Editor in Chief
In honor of Black History Month, the Multicultural Center and the Campus Activities Board invited ULV students to a morning service at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, or FAME, on Sunday.
Several students came together with Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain, and Misty Levingston, assistant director of multicultural affairs, to attend a service in Pasadena.
“It’s a way to provide a pathway for people to enter into other people’s spaces so we can learn from each other. It’s an exchange of religious and cultural diversity,” Wagoner said. “It’s super important, because otherwise there’s mystery and with mystery there’s misunderstanding.”
Although it does not always happen, Wagoner said visiting at least one religious community per month remains one of her goals as University Chaplain. Religious communities tend to be a little more difficult to come into as an outsider, considering these communities are typically seen as very tight-knit and unto themselves, she said.
The service consisted of several prayers recited by the entire congregation, a multitude of gospel songs preached by the choir and a sermon given by Rev. Larry E. Campbell.
The FAME Church was celebrating the birth of their founder, Bishop Richard Allen, when they took a moment to remember how their church was birthed out of an experience at the altar, something of which proved to them that God truly works in mysterious ways.
When the white congregation decided that African American’s could no longer sit at the bottom of the pews but instead were only allowed to sit upstairs in the banister, Allen was stopped in the middle of his prayer and told to move. From that experience came the FAME Church of today, where African Americans have the ability to pray wherever they please without the system of oppression telling them they cannot.
“At the altar God is able to birth new things,” Campbell said. “We ask now that you take time to come to the altar and have that little talk with Jesus. There is still power at the altar, God is still in the blessing business, he is still in the healing business, he is still in the making a difference business.”
Campbell began his sermon of the Old Testament Book of Exodus 14:10-15, speaking on how the Israelites were more scared of dying in the desert than they were to live their lives bound to slavery by the Egyptians.
“The nation enslaved them but also housed them and fed them and gave them something at the simplest of care, in other words it looked like they cared for them but it was all about the motive of the oppressor,” Campbell said. “When I think of this biblical narrative, I can’t help but think of our black ancestors who were slaves on the plantations.”
The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, was a document that made slavery illegal, however, many slaves did not leave but chose to stay on the plantations because they had a heavy fear of the unknown, he said.
“When God delivers you out of a situation, you need to pick up your baggage and leave,” Campbell said.
“Getting comfortable can hinder our progress. One of the greatest hindrance of African Americans has not been race or ethnicity; it is our loss of our hunger to achieve.”
Campbell said it is true that racial barriers and listening to stereotypes defining African Americans as inferior and unable to think creatively, nor plan strategically, has greatly slowed their progress.
“However, our willingness to accept our impoverished state has been one of the greatest contributors to our oppression,” Campbell said.
“We must not be satisfied with the status quo. My brothers and sisters, I simply summon up today in a final point: we must consider that it is time to move on.”
Campbell ended the sermon with a quote by Fannie Lou Hammer: “You can pray until you pass out, but if you don’t get up and do something God is not going to drop it in your lap.”
Dyamond Gray, a sophomore English and Spanish double major, said she attended this same church when ULV visited last year in a similar outing.
“Without a doubt, it was so great for me. I want others to experience the same thing,” Gray said. “I really enjoyed coming to a church that has a background in my own beliefs. They tie in African American history with the actual gospel… I really appreciate it.”
Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.