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Ambassador Charles R. Stith on the Power of Angels

As we look for answers to the moral and spiritual unrest in our world, West Angeles takes a look back to July of 2015 when Ambassador Charles R. Stith delivered a powerful message of comfort, about the strength and solace which can be found beneath the wings of angels.

A few weeks ago, Ambassador Charles R. Stith, a long-time friend of Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., worshiped with the congregation of West Angeles Church of God In Christ, alongside his wife, Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith. I was reminded of a powerful, insightful, yet comforting sermon Ambassador Stith delivered last year. The sermon addressed America’s burgeoning spiritual unrest; punctuated by troubling events in Ferguson, MO; the tragic shootings at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

His message, simply called, “Angels,” was inspired by Hebrews 13:2 –

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels.

“Implied in this text, said Ambassador Stith, “is a profound word of caution: be careful how you treat folks…Be careful who you ignore…That person you ignore just might be the one bearing your blessing.”

The full service is available HERE, on West Angeles’ Video On Demand; highlights from this sermon follow:

“St. Thomas Aquinas said that ‘an angel can illuminate thought in the mind of a person by strengthening the power of their vision.’”[1]

“Moses Maimonides said that ‘everyone entrusted with a mission is an angel.’”[2]

“We make all sorts of assumptions about people. We harbor all sorts of stereotypes about people. And what the evidence reveals is that more often than not, these assumptions, these stereotypes, are not true.”

“Race is not an arbiter of content or character.”

“You need to be careful about the assumptions you make about people…You never know. Anybody can be an angel”  – Ambassador Charles R. Stith

“Martin Luther King Jr…His moral vision defined the last half of the last century, and continues to provide a moral compass for this century.”

“You need to be careful about the assumptions you make about people. You need to careful about the stereotypes you harbor about people.”

“The stranger might not simply be a chance encounter, but it could be someone special. That person could be an angel.”

“You never know. Anybody can be an angel. They don’t come with wings or dressed in long white robes. They’re not perfect vessels unscarred or embattled by life. They’re not necessarily saintly or models for how you ought to live your life.”

“I believe that, just as God moves in and out of history, He moves in and out of the vessels He uses.”

“These angels that He sends work in mysterious ways and come at mysterious times; speaking word of truth or demonstrating random acts of kindness that cut to the heart and soul of the human condition.”

“Anybody or everybody can be more than they seem…Someone you’ll meet when you leave here this morning, or somebody you met on the way, could be an angel.”

“Sometimes the worst wrong we can do can do is not a sin of commission but a sin of omission.”

“We need a change in the entire country’s culture.” – Ambassador Charles R. Stith

“Sometimes the worst thing you can do to a person is to neglect them…to treat folk as if they’re invisible, as if who they are and what they represent doesn’t matter.”

“Neglect and indifference often does more damage than outright dislike.”

“Despite what Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixon’s head of HUD, said in the 1960s, there is no such thing as ‘benign neglect.’”

“Neglect, beloved, is a cardinal sin. So powerful is its impact that Jesus made it one of the conditions to inherit the Kingdom. Hear Jesus: ‘When I was a stranger, did you take me in? And remember, whatever you did to the least of them, you also did it to me.’”

“Neglect…this is the source of the cry that Black Lives Matter.”

“The devil kills the conscience of those he possesses.”

“What we miss, or choose to ignore, is that there are politics and policies that kill whole communities. It is such policies and politics that neglect the needs, the hopes, the dreams of communities like those around…communities like this one, and they provide an environment for hate…to grow.”

“You need to take some time to discover the angel within you.”  –  Ambassador Charles R. Stith

“What I’m trying to tell you this morning, church, is that we don’t just need a change in police culture, we need a change in the entire country’s culture.”

“If God can use the person sitting in front of you, behind you, or your neighbor down the street, or the stranger you pass or have yet to meet, He might just want to use you.”

“To be all that you can be is about the extent to which God is in your life.”

“The bible says that we were created a little lower than the angels and it seems like some of us have been working to get lower ever since.”

“You’ve got to know Jesus. If you know Him… you can be the good you want to be.”

“What is your mission? Will you master your mission or miss it?”

“You need to take some time to discover the angel within you.”

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – Hebrews 13, Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 1:16.

 

Ambassador Charles R. Stith serves as Chairman of The Pula Group International, and is founder of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center of Boston University. He was appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to the United Republic of Tanzania by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Ambassador Stith received a Master of Divinity degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA, and a Master of Theology degree from Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. By the age of 30, he was Senior Minister at Union United Methodist Church in Boston, the youngest minister ever appointed to the position at the church. Ambassador Stith is also founder of ONE, the Organization for the New Equality, a non-profit organization devoted to generating economic opportunity for women and people of color.

 

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FOOTNOTES
[1] McIntosh, J; “Angels : A Joyous Celebration” (1999). Running Press, PA. Pg. 121.
[2] Maimonides, Moses; “The Guide for the Perplexed” (1919) George Routledge & Sons, Ltd. London. Pg. 160. (Google Books; Accessed 7/23)

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For more about Emmanuel AME and the stellar accomplishments of its pastor, the late Senator Clementa Pinckney, please click HERE to readPresident Obama Defines The Meaning of Black Church.”

