be positioned to be and do both.

7. I am Thankful for Four Seasons

Here in Virginia, not too far from here, there was snow yesterday.   Early talk of a White Thanksgiving for Central Virginia went away even as those west of here experienced snowy weather 24 hours ago.  Usually I have to come home to Virginia to see snow, but in 2014, I experienced measurable snow in West Alabama last winter.   For the first time, I have leaves to rake in the backyard of my Tuscaloosa home and we’ve had our share of 90-degree heat.    It’s nice to have the four seasons even in the Deep South.

8. I am Thankful for A Vision to Make An Even Greater Impact on the World Around Me

God has given me a vision to be great at what I do so that I can impact those with whom I come in contact.  That vision has yet to be fully realized.  But, I am thankful that God has picked me to do such great things.

9. I am Thankful for Wisdom of  12 years in West Alabama

While many of my colleagues have shifted and re-adjusted in their work from place to place, now for more than a decade, I’ve been able to call West Alabama home away from home.   There’s something to be said for stability and being settled where you are even as you take in the wisdom of those around you.  I am thankful for job and career that places me in contact with those who have wisdom to share and shape my whole  lived experience. 2014image

10. I am Thankful for 33 More Days to Get It Right in 2014

For all of those things I still need to and want to do this year,  I still have time to make waves, accomplish more great things THIS year.   Even as I write this,  I am setting some 4 1/2 week personal goals for what I believe God will have me do before the New Year begins. Stay tuned!

Tyrone Nelson Offers A Pre-Black Friday Message on Americans’ Discontentment

Tyrone Nelson, pastor of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church urged more than 200 gathered for today’s Community Thanksgiving Service to

Tyrone Nelson picture
Tyrone Nelson pastors Richmond, Virginia’s Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church

RICHMOND, Va.–  Many metro Richmond residents know Tyrone Nelson as a member of Henrico County Board of Supervisors representing the Varina District.

On this Thanksgiving 2013, I had the opportunity to hear Tyrone Nelson, the minister of the Gospel, deliver a message about what so many Americans are lacking on pre-Black Friday:  CONTENTMENT.

Notice I said “Pre-Black Friday” and NOT Thanksgiving.   That’s the problem.

That’s why we all can benefit from today’s Thanksgiving message- “GIVING THANKS FOR ENOUGH.”
Continue reading “Tyrone Nelson Offers A Pre-Black Friday Message on Americans’ Discontentment”

Nashville’s Joseph Walker To Lead Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship Starting in 2015

Now that we know Bishop Joseph Walker will be the next International Presiding Bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, what should the Fellowship’s parishioners do between now and 2015?

LOUISVILLE–  The suspense has been high all week here in Kentucky’s largest city as those of us attending the 20th Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International Conference were anticipating the big announcement of our NEXT LEADER.

bishop_joseph_w_walker-2
Walker

Tonight International Presiding Bishop Paul S. Morton announced that Bishop Joseph Walker, III, senior pastor of Nashville’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, will be the one to succeed him when he steps down at the 2015 conference in New Orleans, La.

“I’m so grateful for the confidence Bishop Morton and the Bishop’s Council has shown in choosing me as the next Presiding Bishop,” Walker wrote in a news release, transmitted minutes after tonight’s announcement.

Brings Experience

In making the announcement, Bishop Morton made reference to the challenge Bishop Walker faced when he joined the Fellowship and left the National Baptist Convention, USA.   It’s  a subtle reference to the history that haunts the Full Gospel MOVEMENT that still is controversial in some circles of religious leaders.

Having dealt with this “controversy” firsthand in affiliating with the Full Gospel Fellowship,  Bishop Walker will bring that experience with him.

I’m sure I’m not only non-clergyman,  lay attendee/delegate here who correctly “guessed” that Bishop Walker would get the nod.    Yeh, I kind of thought “I knew it” when his name was called.

The 45-year-old native of Shreveport, La.’s long list of accomplishments are detailed in the news release.

