By Brittany Whitley
“Thank You for our history and for those who lost their lives for us for we know, Heavenly Father, that if we lose our lives for You we will gain our lives,” shouted Pastor Bobby Patman, a NAACP member, in heartfelt prayer and thanksgiving to the Lord from the Bethlehem Baptist Church pulpit at the Black History & Founder’s Day Religious Program Sunday night.
Members from several churches across the county, youth, fellow pastors, officers and commissioners in the community, most serving additionally as NAACP members, packed the pews to celebrate the African American heroism, perseverance, victories, hope, and even tragedies that constitute the enduring heart of Black history.
The Morgan County Branch NAACP has broken ground and leaped bounds since its start in 1969, just 60 years after the first NAACP group was formed. The branch fought for and succeeded in bringing county-wide honor to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in the school systems, won lawsuits for two black districts, began and continues the annual Black History Parade, and share in the success of several past and present NAACP members’ election into prominent city roles.
Delivering a message of conviction and encouragement, Pastor E. Bernard Hamp of New Enon Baptist Church, fueled by the power of The Spirit and the courageous history of black ancestors, reminded the members how to fight with the One who wins the fight.
“We have kind of mirrored the children of Israel,” Hamp proclaimed referencing the Book of Exodus in the Bible. “There was a time when we just gathered together and we multiplied and went into to bondage and they called it slavery and we called it slavery. They were in Egypt, we were here but bondage is bondage. Then God came along and delivered them, but guess what, God delivered us, too! God gave them a deliverer called Moses, God gave us a deliverer called Martin Luther King and God gave them other delivers and other people who helped them come out of bondage with the prophets…all these men and women of God who helped them along the way. So, he did with us. So, we hadn’t lacked anything as far as deliverance… but low and behold, we made it here by faith.”
Hamp read from Acts 3:1-11 and focused on the point of good leaders in the Black community. In the text, Apostles Peter and John were seen as good leaders – bringing those in need to the One (Jesus) who can save them – and Hamp implores NAACP leaders to mirror their hearts.
“Now the black community is looking for leaders to stand up and fight the good fight,” Hamp said. “But if you’re not rooted in this [the Bible], you have no endurance… What makes you a leader is being grounded in the principles of God.”
Hamp emphasized the point that walking with Jesus will not only empower the Black community, but increase perseverance against life’s pressures and most importantly, unite the community from within. To maintain this unity, Hamp implored members to support and encourage other leaders in order to become part of the solution.
Upon closing his sermon, Hamp began a chant of gratitude saying, “The one that we never thank, the one that started this whole thing that we never talk about. You know back in the slavery days, the one that was working in the house and while his master was there with the Bible open with the cross on it. The one who looked at his master and said ‘Master, who is that you talking to when you down on your knees and you looking up at the ceiling? I walk in the room and I don’t see anybody but who are you talking to? And what does that mean when you put your hands together like this? And that cross that’s on that book right there? And then out of ignorance, he messed around and tell him about Jesus…”
The congregation met his ending passionately in unison with a Negro-spiritual, “Lay my head way over yonder down by the riverside. We know that Jesus…”