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Stop by the table in the lobby, visit our web and social sites, or contact the church office for information on resources, advances in medicine, and ways to join the fight against Breast Cancer!

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We Remember 9/11

It’s a hard measure to grasp–that our great nation was shaken, almost 14 years ago. I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001.  I sat on the edge of my seat as the rest of my fellow students clustered around a television in the middle of my 9th grade English class.  Horror gripped my body as I saw ominous smoke bellow from buildings and police officers frantic over the airways. I remember asking my teacher, “Is this a movie or is this real?” With tears in her eyes, my teacher—Mrs. Bridges said, “Antoinette…this is very real.”

September 11 will always be remembered as surreal day of pain and disbelief for the American people.

How could a series of four coordinated suicide attacks fall upon a country that seemed so impenetrable? On that dark morning, 19 terrorists from the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets and intentionally crashed two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a fourth jet—Flight 93—crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania before it could reach its intended target in Washington, DC.

It would be wise for us to pause and reflect on the courageous men and women on that day.  Let us reflect on El Shaddai’s grace and mercy on how He opened the gates of heaven and welcomed loved ones.  Let us reflect on Jehovah Shammah—a God who is there, comforting wife’s who had lost their husbands and children who had lost their mothers .  Jehovah Rapha—healing God who is yet and still bringing back the minds of city officials in FDNY AND NYPD suffering from post-traumatic stress. Jehovah Jireh—a provider to families who have still been unable to identify remains of a family member.

As the years have passed on, the pain may have passed some, but many brothers and sisters are mourning on this day and searching for a need to smile. Tomorrow is truly not promised and as we are considering the feelings of our fellow man, it would be wise for us to also consider ourselves. If we should perish today would we be satisfied with the lives we have lead, would our family be pleased at the example we have left for future generations to emulate? And most importantly…would we hear our merciful father whisper onto us, “Well done.”

May our nation be one undivided.  May we continue to have love and understanding in our heart. Treat every verb that comes from your mouth onto someone’s ears as golden.  

Change starts within. Shalom.

President Barack Obama delivers a eulogy for the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney, at the TD Arena in Charleston, S.C., June 26, 2015. Obama called Pinckney, a state senator and pastor, a public servant of extraordinary empathy and devotion to the poor, who “embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

President Defines Meaning of Black Church in Rev. Pinckney Eulogy

President Barack Obama extolled the accomplishments and amazing life of Reverend and Democratic Senator Clementa Pinckney, the miracle of God’s Grace, and the true meaning of the African American Church during the eulogy he delivered in honor of Rev. Pinckney on June 26. The Reverend was slain, along with eight members of his congregation as they prayed and studied the Bible, in Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on the evening of June 17.

The President began his remarks at the memorial service by “giving all praise and honor to God,” then quoted a passage from the New Testament:

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. – Hebrews 11:13

President Obama eloquently described Rev. Pinckney as a model American citizen who came from a long line of Christian pastors, who exemplified Christian service, resilience, empathy, and fortitude, and who was beloved by his family and fellow U.S. senators.

The President went on to describe the African American church as representative of the true soul of America’s foundation, calling it “A sacred place…Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.”

Racism, apathy, injustice, the Confederate flag, and gun violence were also included in the eulogy. The President ended by singing the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” accompanied by the thousands of memorial service attendees.

Highlights from this service follow:

“To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life, a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.”

“Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout ‘Hallelujah!’ Rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.”

“[Black Churches] have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart, and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church.”

“That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.”

“When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.”

“A sacred place…Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all…That’s what the black church means” – President Barack H. Obama

“We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches… as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.”

“Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas.”

“He didn’t know he was being used by God. Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.”

“…I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know: ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.’”

“We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway. And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.”

“For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present…Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.”

“Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.”

 “History can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past” – President Barack H. Obama

“By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.”

“Reverend Pinckney once said, ‘Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history. What is true in the South is true for America.’”

“ …Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past; how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world…the path of grace involves an open mind but, more importantly, an open heart.”

“If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.”

“Clementa Pinckney found that grace. Cynthia Hurd found that grace. Susie Jackson found that grace. Ethel Lance found that grace. DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace. Tywanza Sanders found that grace. Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace. Myra Thompson found that grace.”

“Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.”

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FOOTNOTES

John Newton, William Cowper. “Amazing Grace” from Olney Hymns.  England, 1779; page 53.

Eulogy transcript, courtesy, Whitehouse.gov (accessed 6/29/2015). https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/06/26/remarks-president-eulogy-honorable-reverend-clementa-pinckney

See the entire service below; video, courtesy, C-Span.

 

 

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VIDEO: Janelle Monae inspired by young black fan

“I hope you see God in me…” – Janelle Monae

So often, celebrities serve as role models to our youth. Whether it’s a musician, actor, or reality star, kids often mimic the actions those they see on TVs, in movies and on stages.

Unfortunately, a by-product of that celebrity infatuation is that young people follow in the footsteps of those members of the rich and famous that don’t necessarily set the best examples.

