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Free Talk on ‘Spiritual Discovery in a Time of Upheaval’

Tom says, “Prayer is about spiritual discovery. It’s about understanding more of what God is and learning to see our lives and the world through the lens of God’s all-good nature. It’s about stripping away surface-level appearances in order to discern what actually IS. Spiritual discovery reveals what is substantial, lasting, and powerful — and this leads to healing. What’s the outcome? Progress. Transformation. Wholeness. For anyone.”

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Tom McEltroy

Stressed about current world or personal events? It’s possible to turn away from fear by gaining a clearer view of God as Love itself, which can have a tangible, healing effect in your life and in the world.

At 5:00 p.m. on February 18, tune in to a free, live Zoom lecture entitled, “Spiritual Discovery in a Time of Upheaval,” sponsored by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Oakland. The talk will be given by Tom McElroy, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher.

Tom says, “Prayer is about spiritual discovery. It’s about understanding more of what God is and learning to see our lives and the world through the lens of God’s all-good nature. It’s about stripping away surface-level appearances in order to discern what actually IS. Spiritual discovery reveals what is substantial, lasting, and powerful — and this leads to healing. What’s the outcome? Progress. Transformation. Wholeness. For anyone.”

The link to attend the talk online or by phone is on our website, www.ChristianScienceOakland.org.  We hope you can join us for this inspiring talk!

 

 

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Bay Area

Berkeley School of Theology Announces Creation of the J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Endowed Chair of Theology in the Public Square

BST President Dr. James Brenneman stated “This endowed chair in Dr. Smith’s name is part of the establishment of a new Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice made possible through the largest lead gift ever given to BST from the good people of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto and other donors of nearly $3 million.

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Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church. Courtesy of Dr. Smith.
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church. Courtesy of Dr. Smith.

By Rev. Dr. Martha C. Taylor

Berkeley School of Theology’s president and Board of Trustees unanimously approved the creation of the J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Endowed Chair of Theology in the Public Square on April 8, 2022.

Berkeley School of Theology (BST), located at 2606 Dwight Way in Berkeley was formerly known as the American Baptist Seminary of the West.

An endowed chair is the highest academic honor that a college, university, or seminary can bestow upon a person and/or the faculty member who will serve their professorship in the endowed chair.

For clarity, an ‘endowed chair’ is not a plaque, certificate, or money contribution to Dr. Smith, rather having a chair named in one’s honor means they have reached the highest academic honor.

Further, people are not endowed, but the position is endowed, meaning it is fully funded. An endowed chair is a tribute to the donor who establishes it and to the person whom they have chosen.

BST President Dr. James Brenneman stated “This endowed chair in Dr. Smith’s name is part of the establishment of a new Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice made possible through the largest lead gift ever given to BST from the good people of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto and other donors of nearly $3 million.

Dr. James Brenneman, president of the Berkeley School of Theology. Courtesy of BST.

Dr. James Brenneman, president of the Berkeley School of Theology. Courtesy of BST.

‘In the Public Square’ refers to how Smith deliberately ministered beyond the walls of the church. With deep gratitude, Brenneman noted the spiritual legacy Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. imprinted upon BST and countless students, faculty, and graduates that will live on in perpetuity because of “these generous life-changing gifts.”

The person selected to hold the chair position must be a highly qualified, full-time faculty member, with proven ability to do inter-disciplinary and contextual work, be knowledgeable of experience in anti-racism, restorative justice and more.

Dr. Smith Sr. is a BST graduate (’72) who also served for some 35 years as distinguished professor, acting dean, and now emeritus professor of Christian Ministry and Preaching when the seminary was formerly known as the American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW).

Dr. Smith holds a Bachelor of Science (’52), a Bachelor of Divinity (’59), two master’s degrees in Theology (’66, ’72), a doctorate in ministry (’75), and several honorary doctorates and served as the state and national president of the Progressive Baptist Convention.

