Archive for the ‘women in the bible’ Category

The President’s Pastors

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

The president has quietly collected a handful of pastors to meet with him on the phone for private prayer sessions  and for discussions on the role of religion in politics. Three are black. Two are white.  All of them are men.

Their names are well known. They are all ministers with major religious followings.

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., veteran of the civil rights movement, Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Baptist in Cleveland, Ohio and father of Rev. Otis Moss, III, the young man who succeeded Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright at Trinity UCC in Chicago. Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, both pastors with entrepreneurial savvy who pastor mega churches in Texas  also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another pastor, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion. And Rev. Joel C. Hunter, former president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, pastors a Florida megachurch and is the author of the book “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians.”

Presidents have through the ages tapped pastors for spiritual support, policy advice and political cover. The Rev. Billy Graham was a counselor to at least five (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush).

The ordeal with his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright has probably made Obama skittish about the idea of trusting his soul (and reputation) to one pastor or of casting his lot with any particular church there in DC. Although many churches and pastor have been eager to get him and the First Family to visit and join their church, I’m from friends in the know there in DC. What a circus church services  are likely to become if the First Family should show up. Forget about the crowds that gather whenever President and Michelle Obama step out at night for dinner at a restaurant. I guess setting up conference calls with his favorite pastors is the next best thing the president can do. Well, at least Obama is being spiritually counseled, I suppose. But what can of counseling can we expect him to get from these particular spiritual leaders? Moreover, we can only assume that the wife and children have come up with their own spiritual disciplines.

Too bad life as  President means that you sometimes have to choose between God’s House and the White House. Yeah, yeah, yeah, God is everywhere. And one doesn’t have to attend church to find God and spiritual nourishment. Still I’m just saying…

I happen to believe that there is something special about belonging to a community of worshippers and regularly attending services with your family. Too bad the Obama girls won’t get to experience singing in the children’s and youth choirs. Too bad the family can’t attend Wednesday night bible study. Too bad they won’t know what it is to hear “amen” ring out from the pews during Sunday worship and not know what it is to stand up and clap when Usher Board #3 marches in in grand style on the Sunday of their anniversary service.

Still, the President has his own personal pastors. I guess that’s a good thing.

obama in church

First Black Female Rabbi

Friday, June 19th, 2009

alysa stanton first black female rabbiA blog for thinking women of faith must stop and congratulate  Alysa Stanton on becoming the first black female rabbi.

I remember all that I endured as a doctorate student in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in the 80s there at Princeton - the sneers, the condescension, the sexist comments, the racist gestures. I can only imagine what Rabbi Stanton experienced in her journey to become the first black woman to earn her rabinnical license from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

Did I mention that some of my most painful memories as a doctorate student and as a young Old Testament scholar were the reactions of Jewish colleagues to my being a black woman in Old Testament. Even now I still get the question, “So, you really can read Hebrew?”

Hey, but this post isn’t about me. It’s about Rabbi Alysa Stanton, America’s first black, female rabbi who starts on August 1st as the rabbi for Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C.

I had to smile when I read what sisterblogger Prof. Tracey wrote when after congratulating the rabbi on her achievements, she ended with “I respect the hard work for the achievement, but I still can’t help thinking….why?”.

“Ten years ago, if someone said I was going to be a rabbi, I would have laughed,” Stanton, 45, told “Me, a spiritual leader?” Like myself the rabbi is a former Pentecostal. Hmmm…I wonder… Oh well, you can read more about Rabbi Stanton’s spiritual journey here.

Rabbi Stanton is the first black female rabbi in this country. And for that she deserves our heartfelt congratulations, our deepest admiration, and our sincerest prayers.

Mrs. Mattie Moss Clark (1925-1994)

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Recovering and reclaiming women’s contributions to history is what I relish doing. Whether it’s women in the Bible, women who participated in the civil rights movement, great women in jazz, or women in the church I never get enough of hearing (and retelling) stories of women who defied the odds and made a way out of now way.

I’m happy to close this week out by bringing to light here on the blog another woman readers probably never heard about or know little about. Her name is Mattie Moss Clark (1925-1994) . (”Mrs. Mattie Moss Clark” is how everyone referred to her back then.) As preeminent choir director of the COGIC Convention, Mattie Moss Clark was the First Lady of Gospel Choir Music back in the 60s and 70s. The late James Cleveland is better known as a gospel legend from that period; but make no mistake about it: Mattie Moss Clark was also on the scene traveling the country and changing the direction of black church music. Mattie Moss Clark  is credited for creating the three-part harmony (separating vocal parts into soprano, alto, tenor) in choirs,  a technique which remains prevalent today.