Brings A Testimony

He’s a young, strong, leader whose work at Mt. Zion has been documented in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

You can see all that’s been written about him come alive by visiting Mt. Zion. I’ve had the pleasure of attending Sunday worship at Mt. Zion on two separate occasions.  It’s always a highlight of my visit to the Nashville area on a Sunday.

In his personal life, Bishop Walker has been tested.   In addition to losing his home in a fire,  he lost his wife, Diane to cancer a few years, a story he shares in his book, Life Between Sundays.

His much-publicized wedding to  Neonatologist Stephaine Hale is an inspiration to people like me that you can find love in your 40s.

But, Bishop and our soon-to-be first lady of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship have shown how two highly-educated professionals can co-labor in ministry, even though they have very full, successful lives.     Their new book, Becoming a Couple of Destiny, is on my summer reading list as I prepare for my next step.

What’s NEXT for Full Gospel ?

Now that we, in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship,  know who our next international leader will be,  what can we as the lay persons (A.K.A. the pew Christians) do between now and 2015?

1.  Watch as the smooth transition begins

As part of tonight’s big announcement, our Third Presiding Bishop Clarence McClendon made reference to his role as assisting with the transition.  I believe that transition has to involve not only the leaders of the Fellowship, but the parishioners who will need to connect with the vision as we continue to do what God has called us to do in our local churches.

Pastoral or leadership changes happen all the time in our local churches.  But, those who have been in the Fellowship have never had a transition from one international presiding bishop to another.  So, there will likely be bumps in the road.   Still, it’s an opportunity for lay persons to watch and learn how this transition transpires.

2.  Pray fervently for Bishop Walker and those he’ll identify to work with him

This is a no-brainer.  We always pray for our leaders, secular and within the Body of Christ.  But,  Bishop Walker as our international presiding bishop-designate will need extra prayers as he adjusts to this new role and continues to do what God has for him to do in Nashville.

3. Continue to Give

As the Full Gospel Fellowship begins its NEXT 20 years tonight, we as Covenant Partners must continue to sow into the international ministry that is Full Gospel.  That starts with our sacrificial contribution over and above what we are expected to do in our local churches.

4.  Focus Less on Personalities

When leadership changes happen, there is a tendency to look to see who will be jockeying for position in the “new administration.”   Our International Presiding Bishop Paul Morton made it clear that this announcement was not about him, but about what God is doing with Full Gospel.  That means who will be appointed to this or that is probably not as  important as what we do as parishioners to fulfill the role/assignment to which we individually have anointed and appointed.

5. Get Excited About the Future

In the next two years, I believe it will be an exciting time for the Fellowship corporately.  But, individually, those of us in the Fellowship probably should remember what Empowerment Temple’s  Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant reminded us of in his address tonight, “We Can’t Stay This Size.”

Individually we have to grow into what God has for each of us.   When Bishop Walker takes the mantle in New Orleans two years from now, we should be able to see significant growth individually.   And, as a result, our churches should be different places because of us walking in our destiny.

Congratulations Bishop Walker!
We’re excited about the FUTURE of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship!

Reporting on A Great Mother’s Day With My Mom

Time to reflect on what a great day I had with my mother, Sallie White Daniels and family ack in my hometown of Richmond, Va.

RICHMOND, Va.– Mother’s Day is supposed to be about honoring mothers.  But, even as I reflect on Mother’s Day 2013, I can’t help but say how memorable THIS ONE will be.

For many people, Mother’s Day is a Greeting Card day, a phone call of a holiday.  For the first time in more than a decade, I was able to be HOME to celebrate Mother’s Day WITH MY MOTHER, Sallie Daniels,  in PERSON.

The weather here in VIrginia’s Capital City was PERFECT– time for a photo of mom in our garden outside our Richmond home.

salliedaniels2013
This is my mom next to hear 2013 garden where the lavender plants match her Mother’s Day outfit. The recent rainy Richmond weather has been a good thing for our garden.

