Friday, July 29, 2016

Could Rev. William Barber come to preach at the Mission?

A non-homeless friend of mine, whom I've tried to get to come and hear a Union Gospel Mission sermon, sent me a link to the sermon, above, that Rev. William Barber delivered at the Democrat National Convention. My friend's email to me is below.
Have you ever heard sermons like this at the Mish? I was hugely impressed. As I wrote on Facebook this morning: "It was the kind of stirring oration that Martin Luther King routinely delivered back in the day. And while I make no bones about my displeasure if not contempt for a lot of what passes as Christianity today, especially among right wing evangelicals who hypocritically support candidates like Donald Trump, the Rev. Barber's soaring words express principles that, if put into action, reveal what Christianity could be at its best."
In answer to my friend, I say this, which I think is still true since the days when I was at the mission often:

The Mission administrators don't tell preachers who come to UGM what they should say. But I think it has pretty-much always been the case that those groups invited to come to the mission have a mainstream-to-conservative understanding of the Bible's message. An exception to this has been the Quakers. Thus, I don't know if Rev. Barber would be offered to preach at the mission. I mostly doubt that he would be given a preaching slot, mainly because much of the content of his message has a liberal feel and is political.

One thing much in Rev. Barber's favor for him being given a chance to preach at UGM is his rousing delivery of his message. A stirring delivery is greatly appreciated by my homeless brothers and sisters in the chapel seats. They will stand up, cheer and hear every word.


Blogger Steve said...

Never having attended the Mission and relying only what I've read on your blog and heard from you in our discussions over the years, I don't know definitively what kinds of preachers the Mission has featured there over the years, but I very much suspect that you're correct in speculating that they'd be unlikely to provide a platform for Rev. Barber's social justice preachings.

For one thing, I have the impression that the Mission favors preachers who emphasize taking personal responsibility for oneself by reaching out to God and then working hard to get one's life on track, whereas Rev. Barber could be understood to imply that personal difficulties are often rooted in systemic societal dysfunction, inequity, and injustice.

I think some people, especially of the politically and theologically conservative persuasion, would not only perceive such a message to be dangerously politically and theologically radical respectively, but also inimical to fostering personal responsibility in that it arguably encourages people to blame their problems on society and to look to society rather than to themselves and to God for viable solutions.

But I'm guessing that Rev. Barber and his like are also able to deliver strong biblically-based messages encouraging personal responsibility, and I'm also guessing that a preacher such as he would have no difficulty keeping his audience awake throughout a sermon.

July 31, 2016 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Thomas Armstrong said...

Hey, Steve. As you likely already know from me, the mission has a Rehab program which by my sense of it does -- as you write -- "emphasize taking personal responsibility for oneself by reaching out to God and then working hard to get one's life on track."

The messages that come from nightly chapel sessions, with the preachers speaking to guys in rehab AND homeless men and women from the community can be loving and caring and put forward political opinions from time to time. The preachers are pretty free to say what they are moved to say. But, yes, the preaching at the mission is far different than what is said at, say, Trinity Cathedral, which consistently delivers a liberal message.

As for keeping the audience awake, that used to be a bit of a problem back a few years ago. These days, as I understand it, the fellows in the chapel seats are on notice that they need to be alert during chapel services. But I am sure that from time to time a guy will be poked in the side by a friend if the guy is showing any signs of nodding off.

July 31, 2016 at 6:39 PM  

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