Category Archives: gene sawyer

>OBSERVATION: Black churches … for the love of God.

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As a one-time media advisor to the late Mayor Gene Sawyer and as a lover of Gospel music, I volunteered for a duty that others avoided. Sunday after Sunday, I joined the late Mayor in visiting black churches — hitting at least half dozen churches each Sabbath.

In the years since, I have occasionally attended African-American services with friends or been a visiting speaker. More often than not, my wife and young son would join me as the only white church mice to be found among the congregation.

When I traveled with Sawyer, I usually tried to stay inconspicuously in the rear of the church. I say “tried” because many times I was singled out by the preacher and invited to come to the alter to receive a “special” blessing. This usually was about the time for the offertory. I learned to come prepared with a dozen ten dollar bills to drop into the various collection plates.

In one case, my stash proved insufficient. As soon as I dropped a ten dollar donation into the basket, the pastor peered longingly over his glasses into my wallet. With each new Hamilton dropped into the basket I got a hardier “thank you, brother” until he was satisfied that I had tithed appropriately – at about the fifty dollar mark, as I recall.

These experiences in dozens of black churches cause me to now wonder. Were did the Jeremiah Wrights and Michael Pflegers come from? When did the angry racist homilies infect the body of Christ?
Though it was sometimes costly to the pocket book, I cannot recall a time that I did not enjoy and feel uplifted by my attendance. In every black church I attended, I felt the most gracious and loving welcome. My family was made to feel like the most special of guests — not part of some white oppressors. There was a perceptible outpouring of energetic love throughout the congregation. You could feel it in the music, the sermons and the interaction of the people. I never felt uncomfortable. Of course, I never visited Trinity or St. Sabina.
With all the press attention paid to the divisive screeds of Wright, Pfleger and a few other publicity seeking reverends, I hope the public in general will not assume that they represent all the black pastors.