Posted February 18th, 2012 by

I spent my entire day glued to the television, fully involved in sharing the home going service for Whitney Houston. I could not believe how riveted I was to the drama unfolding on the screen. At many points, there were tears in my eyes and a choke in my throat.

People who know me, know that I am not an overtly religious nor sentimental person. I hardly ever watch television. And I am definitely not a celebrity stalker, even though I have worked with many celebrities in my professional life. So what happened today surprises me more than I can tell you.

What I saw today was something oh so familiar. It was a heartfelt expression of the faith tradition I embraced in high school after early years of being a sedate Catholic. At 15 years old, there was no turning back once I experienced the comraderie of the Liberty Baptist Church family who embraced me; the rousing ministry of music by no less than three choirs (including the youth choir in which I sang); the eloquent and emotional preaching of the Gospel by our pastor, Rev. Abraham Patterson Jackson.

In anticipation of the start of today’s service for Whitney Houston, a commenting minister reminded viewers that it was the African American faith tradition that carried us through the hard times of slavery and the civil rights struggle; that healed us in the wake the bombing of four little girls in Birmingham and, by inference, the murder of our King of Peace (Martin Luther King)  and our shining Prince  (Malcolm X). CNN commentators repeated several times that Whitney’s mother, Cissie Houston, “brought the world to church today.” And indeed she did.

Kevin Costner spoke candidly of the racial dynamic of casting Whitney in her first movie, along with sharing stories of his own Baptist upbringing (surprise!). Dionne Warwick kept viewers on the path to deliverance. Tyler Perry showed us that he is so much more than Madea (and could have a second career as a preacher). Potter’s House pastor T.D. Jakes reminded us that “love is stronger than death.”  Alicia Keys cried out to an angel. Donnie McClurkin urged us to “Stand.”  The maligned R. Kelly sang out his heart with “I Look To You.” And then…. Pastor Marvin Winans extolled us to get our priorities in order. Stevie Wonder put us notice to get our act together “quickly” because the time for change is NOW. Even the pall bearers … when they hoisted Whitney’s stunning platinum casket onto their shoulders…. Ooooooooooooooooo what a moment.   That is not all I saw, just a few of the many extraordinary moments that touched my heart.

Seeing this live, unadulterated presentation of a a real church service — one that is all too familiar to African Americans everywhere — exponentially increased my pride in being black — a member of a cultural community that has always  and incontrovertibly been an incredible example of strength, perseverance, forgiveness and spirituality.

As I digest today’s experience, it makes me think about the work Tom and I are trying to do: Bring people to the “church of reconciliation.”

I can’t help but believe that white people have a lot to learn from us. They need to stop having knee-jerk reactions… stop crucifying our black president for what he is trying to do…. stop trying to find “a great white hope”… stop living in fear that history, as heinous as it is, will come back to hurt them.

Let the world say AMEN!

4 responses to “NEW HOPE”

  1. Prinny says:

    Amen, I say, Sharon, amen and again amen.
    I follow a different faith tradition, but I believe the "church of reconciliation" is a big temple, in which all are welcome, to which many paths may lead. In *that* church, I stand and sway, call out praise and raise my hand, sing, shout and let the tears flow freely. In *that* church, I know we are all children of God. In that church, let us hope we can find our way out of fear, as you so well point out.
    Amen indeed. Prinny

  2. June Nicholson says:

    Sharon you know you touch my heart with your honesty and emotions about the black church. My continuous prayer for you is that you find a church that can be your rock of hope and encouragement and love. I am of course from Old School and believe that God compells us to "assemble ourselves" with like believers on a regular basis. This is sometimes a sacrifice of time even for me but what else is fitting for me to give back to a God who has kept me for 80+ years. I have heard the many reasons why people don't feel that regular church attendance is necessary especially because the church is full of hypocrisy and stealing preachers and not relevant in today's world. Well that's so true in some churches but not all. That's also true in many social circles and political organizations that I belong to but I still take part in them. So, what I want to leave you with is my hope and prayer that you will find such a church for yourself where you can grow spiritually and be a light in a dark world for others. I love you dearly. Aunt June

  3. Sharon, Amen to you! I too was riveted by Whitney's funeral service. I was totally drawn in by the 'spirits.' It caused me to reflect on traditions from my personal experience–Catholic, Buddhists and reminded me that we are all one, in the end.

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