He was a national leader in the Civil Rights Movement with a lifetime of doing theology in the public square, public advocacy at City Hall. He is the author of 16 books, has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Duke, Morehouse, and Howard, and other esteemed institutions. He has testified against apartheid before the United Nations, preached to thousands from Seoul, Korea, to Sierra Leone (Africa) to China and beyond.

He served 38 years as Senior Pastor, now emeritus, of the historic Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, CA.

I had the honor of serving as the Pastoral Administrative Assistant to Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. for 10 years. On occasion I assisted him in teaching at the seminary, providing me with an “insider’s look” at his pastoral and academic works and responsibilities.

He introduced hundreds of seminary students to theological training, the art of preaching, African American Spirituality and the deep meaning of Howard Thurman’s “Jesus and the Disinherited” and much more.

‘Theology in the Public Square’ is how Dr. Smith engaged his ministry to communities. We are familiar with the phrase ‘Thy will be done on Earth.’ Dr. Smith ‘majored’ in the will of Jesus Christ for his concern for the well-being of society on earth.

Like the ministry of Jesus who ‘majored’ in his ministry beyond the walls of the synagogue, Dr. Smith Sr. preached, prophesized, pastored, taught, and ministered beyond the walls of the church.

Dr. Smith Sr. was passionate about helping others understand the meaning of his famous phrase, “In order to get to the sweet by and by, you must deal with the nasty now and now.”

In other words, theology in the public square is about addressing the needs of people who are hurting economically, who are disenfranchised, and victims of an unjust society.

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Black History

OP-ED: New Study Brings Black Catholics into Forefront

Pew’s 2021 study reports that 46% of Black young adults in Generation Z (ages 18-23 at the time of the survey) seldom or never attend religious services. Organized religion — across denominations — ignores this finding at its peril. The sex abuse crisis has already damaged the church’s credibility across generations. This reality coupled with Pew’s finding that close to half of all young Black American adults rarely or never attend religious services should be a warning to Church leaders that concrete action must be taken now.

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Members of the Voice of Praise Ensemble sing during Mass Nov. 17, 2019, at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Brooklyn, New York, in celebration of November as National Black Catholic History Month. (CNS/The Tablet/Andrew Pugliese).
Members of the Voice of Praise Ensemble sing during Mass Nov. 17, 2019, at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Brooklyn, New York, in celebration of November as National Black Catholic History Month. (CNS/The Tablet/Andrew Pugliese).

By Nia Tia Noelle Pratt

My entire 20-year career has been about ending the erasure of Black Catholics from academic and public discourse.

This is one of the reasons I began the #BlackCatholicsSyllabus and articulated from the outset that the point of the syllabus is to prioritize the voices of Black Catholics in the creation of our own narrative. It’s also why this week’s Pew Research Center report, “Black Catholics in America” is the data I dreamed of having as an undergraduate and graduate student. I also dreamed of having a report like this in the years since I finished graduate school.

Much of my efforts have focused on ending erasure within the Catholic sphere. However, Black Catholics are not just erased from Catholic narratives — they are also erased from discourse on the Black church as well.

This dual erasure is why Pew Research Center’s report is so important. Along with last year’s “Faith Among Black Americans,” this week’s survey on Black Catholics is urgently needed. Both are poised to be regarded as landmark studies.

“Black Catholics in America,” published on March 15, examines Black Catholics within a larger Catholic contest and within the context of “Faith Among Black Americans.”

The new study tells us that 6% of Black Americans are Catholics. While this percentage is admittedly small, it still means that there are nearly 3 million Black Catholics in the U.S.

Millions of people must be included in the conversation about what it means to be Catholic in our country if the conversation is going to be comprehensive. Furthermore, we learn from this study that 20% of Black Americans born in sub-Saharan Africa and 15% of Caribbean-born Black Americans identify as Catholic while only 5% of U.S.-born Black Americans identify as Catholic.

“These numbers tell us that Black Catholics in the United States are not a monolith. These drastically different numbers deserve further consideration by scholars and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as dioceses and parishes. Church leaders must keep this in mind in ministering to Black Catholics and creating pastoral plans. Similarly, scholars must incorporate this knowledge into their research.

