Black History Month and the Power of Gospel

What a joy and an honour to have had Terrance Kelly, and the Universal Gospel Choir, join us for worship this past Sunday, and the moving testimony of our own Matthew Brewer. We kicked off Black History month a little early, celebrating the power of gospel music, and deepening our commitment to faithful racial justice work. You can read Matt’s words, and words from our Lead Minister Beth, below this video of Terrance leading the choir and the congregation in song.


Matthew’s Black History Month Testimonial:

A musician once quoted that “the greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”

With Black History Month approaching, I could take this opportunity to talk about the many hurdles and racial issues that many black people are still facing on a day to day base. But instead I want to take this time to acknowledge a man that wasn’t a house hold name. But whose integrity was intact and his actions positively affected many people around him.

Chesterfield was a soft spoken man of God. Who loved to encourage others by saying things like “you can trust God where you cannot trace him.”

He was a proud member of the River Road New Testament Church of God senior choir where he sang tenor. His favourite song was “Total Praise”. Wherever he travel to and he heard that song being sung by groups and choirs, he would always say that “no one can render that song quite to the standard of the River Road Choir.”

He lost both of his parents at a young age and he started his journey through the world of work at the age of 14. As a young black boy and man he faced many difficult racial challenges. But he never allowed them to break him.

He was one of a kind.

In many ways he was a great example of what a man, a father, and a leader should be. He was a great provider for his children, his family and others in his community and never looked for anything in return. When speaking to others that knew him, as well as looking around the homes of family members, friends and neighbours. I’m often reminded of the results of his mentoring and actions.

One great deed of his that I will always remember was the time he rebuilt his sister’s house in Barbados. I remember him telling me and other family members, that he wanted his sister to have a place to come home to if and when she decides to return from living in the United States.

With very few words but with lots of actions, a few of the greatest gifts that Chesterfield has given to me are the roots of INDEPENDENCE, RESPONSIBILITY and EQUALITY.

A great piece of advice that he shared with my wife and me before we got married was about “the 3 C’s” in a successful relationship. And I honestly think that these 3 C’s can help close the gap in many of the problems that we are facing in our world today.

Those 3 c’s are CARING, COMMUNICATION & COMPROMISE.

I’m very proud to have call this Strong, Inspiring, Determine man my DAD.

So in closing. I encourage all of us to be the change that we need in this world. Be willing to stand alone and together for what’s right. Let us all continue to incorporate these 3 C’s in our daily lives and at the same time infect those around us.

Love, Peace, Guidance & Protection

Our Lead Minister Beth Hayward had this to say:

African American philosopher and activist Cornel West insists that

“we stand in a long tradition of love warriors, …. courageous truth tellers who fell in love with the quest for justice, freedom and beauty.”[1]

When we tell the stories of the love warriors, perhaps we plant the seeds for love to win.

Stories like Matthew’s father, an exemplar to his family and community of how to live with integrity and conviction no matter your life circumstance…

Love warriors, like our own Jack O’Dell, member of this congregation, in hospital today, because that sometimes happens when you’re 94 years old. Jack was a trusted colleague to Martin Luther King Jr.: a key organizer in the early days of the civil rights movement. Jack continues to dedicate his life to the call for justice. And when MLK had to fire him because the Kennedy administration felt threatened by those who would bring to the fore the intertwining of race, capitalism and American imperialism, he wouldn’t be stopped.[2]

Love warriors, like the biblical prophets who offer timeless invitations to be a people greater than we think possible with words like: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24). Inspiring words like, “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 5:6)

Love warriors like Jesus of Nazareth who wrestled with his demons in the wilderness, emerging to stand firm in the face of all that would deny life to the least of these.

The call for justice is not limited to one cause. Cornel West says this about race and justice:

“Race matters in the 21st century are part of a moral and spiritual war over resources, power, souls and sensibilities. There can be no analysis of race matters without earth matters, class matters, gender matters and sexuality matters and, especially, empire matters. We must have solidarity on all these fronts.” 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/14/america-is-spiritually-bankrupt-we-must-fight-back-together

[2] https://www.thenation.com/article/who-jack-odell/