But below is an example one black woman, music artist Janelle Monae, who does do the right things and sets the proper example. Have a look:

“Never in a million years did I think that I would see a young black girl wanting to look like me.” – Janelle MonáeWatch the complete segment: http://bit.ly/1BtTgfk

Posted by For Harriet on Friday, December 12, 2014

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VIDEO: Denzel Reminds to ‘Put God First’

He’s regarded as one of the best actors in Hollywood. And now, he’s recognized as a great commencement ceremony speaker.

Denzel Washington delivered a rousing speech at the Dillard University Commencement Ceremony on May 9, reminding the students and families in attendance of what the common ingredient is in having a successful life and career.

“Put God first in everything you do,” Washington said. “Everything that I have is by the grace of God, understand that. It’s a gift. I didn’t always stick with him, but he stuck with me.”

In lieu of recent reports from the Pew Research Center, that the Christian population in America and internationally has dropped dramatically over the past seven years, Washington’s speech seemed to be just in time. 

Watch the entire speech below:

 

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AIM to Inspire

The Youth Department is pleased to announcement its first online donation campaign and we need you!

Each year, the Church of God in Christ, Inc., hosts an annual summer convention called Auxiliaries In Ministry (AIM), geared toward leadership training, spiritual growth, education, World Missions training, and fellowship. This convention will be held in Tampa, Florida this year with the goal to achieve effectiveness in ministry.

POINT. AIM. and DIRECT. our Youth’s path to a brighter future in ministry.

 To donate now, click here!

 

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I Cried in the Middle of Starbucks: Autism Awareness Month

Below is a previously published diary entry from West Angeles Web Team member Antoinette Banks, whose daughter, Nevaeh, is on the autism spectrum. We revisit the post in honor of Autism Awareness Month.

Dear Diary,

They said she would never be fully self-dependent. They said she would never speak. They said she would need constant care for the rest of her life. My child is autistic.

Somehow, after hearing the tests results, I drove to my grandmother’s house. And after collapsing in her arms and ruining her lovely handkerchief, I started  replaying what the doctors said.  

What did they mean she would never speak or be independent? 

At the guidance of family members and teachers, I decided to take my 4-year-old through a series of tests. We drove up and down the coast of California going in and out of treatment and research centers. I was exhausted and she was exhausted. But you know what the problem was? I was treating my daughter like a sickness following “just what the doctor ordered.” In our practice of Western medicine, we use science as a way to combine chemical compounds that will treat our illnesses, but at the same time, they ruin our body’s natural defenses. Doctor’s commonly have a rigid focus and treat symptoms with as much medicine as our frail bodies can handle, instead of finding a solution to the problem.

I was treating my daughter as an ailment. I was ruling out all possibilities of what it could be.  I was listening to what other’s told me and not trusting God. I remember chanting silently to myself, “I am doing the right thing,” as I looked into the rearview mirror and saw my daughter’s miserable expression. In her tiny face, I read so much.  I read, “Mommy, I communicate in a way that’s comfortable for me.” “Mommy, I show you my love, why do I have to tell you?”

“Mommy, I’m ok.” 

I remember waking up with a defiant strength and saying, “Lord, it’s in YOUR HANDS. NO MORE TESTS! No more playful exams with blocks and motor skills assessments. No more piercing eyes watching my daughter’s every move, silently writing on a notepad, that STUPID notepad that all doctors must purchase together at some wholesale store.

The absolute minute you stop worrying and allow God to move is the precise time he will show you what he is capable of. Two days ago, I was waiting on my latte at a table nestled in the nook of the Starbucks coffee house while my daughter flipped through the pages of her book. She turned a page, pointed out a few pictures, and said, “Fishy, red, blue, robot.” Almost in a daze, I turned towards her. Then she smiled and opened her little mouth and sang, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.”  It was there, at that moment, that time stood still.  I dropped to my knees and wrapped my arms around her little body. And there I was with tears streaming down my face, IN THE MIDDLE OF STARBUCKS, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

It’s a beautiful feeling having all of your self-doubt wash away.  One thing that I’ve learned is that God will supply all of our needs. He is the ultimate redeemer, counselor and healer. And if God is capable of resurrecting a dead body, capable of creating mankind and the world we live in within 6 days, He is more than capable of coming against the report of a doctor and showing me a miracle.

There is a reason why God blesses us with our children.  It’s because He trusts us to raise them, but while we are raising them, they, too, raise us.  So let’s let our stars grow and watch as they twinkle. 

Through my own personal account, I have learned that Autism is not some mystery that can be covered and treated with a pill. It is a new wave of learning, thinking and adapting.  Armed with the faith and knowledge of what this disorder entails, coupled with my faith in God, is the only way I have found strength to get the very best care for my daughter who is now on the honor roll at school, taking ballet lessons and wants to be an astronaut some day.

April is National Autism Awareness Month and West Angeles has joined with other congregations around the state in an effort to heighten the levels of awareness through the efforts of the Special Needs Network.

Please join West Angeles as we do our part in spreading education and advocacy on Sunday, April 13, during the 11 a.m. service.  If you or a loved one knows a family member in need of support, please invite them to the loving arms of West Angeles Church.