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Traveling and Thinking Out Loud with the People's Pastor Sunday, January 1, 2023

Well, it’s a New Year and we are ready to face whatever comes our way. We hope that you will be with us on our travels and our subjects. I promise you that it’s going to be an exciting, educational, challenging journey. There will probably be some bumps in the road. We may even have to pause for a while but whatever happens in my 92 years I’ve come to believe that when we are doing God’s will, which is to Save the Planet and Save the People. God will work in everything for the good” Romans 8:28, even our so-called failures and mistakes. If we are honest in recognizing and confessing what we’ve done and promise to do the right thing, God will take the failures and mistakes and make them valuable teaching lessons which will make us stronger, better, wiser. So, here we go..

Just a word about our Watch Night Service on December 31st. In Jersey City, because of our rental situation which denied us access to the building after 10pm, we could not hold our Watch Night Service in the usual way, being in prayer as the New Year came in. But I urged our members of Jersey City and supporters worldwide to take a moment and be in prayer with us wherever they were as the New Year came in.

In some of our churches Watch Night Services were hybrid. There were people in the church as well as on virtual. And some of our churches were only virtual.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

There were two posts that occupied my thinking throughout the day:

  1. Wesley Gray Jr.’s post on Remembering the Historic three-day celebration of freedom On December 31, 1862, and my response to what he posted.

"Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church...

I found out twelve years ago, that Brooklyn was the slaveholding capital of New York State and that New York State enacted a gradual emancipation (1783-1827), slavery was abolished in New York State in 1827.

As I decided to research the history of my name in relation to the church, I happened to read a citation posted at PolyTech/NYU admissions building at 309 Bridge Street Metro Tech location in Brooklyn, NY. which is the original location of the Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, and eventually was relocated in 1938 to 277 Stuyvesant Avenue, Brooklyn, NY in my neighborhood. Rev. Dr. David B. Cousin is the senior pastor.

As an ordained interfaith minister, I have had the honor and pleasure of being asked to drum at churches, including the above-mentioned for Kwanzaa, Young men initiation, Elder Men recognition Day, funerals, Libation ( "Mojuba" " Omimno rubo" which is a holy offering of water to the ancestors) and other ceremonies.

This citation was initiated by Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry – civil rights leader and pastor of The House of The Lord Church in Brooklyn, NY...

The Citation states as follows:

Historic three-day celebration of freedom

On December 31, 1862, hundreds of Brooklyn citizens--black and white--flooded the Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church to attend the church’s traditional “watch night” service on New Year’s Eve. Parishioners came in such numbers because President Abraham Lincoln had promised to sign the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day. This was the first day of an historic three-day celebration of freedom at the church.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Proclamation and freed four million African American men, women, and children. The Bridge Street Church remained open all day as word spread and people arrived to express their joy--as well as their concern about the ongoing Civil War--in meetings, speeches, prayers and songs.

On January 2, the church presented a formal program of speakers, including African-American historian William Wells Brown and abolitionist Theodore Tilton.

The Bridge Street Church played a prominent role in the anti-slavery movement as an abolitionist meeting place and a “station” on the Underground Railroad, hiding freedom seekers in the church basement.

Other Brooklyn churches did the same, including Plymouth Congregational, Siloam Presbyterian, and Concord Baptist.

Brooklyn was also home to such local abolitionist leaders as Henry Ward Beecher, Henry Highland Garnet, J.W.C. Pennington, James Gloucester, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, and John H. Raymond (a founder of Polytechnic University). Brooklyn became a national hub of abolitionist and anti-slavery activities, the nation’s first human rights campaign.

In February 1863, the nation’s leading civil rights activist Frederick Douglass spoke at the Bridge Street Church, delivering a stirring speech on the need for black soldiers in the Union ranks.

A few weeks later, Douglass used the Bridge Street address to launch his historic “Men of Color, To Arms” campaign, which recruited 200,000 African-American soldiers to the Union cause.

In October 1865, Harriet Tubman, the nation’s most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, visited the church.

According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, she was welcomed by an immense congregation--half of it whites--and hailed for her heroism as a Union scout and nurse. At the time, the church organist was Susan Smith McKinney, 18, who was born and raised in Weeksville, Brooklyn,NY. She was an activist in missionary work and the suffragist movement, and she became the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree in New York State..."

Peace, love and abundant blessings....Baba Wesley Gray

My response: Yes, we used to do annual Educational Walking Tours through the Downtown, Brooklyn Height areas. Starting at our Church , The House Of The Lord Church, we would pause at each site and give a brief lesson. We discovered the role The Bridge Street Church played in the Freedom Struggle. The Church now had and was a part of the Polytech School. There was no mention of the Church’s role in history. We organized leaders in the area and had a plaque placed on the Church telling the Church story. We held a three day Ceremony and spent Watch Night Service in the Church! What an experience! Thank you Bro. Wesley for sharing. If there is anyone who used to go on our share a post.