Growing up COGIC and singing in the youth and young adult choir there was always lots of buzz in the church about Mrs. Mattie Moss Clark. Friends in the choir who took the yearly pilgrimmage to Memphis for the COGIC Convocation meeting (I could never afford to go) went especially for the infamous Convocation Midnight Musicals where Mrs. Clark introduced new music and new songs to the church, where singers and choirs battled for Mrs. Moss’ approval.  In the COGIC church  where only men can be bishops and pastors, Mattie Moss Clark saw to it that the church’s  music department became her domain and ran it like a woman who had to prove that she was as a gifted and anointed as the best of them.

Not only was Mattie Moss Clark a choir director non pareil, the woman, it seems, was also a force of nature. Folks from my church were always coming back from Convocation with stories of something Mattie Moss Clark said or did at the Convocation. Rumors have it that during rehearsals Mrs. Clark would throw sheet music or a shoe in displeasure at a soloist who failed to execute her solo in the proper way, or she would throw a hat or hymnal in joyous ecstasy at one who not only got it right but got it perfect.

Of course, some say that Mattie Moss Clark’s greatest contribution to gospel music is the gift of her singing daughters, The Clark Sisters,  who took their mother’s lessons and music to greater heights and then passed them down to their own children (J. Moss, Kiki Sheard). That’s probably true. But today here on this blog Mrs. Mattie Moss Clark is remembered in her own right for her own talents as a church musician, arranger, composer, music teacher, choir director, and minister of music. She brings to heaven experience on how to stand up to the male angel Gabriel and win the respect and attention of heaven’s choir as a choir director par excellent.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Let’s start the year off with positive news, shall we?.

Oprah has been talked about several times on this blog. But let’s applaud her for her end-of-year  $365,000 donation to the Ron Clark Academy an inner-city school located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods in Atlanta. It’s a gift the school and its students will remember for a long time. The check arrived in a Federal Express envelope with a note from Winfrey to Clark applauding him for the “profound difference you’re making with your passion for teaching.”Winfrey’s gift to the Ron Clark Academy was only a small part of the 8 millions she donated to education projects in 2008.

Clark Academy

Clark and his students became overnight Internet stars during the presidential election when a video of the students performing a political rap song they wrote grabbed the public’s attention on YouTube. The children ended up performing the rap, called “Vote However U Like,” on national TV shows including CNN, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show.  Teachers at the school frequently use rapping, dancing and drumming to help students learn.

Here’s to women of means like Oprah Winfrey who use their money to effect change in the world.

A  study from ING, working with Essence magazine, explored black women’s attitudes toward money early last year. The participants, all black women, said they worried about finances more than their health, appearance, job, or relationships. Here are some highlights:

  • 47 percent of black women surveyed said it is difficult to have the lifestyle they want because of financial obligations to immediate family.
  • More than one third have loaned more than $1,000 to friends or family in the last year.
  • 71 percent said it was “very important” to donate money to their place of worship.
  • 41 percent feel guilty about how much they spend on expensive brands.2 in 5 reported total savings of less than $10,000.
  • 2 in 5 reported total savings of less than $10,000.

Women have been the biggest charitable givers for centuries. I love the story in Luke 8 which talks about 3 women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, who followed Jesus’s ministry and contributed generously to it out of their means as working women and women of independent means.

Did you know that millionaires like Winfrey attend philanthropy classes that teach them things like how to give, when to give, and why they ought to (must) give.   And not just for tax purposes. Nor just out of obligation. They learn how to use their money to build a legacy. They learn how to use their money to support causes they believe in and to change society.  Put your money where your mouth is. But they also learn that money has a spirit. Oh yeah. You don’t have to be religious to know that. It’s a law of nature. Give and the universe notices. Give and it comes back to you. Give and it shall be given to you.  So, here’s to Oprah.

So, what did you give to last year? How much money did you give away? What do you believe in enough to support with substantial donations? You don’t have to have Oprah’s millions to donate this year to the causes you believe in. To put your money where your mouth is. To put your money where your heart is.