This Sun., April 5, congregations in St. Petersburg will be packed with Christians adorning their finest threads, children romping in yards Easter egg hunting, grandma’s, mama’s and aunties will be preparing feasts fit for Kings, and most importantly pastors will be preaching the universal message of the Resurrection, all in reverence of our savior’s resurrection!
In a 2009 Cultural Resource article, two masters of divinity students, Juan Floyd-Thomas and Rodney Alphonso Thomas Jr., described Resurrection Sunday as “the holiest day of the year for Christians.”
The reason Christians hold Resurrection Sunday in such high esteem, according to Thomas and Thomas is due to the symbolism of the Resurrection being evidence of the love Jesus Christ displayed for mankind by paying the ultimate sacrifice, death.
Further the symbolism that death doesn’t’ have the final say so over Jesus’ influence over us as Christians, and that in fact, it is our focus on the resurrection that will get us through some of the toughest times often referred to as Resurrection moments, by many Christians.
What was equally as noteworthy about their article was these two contemporary theologians connection of Resurrection Sunday into their discussion surrounding the Sabbath. Their specific reference to the Sabbath was not only as a day of rest, but a day of spiritual work, which encompasses the political and social issues of the local community.
Having been raised under the tutelage of the late Reverend Enoch Davis, this holistic ideology served as my indoctrination into the church as a child and the very clear understanding that the black church served as the cornerstone of the black experience.
For instance, Bethel Community Church started the first credit union in the black community as an economic development solution to address the issue of members of the African-American community’s inability to access loans from traditional banks. Also Bethel Community’s building of Bethel Heights, a low income housing project within the African-American community as a strategy to address the shortage of affordable housing within.
Moreover, the prominence and recognition that the black church throughout this country played in the Civil Rights Movement if the movement was to gain any traction as played out in the movie “Selma.”
However, of late, like Christians throughout this country, I often find myself trying to locate the black church in the midst of the social, emotional and economic issues that are plaguing the black community. The hunt for the almost 150 churches in south St. Petersburg is particularly troublesome at a time when the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been suspended indefinitely without a word regarding its future. While the hunt is alive and well in St. Petersburg, what is more troublesome is the fact that this city is not alone in its hunt for the black church, particularly at a time when black boys and black men are being disproportionately murdered by those that look like them and law enforcement.
Particularly at a time when black boys and men are disproportionately represented within the criminal justice system, and when African Americans are disproportionately under employed and unemployed.
Particularly at time when African Americans are disproportionately terminated from their places of employment, and when African-American children are disproportionately dropping out of school.
Particularly at a time when there are millions of public funds slated for the African-American community, yet as opposed to the collective church being conveners that bring the community together to develop strategies that will serve the greater community. The church often finds itself scraping for the crumbs alongside others with the very narrow focus of “self.”
Because the Resurrection serves as a constant reminder that death has no power over the love of Jesus Christ it is my hope that congregations in south St. Petersburg, more specifically congregations that serve African Americans, will use this Resurrection Sunday as an opportunity to renew its commitment to not only addressing the many social and political issues that impact our community, but emerge itself into working collaboratively with others to find sustainable solutions regardless of the financial gain to individual congregations!
~ Maria L. Scruggs