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Pastor E.A. Deckard

By Pastor E.A. Deckard
Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward Times

“Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.” – Ayn Rand

“The only way to predict the future is to have power to shape the future.” – Eric Hoffer

Forward Thinkers, every year Forbes magazine releases a list of the world’s most powerful people. This year Barack Obama, President of United States, dropped to 2nd to Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and Pope Francis finishing 4th, with Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft also appearing in the top 10.

Forward Thinkers, I believe some of the most powerful people in the world are the people who are called Christians and not just called Christian but those operating in the image of Christ.

We were given power at the creation and God restored our power after the resurrection but unfortunately, many of us have become distracted and allowed the enemy to rob us of our power. Forward Thinkers, this month through the series “POWER” I’m going to coach and encourage you to take your power back.

Power Statement I:

I have strength for all things in him that gives me power. Philippians 4:13

Forward Thinkers, somewhere the church has forgotten where our power comes from. I remember growing up in the Baptist church where they used to sing this song that said ‘this joy I have the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away” and they would keep repeating that stanza with different phases and there was this one sweet old saint that would cry out ‘this power that I have the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.’

Forward Thinkers, Paul boldly states that he has strength and he is not bragging but rather encouraging all believers that they too have strength. In Paul’s teachings, you can often see he spent lots of time studying the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 40:29. “The Lord gives strength to the weary and increases power of the weak”.

Forward Thinkers, my spirit instantly leaped over this prophecy because Isaiah didn’t declare the Lord would give us power but increase our power. In order to receive increase in power you must already have possession of power. Yes, you already have power and it’s time to tap into the things of God and receive a power surge.

Forward Thinkers, we are wired to win, prosper, conquer, rule, and dominate but we must turn on the power switch. Your house is wired with electricity but the power switch must be flipped on in order for the power to come on.

Genesis 1:27-28 The Message (MSG)

26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them

reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle,

And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”God created human beings; he created them godlike,

Reflecting God’s nature.

He created them male and female.

God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,

for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

Forward Thinkers, when God created us, he intended for us to rule this earth with power and authority; have you ever meditated over how God describes us in the creation? God himself says we are created in His image, he says we have His nature; He even says we are godlike with a little “g”. Then he commands us to take charge of the earth. God created us to praise Him and our reward for praising Him is that he grants us the position of Power Agents on planet earth.

Forward Thinkers, it’s time to regain our power. God says we should be like him inside and out; being in the image of God means we should look like God when people see us and having God’s nature means we should be thinking and acting like God. God walked with power and God spoke with power. God said and it became. Forward Thinkers, what are our words producing?

Forward Thinkers, God created us with the power to represent him in every area of life. There is not a place on planet earth we should not have power over. The problem is not with the Supreme Court; the real problem is we are not operating in a position of power outside the four walls of the church.

Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Forward Thinkers, the government is supposed to be sitting on the shoulders of Jesus receiving wise counsel but we get so distracted trying to fit in and being politically correct we put masking tape over the mouth of Jesus.

In 1963 90% of Americans called themselves Christians yet 7 Supreme Court judges (2 did not vote) were able to vote prayer out of public schools and this year 83% of Americans (318.9 million) call themselves Christians yet to a vote of 5-4 the Supreme Court voted to change God’s definition of marriage. Forward Thinkers, there has to be a major power shift in America because “in God we trust” is now a joke.

Satan is so excited this season because he used to be an angel and was very close to God until he started tripping and wanting to be God with a big G and lost his position. Forward Thinkers, ever since Satan lost his spot he has been determined to jack us from our spot of power. Adam and Eve were in a position of power and authority but they became distracted by Satan and made a set of decisions (destiny is decision driven) costing them their position of power.

There is good news Forward Thinkers. Jesus came to restore our power. A man once called the church and said his power had been disconnected and he didn’t have enough to restore his power. We contacted the power company and made the payment for him but before restoring his power the power company asked me to verify that we were giving authorization for this payment to be credited to his account. Forward Thinkers, the man was not there with me at time of payment or authorization of payment but he soon called me and said thank you my power has been restored.

Forward Thinkers, it’s time we start thanking Jesus for restoring our power because there is power in the name of Jesus. He paid the cost long before we showed up to restore our power.

Forward Thinkers, I’m close with Jeremiah 10:6; No one is like you, LORD, you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Today we must decide to turn to Jesus and praise Him for restoring our power and understand that’s the greatest freedom known to man.

Pastor E. A. Deckard is the Senior Pastor/Founder of the Green House International Church now located, in both Houston, Texas, and the Woodlands, Texas. To contact Pastor Deckard for speaking engagements contact him at pr.ghic@gmail.com or the church website www.ghic.net.

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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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