A CASE FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH
By Rev. Charles Tillman, Sr., Black Ministries Facilitator
Since it was officially recognized as a federal holiday in 1976, the month of February has been set aside as Black History Month. This is a time when we celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black men and women to the United States of America and Canada. In particular, I would like to highlight and celebrate to contributions of Black men and women to the Church of the Nazarene.
There is a growing interest on the part of many of our church leaders today to address the issue of racial diversity by investing time, energy, and resources into Black leadership development. A prime example of this would be the Young Black Leaders Conference scheduled August 1-3, 2019, by NTS’s Center for Black Leadership. This is an intentional effort by our seminary to identify and engage young Black leaders in the Church of the Nazarene. The National Black Nazarene Conference is also an effort to engage, encourage, and empower Black leaders.
Currently, as a Black pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, I firmly believe that my fellow Black colleagues and I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those Black pastors who took on the role of pioneers and paved the way for the churches of today. Pioneer leaders include Warren Rogers, Clarence Jacobs, Clarence & Roger Bowman, Seymour Cole, R.W. Cunningham, Boyd Procter, and D.A. Murray. Other names come to mind like Rosie Moore, Charles Johnson, Roland Chopfield, Edward Husband, Lula Williams, and Cora Dials. We are grateful for the recent progress under Oliver Phillips, Elmer Gillett, Sam Vassel, and Larry Lott. These names are not meant to be an exhaustive list but are just a few of our heralded pioneers.
Despite the obstacles before them, these men and women evangelized, sacrificed, and stood the test of time as they invested their lives reaching out for Christ in and through the Church of the Nazarene. The story of Nazarene Black leaders often mirrors that of Blacks in our society in general. We want to make sure their stories are heard and are celebrated, along with the wide array of groups who are part of both the history and the future of the Church of the Nazarene.
So, during the month of February, let us stop and take a moment to recognize and applaud the achievements of Black men and women in the USA and Canada. This is in no way meant to minimize the contributions of any other group, but this month can remind us about the contributions African-American leaders who have made significant contributions in America’s brief two hundred forty-two year history.
May we all take time to explore the heritage of groups with whom we have less familiarity through visits to museums, engaging with key writers, and visiting church services of different cultures. Make friends with people who belong to a different cultural group. Be intentional about building cross-cultural relationships. In many cases, a lack of knowledge gives rise to fear and unfounded prejudices when dealing with African-Americans and other minority groups. As followers of Christ, I believe that the church should lead the way as positive change agents to bring about real racial reconciliation. This was the example set forth by Jesus Christ in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, as recorded in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel.
We are better individually and as a country because of the richness of our cultural diversity. May this month give us opportunity for thought and reflection as it relates to Black Americans. May God bless us as we endeavor to live and work together for God’s glory.