“We who had sweet fellowship together walked in the House of God in the throng.”
– Psalm 55:14
As I pen this article, black churches are burning again. Federal Investigators are in the state of Louisiana combing through the ashes of three historical black churches. These churches were burnt within ten days of each other. However, black churches are resilient. They continue to survive in spite of the dark memories from America’s past.
With tongue in cheek, I must remind the powers that be; this is not a “burning bush moment” for black communities. We recognize and condone all acts of domestic terrorism. They can burn our churches but not our spirit!
The Black Church has always been the epicenter of survival, hope, fellowship and power in the black community. If you don’t believe me then ask the fly-by-night politicians who swoop down on our community during election cycles. Think about it, if there was no power in our community; why do they show up to court our votes?
Friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interest. The spirit of sweet fellowship is a divine and perfect order. Our spiritual mothers and fathers valued the beauty of sweet fellowship as it was the cement of the community.
I was fortunate to grow up in an era when fellowship among the churches was not an option. The fellowship between churches provided healthy bonding and mentors in the community. It promoted growth, team building, social skills, and encouragement. Listen, parents and children knew one another. Even to a greater degree, people were actually identified by the church they attended. It was not uncommon to hear; oh they belong at Friendship or the Heights. They go to St. Paul, Grace, Rising Sun, Bethel, Star of Hope, Mt. Zion, Ward Chapel, The Star, The Sanctified Church, Zion or 7th Street and the list went on.
During my formative years, the former pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Calvin Hightower, Sr. was our pastor. Along with other great pastors, he demonstrated the spirit of sweet fellowship and maintained it. There were evening musicals, church picnics, plays, revivals, quartet singers, contests, workshops, games, arts and crafts, music lessons and tutoring. Not to mention, the cooks and food was off the chain! We grew up travelling to churches outside of the city to fellowship. And when it was our time to show hospitality to a visiting church we knew how to do it and how to do it right!
Somewhere along the lines of denominations, education, money, phobias, discriminatory practices and paranoia, we went astray from the blueprint laid by our ancestors. We stopped calling. We stopped caring and we stopped coming.
The lack of fellowship weakens the Body of Christ, communities and nations. Fellowship has now been replaced with a plethora of attitudes and dispositions.
1 – “You do your thang over and let me do my thang over here.”
2 – I’m doing great all by myself. We ain’t hurting. We got numbers.
3 – Fellowship is outdated. People are too busy. They don’t have time for that anymore.
4 – Why should we go over there? I’m not trying to lose my members or my musicians.
5 – Them folk over there ain’t saved!
6 – Over there, they let women preach.
7 – And we continue to practice and uphold fruitless alliances based on foolish traditions and backwardness.
Where there is no fellowship among the churches, you will find isolation and stagnation. Isolation is never healthy because it prevents church growth. It is important to note that most isolated churches eventually end up dying. Always remember, the death of a church is never sudden. There are always symptoms, warnings and alarms. Ignored symptoms lead to church fatalities.
Nightly, we sit and watch our cities being ravished with crime and neighborhood decay. I ask – are you tired? Are you disturbed? Well here is a NEWSFLASH: All of the blame does not solely fall upon city government. Dear church and community, there is enough blame to go around. God empowered the Church and yes we got work to do. Fellowship may not be the answer to all our problems but it is certainly the path to our survival.
In my closing, Peoria, I submit to you that we return and rekindle the spirit of sweet fellowship among our churches? At this point we have everything to lose but even more to gain. Together, we can watch God change things.