I don’t have the time to tell the full, exciting story and to name the people who were involved. One other piece of information, spending the night in the Bridge Street Church, brought back memories of our spending the night in the holding house on Goree Island in Africa. Scattered across Africa were houses where enslaved people were kept until there were sufficient numbers to carry out to the big ship and across the ocean, never to see home again.

2. Also on this day, it was the 107th birthday of John Henrik Clarke, born January 1st, 1915. He passed on January 15, 1998. Here is my post:

Remembering Dr. John Henrik Clarke

We should express our gratitude to Larry Cobb for reminding us that Sun. Jan. 1 was his birthday. He was born January 1, 1915-July 16, 1998 he made his transition. He would have been 107 on Jan 1, 2023.

I first met Dr. Clarke in 1966. He was doing a series of classes in African/ Afro American History under sponsorship of The Metropolitan Urban Service Training(MUST).

MUST was organized by a group of liberal EuroEthnics whose purpose was to teach and train religious leaders. It was a tumultuous time in America.The Civil Rights Movement made some gains but not enough to satisfy most of the Black Community.

In Summer of 1966, intending to complete the march through Mississippi to Jackson, the Capital, responding to the shooting of James Meredith on June 6th. James, who integrated the University of Mississippi was on, what he called, A March Against Fear.

As they marched, Dr. King, Floyd McKissick, Kwame Ture, were harassed all along the way. When they reached Greenwood, at a rally that night, Kwame was a major speaker. He had been jailed earlier in the day, as he was speaking, he shouted,”Black Power’. And another sea was added to the mighty Freedom ocean. It immediately sent shockwaves across America.

Additionally, there was the Vietnam war and economic issues etc. America was in turmoil and most of them didn’t know what to do.

Thus was born MUST. Dr. Clarke, Dr. Preston Wilcox and other Scholars and Activists. Also it was at MUST that I met Kwame Ture.

After going through classes with Dr. Clarke I felt he needed to bring his vast knowledge to the community. So he began his teaching in Brooklyn at the House of the Lord Church and our friendship which lasted till his transition.

In fact, I have his first writing and literature he prepared for MUST and the class of Ministers I organized at our Church. He was among the top Afro-centric Scholars who loved his people. He was more than glad to bring prodigious knowledge and experience to the assistance of our activism. I loved him dearly. He taught me so much and I still miss him. We started the Timbuktu Learning Center and expanded non-religious classes at our Church to give him a much larger audience. We still do the TLC at night starting back on 1/9/2023 at 7pm EST via conference call, you are welcome to join us. 716-427-1168 passcode 604309#

MUST, where I learned so much about so many things, was led by an EuroEthnics, Dr. George (Bill) Webber. Bill, as we called him, was a genuine White Liberal. He expanded my world of knowledge, contacts, networking, experience, travel and involvement. Yes, I loved and admired him and was eternally grateful that Jesus Christ brought us together. He was one of the indispensable mentors that God sent my way or sent me his way at a critical time in history.

In 1972, I was asked to participate in a three year study on the subject; Salvation Today. It was sponsored by the World Council of Churches. It demanded a lot of travel in key cities around the world, Vietnam, Singapore, Calcutta and Bengaluru India , and weeks at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Theological Institute, in Bossy Switzerland where we studied and planned with the organizers of the Study.

In our travels we conferred with, and debated and learned from, Philosophers, Theologians, Academics, Revolutionaries, Diplomats, Artists, Literary Giants, all kinds of people in all kinds of places.

At one of sturdy in Bossy , in our debates, I was constantly being humiliated once this arrogant, racist Theologian knew I didn’t know Greek (the early Scripture was written in Koine, a colloquial form of Greek spoken widely around the Greco/ Roman world at that time).

When I returned to NY, I contacted Bill.I told him what happened. I told him I needed a semester of Greek. Bill was now President of the N.Y. Theological Seminary. He suggested, Tom Boomershine, a student, was doing his dissertation on the New Testament.

Tom and I spent a semester, five days a week, in a room by ourselves, except my son, about three or four, all provided by Bill.

When we returned to Bossy, and throughout the rest of the sturdy trip, I was ready.

In the photo: The occasion is my wife receiving her doctorate degree. From left to right is Dr. Gayraud Wilmore, who wrote the great book: Black Religion, Black Radical. I am in the middle with Dr. Russell who was president of NYTS. My wife and on the end Dr. Bill Weber he is the current president of NYTS.

My response to both articles captures a lot of history, some of which I was directly involved and so we took a lot of time reflecting on what had been posted.

Stay tuned for


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