Monday, December 29, 2008

Post Christmas: A Reflection

While there are innumerable barber shop, bar stool, and couch theologians and critics of the black church - most of the commentary based upon negative media presentations and caricatures - there are few who are familiar with those who have defined and sustained not only the black church in America, but Christianity itself.

Dr. Howard Thurman was an early advocate for multiculturalism in America and justice worldwide, having been inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, whom he met in India in 1935. A graduate of Rochester (New York) Seminary, Oberlin School of Religion, and Haverford College, Dr. Thurman taught at Morehouse College and was dean of the chapel at Howard University. He also founded the interracial Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, a leader in interfaith affairs and in new forms of worship.

Thurman was the first black man in American history to be appointed to an administrative position in a major research university, teaching in the School of Theology and serving as dean of the chapel at Boston University in 1953. He was also listed in Life magazine as one of the twelve great preachers of the twentieth century in 1953 and by Ebony in 1954 as one of the ten most outstanding black preachers in America. He traveled widely, including Europe, India, and West Africa and was a frequent speaker on college campuses, churches, and synagogues.

Thurman wrote more than twenty books. Jesus and the Disinherited, which Martin Luther King Jr. carried with him at all times, was Thurman's attempt to answer a question from a law professor who challenged Thurman why he as a black man could be a Christian, since white Christians had captured, transported, and enslaved Africans in America. Thurman argued that a poor marginalized Jew living under oppression by the Roman Empire speaks directly to blacks living on the margins of American society.

The following is a poem by Dr. Thurman, a reflection of one who possessed a lifelong commitment to an inward spiritual journey:

When the song of the angel is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost — To heal the broken — To feed the hungry –
To release the prisoner — To rebuild the nations –
To bring peace among brothers and sisters –
To make music in the heart.

Poem discovered at Voice of the Day from Sojourners.

14 comments: said...

Hi Pastor,

Thank you so much for your tribute to Howard Thurman!

I used to have a poster of him on my wall....many years ago.

I quoted him a a few posts and I was floored when I received notes from people saying they had never heard of him! Oh my...

I hope you will write more about these great ones...

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

jjbrock said...

Pastor thanks for the information. I learned about Dr. Thurman during the time the media was digging into Dr.Jeremiah Wright and Dr.Cone labeling both a racist because they too embraced the idea that Christ was a liberator.

I found out Dr.Thurman was one of the first to expounded on the idea of Jesus as a liberating figure. Which brought , new testament gospel together with non-violent resistance.

Sound like Martin King learned alot from him.

Mista Jaycee said...

Thank you for this informative post. Celtic loyalty aside I am glad to know you and fight alongside you in the struggle.

Revvy Rev said...

@Mista JayCee,

Brother, you know we are on the same side and in this struggle TOGETHER! (except for Celtic/Lakers):)

TakeAction! said...


Howard Thurman provided shoulders for others to stand on. He remains an inspiration! Thank you for reminding us of this giant.


pjazzypar said...

Hey Rev,

Thanks for disseminating information about our lessor known heroes. These unsung contributors to our struggle as a people are not heralded nearly enough.

underOvr (aka The U) said...


Thank you so very much for sharing an insightful and reflective look at Dr. Howard Thurman.

Also I wanted to say thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment; it was so very kind of you.


tikno said...

An interesting post!
I am sad why should there be a church "seems" like for black or white. Here, there is also a church that "seems" for certain member. If we keep the faith for one God, why should be different.

If you have time, I invite you to visit my post with the title "If One Why Different"

tikno said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and family.

Hey Shae! said...

This is a wonderful post Rev. The spirit that moves people during Christmas needs to last all year round. We could all stand to find the lost, heal the broken and feel the hungry whenever possible.

Kymberly said...

Revvy Rev - Thanks for this. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read any of Thurman's books, but considering what God has been showing me lately, Disinherited is a good place to start.

Blessings to you in the new year!


SjP said...

Much obliged for the "introduction" to Dr. Thurman! It is so very true that now the work really begins.

Wishing you a very happy and blessed New Year. You have blessed me with your support and encouragement so I hope you will accept small token as my way of saying Much Obliged! Very Much Obliged!


Jon said...

I discovered that you follow my silly blog. You must have found me through our mutual friend, Hagar's Daughter. I discovered Howard Thurman through a program on his life at the San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora. He was brilliant. I even tried to get up a group of people at my job to study some of his writings. No success so far, but I was able to generate a little interest and awareness.

I look forward to reading future posts from you.

Believer 1964 said...

I'm thankful for the elders who have a gift to teach, and share the names and lives of heroes past regarding not only our American history, but of our Christian faith as well.

I look forward to delving more into Dr. Howard Thurman's message.

Blessings to you and yours in 2009!