WORSHIP WITH MOM

Today’s worship service gave me an opportunity to see so many mothers  and mother figures at my beloved First African Baptist Church who played a major role in my development as both a child and a young adult.

Courtesy:First African Baptist Church
Courtesy:First African Baptist Church

Before a service of Holy Communion, my home pastor, Dr. Rodney Waller reminded us about “The Philosophy of a Mother’s Faith.”  He based his message on the first five verses of  the fifth chapter of First John.  Because our mother’s faith was instilled in us,  there are  THREE THINGS we as Christians know for sure:

  1. If you love Christ, you are a child of God.
  2. If you’re a child of God, you ought to love each other  (we’re not in this world alone)
  3. If you’re a child of God, you ought to ACT like a child of God living out the commandments of God

While these points weren’t earth-shattering, they certainly were important to place in the context what I believe based on the foundation laid by my mother. No one can put it quite like Dr. Rodney Waller can.

One of my schoolmates from Thomas Jefferson High School, Lynette Archer Brownlee ministered a rendition of Tamela Mann’s “Take Me to the King” and that just topped off a beautiful Mother’s Day Service, a MEMORABLE Mother’s Day Service.

It’s been a few years since my younger brother and I were both here on Mother’s Day and able to sit next to our Aunt Zora Royster in church.

But, this Mother’s Day was not over yet.

GRILL OUT WITH MOM, AUNT, AND FAMILY

With a cool breeze blowing off the lake behind my cousin’s home,  the weather was perfect for grilling out and enjoying a Mother’s Day barbeque with mom and the rest of my family.

3mothers
PHOTO OP with THE MOTHERS in MY FAMILY– Mom (Sallie Daniels), my cousin Ivette Royster and my aunt Zora Royster

As much as I love the folks back in Alabama,  there is NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

I can’t wait to come back later this summer for more rest and relaxation.

Happy Mother’s Day Mommy!

On Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday, SCLC Needs New Generation, New Blood

An annual unity mass rally sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Tuscaloosa fell short in promoting a forward-looking vision for civil rights work in 2013.

In the spirit of “lead by example,”  I joined my University of Alabama students today in attending AT LEAST ONE event connected with the national celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Roy Ferguson, SCLC Tuscaloosa

My hope is that with the assignment, the students will be exposed to the whole impact that Dr. King has had on the country more than 40 years after his death.

Sadly, this year’s  Unity Mass rally, sponsored by the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, did not deliver on the goals I had set for my students, who would have experienced this.

I’m glad none of them attended this particular event.

In fact,  at 42, I was probably one of the youngest in the audience of about 200 at Tuscaloosa’s historic First African Baptist Church tonight.

Here in Tuscaloosa, besides the Realizing the Dream committee, affiliated with the University of Alabama, the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is the lead organizer of a series of events on the King National Holiday.

SCLC President Rev. Roy Ferguson told his story of confronting the national guard on the night of Dr. King’s death in April of 1968.  At the time, Ferguson was a student at what was then Mississippi Valley State College.

Most of thoskingheadshote in attendance were alive at the time.   Many were involved in the civil rights era demonstrations here in Tuscaloosa.

But, for those like me and my students who were born after the civil rights era,  commemorative events like the annual mass rally are important educational opportunities.

They are more than an annual tradition.  As much as they are about reminding attendees of where African Americans (and the country) have come from, they MUST be about where we as a nation are going.

Tonight’s mass rally spoke little about the CURRENT efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  No specific programmatic thrusts were outlined.

Many of these thrusts are mentioned on the SCLC national Web site.  (Note: The current SCLC National President Charles Steele is from Tuscaloosa)

Why should a young person care about the SCLC or any other civil rights organization NOW in 2013?

Tuscaloosa’s Civil Rights History Need NOT be a mystery

As one of the ministers speaking tonight mentioned,  it’s critical that those who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement make sure children who come behind them know how we got to where we are today.

“We need to make sure and get some young people to fill this church the way it used to be,” said Earnest L. Palmer, senior pastor of Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church, who presided over tonight’s program.

