CHESTER PRUITT PARK, FWB ~ INTER-DENOMINATIONAL SERVICE ~ 4/4/2010
This Sunday, "Resurrection Sunday" 2010, I attended a Sunrise service hosted by Gregg Chapel African-American Church and The Family of Faith Community Church at the Chester Pruitt Public Park in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Gregg Chapel provided the choir, their Pastor Rev. Cecil B. Williams gave the Sermon, and fellowship was at Gregg just down the road from the park, following the service.
Pastor Charles Sansom Sr., my friend from Family of Faith Church who had invited me, read the Scripture.
I'm going to put The Gospel Reading, The Message and some music up as video clips to let them speak for themselves. (The sermon in particular may take a while to load). The basic word was that Jesus has the power to "roll the stone away" from the sepulcher of our life.
But for me, the challenging thing today was not "The Word" but rather the interaction of the Black & White Christians present.
To this point, most of the churches I have attended in The Florida Panhandle have been composed almost exclusively of White Congregations. Certainly there have been occasional African-Americans in the pews, mostly in my recollection at the more modern Baptist assemblies; and I well recall a very charming African-Caribbean preacher whom I met at The Shalimar Presbyterian Church some weeks ago. But he was a "Visiting" pastor and I think it would be true to say that the churches in this area are mostly "segregated" (by choice).
Coming from the Island of Jamaica myself where we have a truly multiracial society, it was interesting for me to observe the interaction today. At the Sunrise Service the flavor was definitely African-American! ~ Listen to the choir and hear The Preacher. The few White people present sat together, though most of them being from a Baptist tradition, they appeared comfortable with, and participated fully in the service. Personally, I felt that, though this was "Baptist on Steroids", it actually didn't come close in exuberance and enthusiasm to African-American services I've attended in inner-city Indianapolis, for example.
Nevertheless, all was polite at the park; and ecumenism reigned onstage. Back at the Gregg Chapel I was politely greeted, given a hospitable plate and then I made sure to go and sit myself down among a group of entirely Black Christians.
I introduced myself, handed out a couple of my cards identifying myself as a GOP candidate; and was immediately challenged. (Note I don't say "attacked", but I sensed that if Michael Steele had been there he might have been stoned!).
My main antagonist, whose name I'll with-hold out of courtesy - let's call her "Martha" - straight-away asked how could I present myself as a Christian AND a Republican in the same breath?
I explained that I didn't see the current challenge as being so much about political parties as it was about putting Christian Ethical Values back into the public sphere. She said ... "Well, how can you say that you want to help the poor and be a Republican?" I replied that it certainly was our private obligation as individuals and Christian in our communities to help the less fortunate. But ... "It is not the government's job to forcibly take money from some citizens and give it to others."
At this point the two charming ladies beside her -- we'll call them "Mary" & "Sari" -- seemed VERY uncomfortable; while "Martha" triumphantly (looking at my grey beard) said: "I'll bet you take Social Security!"
"Sure," I said. "But that's entirely different; because I paid every dime required from me by The Government into it ~ for THIRTY FIVE years of hard work! And now I want it back!"
She said: "All you White People just want to get rid of President Obama." Another one of the ladies chimed in: "I've been abused because of him."
I stood up and leaned over to Martha and said: "Look into my eyes - do you see any hatred of Black People in there?" Someone replied to the effect: "It's in their hearts. Haven't you seen and heard this in the community, here in Fort Walton Beach?"
I examined my conscience vigorously. I replied reluctantly: "Yes I have."
There was a silence. How could I get through this veil of misunderstanding and half truth to tell them what I really believe about Barack Obama: that he's a Marxist at best; possibly a radical Muslim bent on destroying America? There's no way, I thought. I leaned over and said: "Look, I'm from The Island of Jamaica ... my great grandfather's great grandmother was an African Slave; my first wife was a 'colored' woman; I've had Black Girlfriends. I'm here to break through these barriers and reclaim the Black electorate for the Republican Party."
"You sure don't look Black to me!"
At that point I told my standard joke: "When I came here 35 years ago I had dreadlocks; like that guy over there!" (I pointed - I had spoken to him in the food line). "... then when I got bald they dropped out!"
There was a slight easing of the tension as I got "Martha's" real name and phone number and promised to contact her so we can talk about this some more.
But that's the problem folks. This Republic's on life support. It just got hit by an eighteen-wheeler oil-tanker driven by some guy named Hussein. The onlookers just want the free gas; and even Mom & her Apple Pie didn't get the phone call yet to tell her that her kid's in intensive care and may not make it.
(NOTE: I want to emphasize that, pursuant to the relevant campaign prohibitions, none of the churches, Pastors nor parishioners in their official church capacities ~ referenced or pictured herein ~ officially support my political candidacy).
Thanks for visiting ... my site is under construction, but feel free to roam around. I appreciate your comments. /Bill
Pd. Pol. Adv., paid for and approved by Dr. Bill Escoffery,
Candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida.
Copyright © 2010 by William Escoffery III. All