Henry Mitchell, former professor of theology at Rochester Divinity School said, “The central figure in the Black church is the Black preacher. He has no exact counterpart in the white church, and to attempt to see the White preacher on the same plane is to risk confusion, for the Black preacher includes a dimension peculiar to the Black experience.” In the Black church the Black preacher has perpetually served as a father figure to Black people, seeing to their welfare in all spheres of life whether they were social, political, economic, or the traditionally recognized spiritual aspects of life.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I saw in operation the validity of these statements. The Black preacher commanded the respect and obedience of his congregation. He was the most powerful man in our community & even today the Black preacher retains most of that prominence. Many Black Christians look to their pastors as an authority figure who should have a lot of biblical knowledge and wisdom. They are viewed as being above and a little distant from ordinary lay people.
What makes the black preacher unique?
As the Black church’s historical origin stemmed from its African heritage, the counterpart of the Black preacher can be found in African traditional religion. The African priest brought with him into slavery an oral tradition through which he preserved the history and culture of the tribe. Through his expertise in storytelling, he became a link for his fellow slaves between the past and the present and between the spiritual and the mundane. In his role as priest on the plantation, he comforted, encouaged, and helped the slave community relate to God.
However, in White Christian environments, their ministers seem to be viewed on an equal basis with lay people. Some white congregations show their acceptance of and respect for their ministers by being either buddy-buddy or on familiar terms with them. In many Black Christian environments, keeping the distance or addressing them with formal terms such as Reverend, Bishop, Brother or Sister shows the respect.
Ok, I know the gloves are about to come off regarding this post!
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