My University of Alabama students have a writing assignment due this week that will explain the significance of their chosen event to their understanding of race and the sense of community.

In the few years I’ve been in Tuscaloosa, I’ve learned that First African was significant because of its use of as a rallying point for efforts to confront such things as “Whites Only” signs at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse in the 1960s.

This was the church where on the same month as he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” 50 years ago this year,  Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. delivered the installation sermon for Rev. T.Y. Rogers, as the new pastor of First African Baptist Church.

A year later in 1964, this same church was besieged by firehoses and tear gas as local police attempted to break up a rally and arrest protesters.

SCLCSo Why is the SCLC Needed Now?

Each year when the nation pauses to remember and celebrate the work of Dr. King, we are equally as reminded of his work for justice, freedom and equality must continue in the year ahead.

The keynote speaker at the unity mass rally Rev. James Williams of Newbern, Ala,  did note issues such as dropout rate, teen pregnancy, gun violence are issues that are of importance to the SCLC.

Unfortunately, just mentioning these issues as Rev. Williams did with the question “Are You Satisfied?”  is not enough.

It’s not enough to keep a new generation like my current college student crowd engaged.

It’s not enough to rally the finances and memberships to propel the work of the SCLC forward.

Following the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 1950s,  the SCLC was started by a group of ministers.

Today, Tuscaloosa has no shortage of ministers.   Many of them gathered at the mass rally tonight.

But, there was no real “Call to Action” from these men of faith, only a plea for those in attendance to pay the SCLC  $25 membership fee.

Christmas Eve Funeral To Be Held for Alma White

A funeral will be held today for 93-year-old Alma White, a former City of Richmond employee who worked at the voter registration office and served faithfully at First African Baptist Church.

almawhiteRICHMOND, Va.– In a rather unusual way today, those of us at my home church will be having a funeral on this day before Christmas celebrating the life of a woman I came to know as a dedicated voter registration worker here in my hometown.

Mrs. Alma White worked for years at Richmond’s City Hall on North 9th Street downtown.

I used to see her at the counter when I would attend meetings of Richmond’s Youth Services Commission, of which I was a member more than 20 years ago.  Sometimes I’d wave to her as I was heading to a meeting or doing other city hall business there as an active high school student.

I didn’t have many long conversations with Mrs. White, but I knew her as the lady from my church who worked at City Hall.   She was equally as dedicated at Richmond’s First African Baptist Church, serving many Sundays as a member of the Ladies Auxiliary Usher Board.

Mrs. White’s funeral probably won’t have all of the media attention that each of the funerals for the 26 young victims in this month’s Sandy Hook shooting will have.    We should never compare one’s life to another.

But unlike those youngsters whose lives were cut short, Mrs. White lived a long life.   According her obituary, she was 93 years old when she passed on last Tuesday.

Circumstances did not permit me to see her in the final years of her life.  But, my parents did visit with her recently and remember her spirit as a senior saint who up until her death always had a special place in her heart for her church, First African Baptist.

Ironically, I was just in Richmond City Hall this past Friday for the first time in more than ten years.  At the time, I did know of Mrs. White’s passing.    Much has changed in that building.  Among other things, the Voter Registration office has moved to a different side of the 1st floor.    Few in that office today would probably remember Mrs. Alma White.

One person who would have been able to tell you about Alma White would be her former boss, Richmond City Registrar Alice Lynch.

Sadly, Ms. Lynch won’t be at today’s service.  She proceeded Mrs. White in death just last year.  The Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution in her honor earlier this year.

They probably won’t be doing the same for Mrs. White.  But, Mrs. White was one of those foot soldiers who worked alongside Ms. Lynch to increase access to the voting for African Americans and the handicapped.

Today as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we also celebrate the life of one of Alice Lynch’s lieutenants.

We praise God for the long life that Mrs. White lived, the thousands of Richmonders she helped register to vote and the thousands of worshippers she greeted as an usher at one of Central Virginia’s oldest African American congregations.