CAC teacher Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes finds hope in the innovative, Spirit-empowered resilience of the Black church in the United States. In CAC’s recent webcast, The Future of Christianity, she reflected:
The contemplative movement—which is now finding roots in BIPOC  congregations and African-American traditional denominations—is growing, and I’m watching more and more people turn away from an entertainment-focused worship style and leaning more toward a growth that is internal rather than external. One of the reasons that the Black church has focused so much on music and exhortation is because in order to survive or to remain Christian, we had to look beyond the tenets of Christianity to the mystical. We had to be able to transcend, and the transcendence comes when you are singing a song that reaches a place that words can’t.
I was in church last Sunday, and we go to a very tiny little church on purpose, because I’m always looking for places where there’s a breakthrough of the presence of the Divine. I’m not so interested in articulate sermons. And they started singing a song “God Did It Suddenly”—this is before the preacher even took the pulpit—but suddenly there was this moment where everything changed: “God changed the way I walk, the way I talk, changed my attitude, and God did it suddenly.” It’s that understanding—that God can enter in, no matter how devious the Christian tenets have become with regard to race, and suddenly change everything, can change the hearts of your enemies, can make you strong enough to be able to stand, can give you power and can give you strength.
The other thing that made us stay Christian, I think, is that we read the Bible differently, thank God. We saw Jesus walking on water and acting like a shaman. We know shamans. We saw the walls of Jericho fall from walking. And we knew that this God that allowed us to be transported in chains from Africa was the God who could also free us. So we weren’t listening to what they told us Christianity was; we had an understanding of Christianity rooted in our own African understandings.
In Holmes’s experience, leadership and ministry didn’t come from official ordination, but from the movement of the Holy Spirit among the people:
You always knew who had the gifts, ’cause they couldn’t fake it. If in their presence folks got healed, that was a healer. If they could walk up to you and tell you what your life had been and what was going to happen tomorrow, that was a discerner. And so there are all these gifted people around but they didn’t have any power within church structures, which made people like me realize that the real power was not in the structure of the church, but in the living church. The gifted prophets in our midst.
 BIPOC is an acronym for Black, Indigenous, People of Color.
Adapted from Barbara Holmes, “The Role of the Pastor,” and “Read the Bible Differently,” in The Future of Christianity: A Virtual Summit, Center for Action and Contemplation, streamed live on August 23, 2022, YouTube video, 1:56:18.
Explore Further. . .
- Watch the Future of Christianity summit with CAC faculty.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Christopher Holt, Newgrange Triple Spiral (detail), 2014, Ireland, photograph, Wikimedia. Joanna Kosinska, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Nasa and ESA, M104 Sombrero Galaxy (detail), 2003, United States, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: From a past shrouded by time, we hold the known candle of our present moment toward an unknown and expansive future. Past, present, and future— Christ is present in each.
Story from Our Community:
The daily meditations and prayers from the CAC have strengthened my relationship with God in ways I didn’t know were possible. I have retrospectively seen how I was led to hear your wisdom through a complete stranger who was also on the journey for transformation. Throughout my life, I have felt an inner dissonance between the outer shell of my existence and what lies deep in my heart and soul. Daily, I read words from your meditations that continue to remind me that I am a steward of God. God is in me. —Gretchen B.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.