At the invitation of Calvin [my new pal at work…guy on the left below], we attended New Mount Olive Baptist Church today in Harvey, IL.
Our crew’s never attended an African-American church so we figured we’d be in for a variety of new/interesting experiences. We met Calvin and his fiancee Veronica at their house around 9:30 and followed them to the church. Arriving shortly after 10, we joined the music already in progress [we later learned that the choir/congregational singing typically begins around 9 AM]. Around 10:20, Pastor Ferlander N. Lewis began his message from Hebrews 11:23-27. It was a fiery, energetic, passionate call to exercise faith [ala Moses] in/through life’s many struggles. I received it as classic liberation theology that highlighted themes of deliverance, healing, and God’s miraculous, intervening work on behalf of His children. My favorite soundbyte? Referring to the “I AM” text where God reveals Himself to Moses, Pastor Lewis said, “His is-ness takes care of your business.” The sermon had several ‘conclusions’ and eventually ended around 12:15 PM. After the offering/announcements/benediction and a brief chat with the Pastor, we left around 12:30 PM.
Here are a few takeaways that made an impression on us…
…we were warmly greeted from the moment we arrived on campus…and hugs won out over handshakes!
…the music [dominated by a zealous organ player] was L-O-U-D and most certainly violated OSHA decibel levels.
…our Sunday best was clearly a downgrade from the 3-piece suits, flashy ties, and fancy hats scattered across the room.
…the crowd ACTIVELY participated…Amens were shouted/sung continually.
…the preaching was grounded in the Word of God and contained various applications that challenged us to enlarge our vision of God.
…being the only Caucasians in the house put an awkward twist on the infamous question, “Do we have any first-time visitors here today?”
…the overwhelming majority of worshippers brought their Bibles [what the Pastor called their “toolboxes”] to church.
…a 2 1/2 hour service stretched us all…and we totally missed the first hour of worship!
…the overall experience prompted some interesting dialogue about stereotypes, worship, and God that benefitted all of us.