From my earliest memories the “Black church” has been my church home, although my family is White and I lived in Alabama the majority of my life.
I grew up in the Oakwood College, now University, church family. The concept of our con- gregation being a part of the Black church was not some- thing my family formally dis- cussed. Oakwood church was my church, E. C. Ward was my pastor, and I was his “buddy.” Now as an adult I look back, and I do notice that my family and I were unique in the congrega- tion. The Oakwood College church is where I accepted Jesus as my Savior, got baptized, got married, and funeralized my family. The most defining moments of my life occurred at Oakwood church.
Now as an adult I choose to continue to worship and feel most comfortable within the Black church. The Black church to me is more than style of worship, music, and preaching. Within, I find the Black church to be a wel- coming experience with a strong sense of community centered on a shared desire to be part of Christ’s kingdom and share the good news with the community.
My experience has taught me that church family can be as strong as, if not stronger than, genetic family. At its best the Black church provides the village of support needed to counteract the chal- lenges inherent in our society. The strength of the Black church com- munity is evident both in times of tragedy and times of success.
The Black church proclaims the gospel of eternal salvation, while at the same time proclaiming practical application of the gospel here on Planet Earth. I have seen the transformational power of the gospel message applied within the church (2 Cor. 5:17): Within my church community I have seen how the baptism and spiri- tual transformation of one family member led to educational, voca- tional, and financial transforma- tion of the entire family. I find the willingness of the Black church to directly and vocally confront social issues—especially poverty, disenfranchisement, and police violence—unique within the Adventist Church (see Isa. 1:17). As a public school educator, I have brought numerous students with me to visit my church throughout my career. I pray the seeds planted will grow as my former students develop into adults.
For me the Black church has provided a sense of family and belonging , a place where I can be transparent and unguarded. I am sure that all Adventist churches are welcoming and will become a church family over time, but I find something unique in the social bonds that span generation and geography within the Black Adventist experience. I have seen over my lifetime that we as a world- wide church are stronger when we embrace and celebrate our similarities as well as our dif- ferences. Accepting our differ- ences, embracing our past, growing together, and truly reflecting Christ to the world is all in our job of hastening His soon coming.
Jamie Roddy, trained educator and loving wife, taught for 14 years before becoming the mother of two sons, Brooks and Brayden.