I strongly believe that one of the most valuable members of any community is a master teacher. Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, (age 77), pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill., and Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley (age 46), pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., are master teachers.
Nelson Mandela noted, “A good head and a good heart are a formidable combination.” Pastors Wright and Wesley are both blessed with that formidable combination.
That was re-affirmed recently when they delivered sermons in Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. Each provided over 1,500 congregants – many of them Howard students, faculty, and alumni – with a memorable and spiritual experience.
In his sermon, “No More Masks,” Pastor Wright quoted Paul Laurence Dunbar (“We wear the masks that grins and lies”). He stated that we must remove those masks if we are to successfully move against White supremacy and White privilege. We should act like the strong and proud people that our ancestors were.
“There are two types of clergy,” he said, “the prophet whose allegiance is to God, and the priest whose allegiance is to the government. Dr. King was a prophet. Billy Graham was a priest.”
Along with Dunbar, Pastor Wright also quoted Old and New Testaments, Maya Angelou, Brother Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Dr. King in his sermon. He also called out the word for “God” for some 15 African ethnic groups.
Pastor Wesley delivered an equally compelling sermon two weeks after Pastor Wright. He began by saying to the congregation, “I am going to disturb you today.” He then began to preach and teach about “Surviving Lots” from childhood into young adulthood.
He noted he was taught that Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction resulted from the overwhelming presence of homosexuality. “Then I read the Bible myself,” he stated.
That reading informed him about the treachery of Lot, who owned the equivalent of a modern-day hotel. When an invading army threatened his hotel, noted Pastor Wesley, Lot offered his “two virgin daughters” to the leaders of the invasion if they would spare his hotel.
He then stated that there is a sizable number of modern-day Lots who sexually exploit, abuse and harass women. They include corporate executives, politicians, professors, entertainers, athletes and even preachers.
He expressed special concern about Black women, who throughout this country’s history have been sexually exploited by White males. He was equally scornful of Black men who use their positions to sexually exploit Black women. He urged male congregants in the chapel to stand and pledge to not be a modern-day Lots and to assist Black women who are victims of such behavior.
No more worries
On the other hand, Pastor Wesley inspired listeners when he announced that his church had given $50,000 to financially-strapped Bennett College and $100,000 to Howard to pay off the accounts of 34 seniors who are scheduled to graduate in May 2019. Now all they have to focus on is their grades. Alfred Street’s contributions are the very definition of walking the walk.
Master teachers Wright and Wesley bring to mind a quote from “David Walker Appeals,” one of the most revolutionary documents in Black History: “I would crawl on my hands and knees to sit at the feet of a learned man… For colored people to acquire learning in this country makes tyrants quake and tremble on their sandy foundation.”
The two pastors are learned men.
A. Peter Bailey’s latest book is “Witnessing Brother Malcolm X, the Master Teacher.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.