I was not surprised to learn from the full report that only 17% of Black Catholics attend a predominantly Black church and a comparable 18% of Black Catholics report a combination of call-and-response, and other expressive forms of worship during Mass. Part of my research involves examining liturgy as a form of identity work where I’ve discussed just this type of worship experience in detail.

I’ve discussed at length how African American Catholics incorporate music, preaching and Church aesthetics into liturgy in order to create a unique identity as African Americans and as Catholics.

Only 41% of Black Catholics report having heard a homily on race in the 12 months prior to completing the survey and only 31% reported hearing a homily on political engagement in the same time period. The reckoning around systemic racism that we have seen over the last year has demonstrated that it is long past time for the church to regard racism as a pro-life issue.

For this reason, these findings are also a call to action. A thunderous 77% of Black Catholics said that “opposition to racism is essential to what being Christian means to them.”

Many Black Catholics are not getting a message at Mass that they identify as something essential to being a Christian.

This week’s report also tells us that 46% of Black adults who were raised Catholic no longer identify as such. The aforementioned disconnect between the themes Black Catholics hear about at Mass and what they consider essential to being a Christian provides some insight as to why so many Black Catholics leave the church. The results for young adults only exacerbate this situation.

Pew’s 2021 study reports that 46% of Black young adults in Generation Z (ages 18-23 at the time of the survey) seldom or never attend religious services. Organized religion — across denominations — ignores this finding at its peril. The sex abuse crisis has already damaged the church’s credibility across generations. This reality coupled with Pew’s finding that close to half of all young Black American adults rarely or never attend religious services should be a warning to Church leaders that concrete action must be taken now.

Since the summer of 2020, the U.S. bishops’ conference has hosted “Journeying Together” as an ongoing series of events focused on young adults and those who minister to young adults. While this is a concrete action directed at young adults, it reaches those who are already actively engaged in the church. Evangelization must be directed at those young adults who are not, or are only minimally, engaged. Refusing to critically engage this group will not bode well for the sustainability of parishes and schools in the decades to come.

Tia Noelle Pratt is director of mission engagement and strategic initiatives and courtesy assistant professor of sociology at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

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Bay Area

‘Black History is American History!’

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022 – Presentation: Elder David Alexander, Esq, The Legal Struggle: “God Was There All the Time!” — Three of the most powerful legal cases that have impacted Black History and American History: Dred Scott; Brown vs. the Board of Education and Plessy vs. Ferguson — Music: Heidi Hill, Soloist; Sandra Iglehart, Accompanist

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Celebrate Black History with First Presbyterian Church, Oakland

Sundays at 10:00 a.m. Sign up for the newsletter to

receive Zoom information: http://eepurl.com/gMlqR1

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022,  information: http://eepurl.com/gMlqR1

  Preaching:  Pastor Matt Prinz, First Presbyterian Church, Oakland

Special Presentation:  Elder Henry Gardner

Music: Marilyn Reynolds, Soloist; Herman Waters, Accompanist

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022 – 

Presentation: Elder David Alexander, Esq

 The Legal Struggle: “God Was There All the Time!”

Three of the most powerful legal cases that have impacted Black History and American History:   Dred Scott; Brown vs. the Board of Education and Plessy vs. Ferguson

Music: Heidi Hill, Soloist; Sandra Iglehart, Accompanist

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022

Joint Worship: Faith Presbyterian Church, Oakland and First Presbyterian Church, Oakland

Preaching:  Rev. Dr. Valerie Miles Tribble, Faith Presbyterian Church

Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022

Preaching:  Rev. Joel Mackey, Parish Associate, First Presbyterian Church, Oakland

Music: Marilyn Reynolds, Soloist; Herman Waters, Accompanist

Special Bible Study: Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, 7:00 p.m., featuring Darlene Flynn, Chief, Race & Equity Department, City of Oakland

Sponsored by Gay P. Cobb 

 

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