The Sunday after: Worshippers rejoice in possibilities of hope and change
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 10, 2008 - The air was chilly, and the sky looked like slate, but that didn't dampen the upbeat mood of St. Louis worshippers on the first Sunday morning following the historic presidential election. On this special morning, many of them spoke of being uplifted not only by their faith but, as one worshipper put it, because "hope has been restored" by the election of Barack Obama. Some also were pleased that some Sunday sermons took note of the outcome of the election, not as an endorsement of the winner but as an indication that on the first Tuesday in November in 2008, America changed like never before. Following are comments from some worshippers about what the changes might mean.
Amy S. Collins, 71, St. Alphonsus Rock Church, 1118 North Grand Blvd.:
"The minister said a special prayer. We always pray for everything, but we prayed for the newly elected political officials this morning. What I found interesting was that the music director chose a song called 'A Change Is Gonna Come.' While we were singing it, I was thinking that that's exactly what all of us were thinking about -- change. I worked very hard for the Obama campaign. Lots of people were in tears when he won, but I knew he would win because the time was now. If we hadn't done it this time, it would have set us back at least a hundred years."
Patricia Kyle Dennis, 58, First Unitarian Church, Kingshighway and Waterman:
"Social justice is probably the biggest emphasis in our church. It has a Christian background, but it's more a church of seekers rather than believers. We're progressive. We characterize ourselves as liberals in the truest meaning of the word, as givers, although liberals have been characterized in the worst ways in the past eight years or so. What the minister was saying (during service) was that what happened in the election was just an astounding event. I came here, and I wanted to celebrate with a lot of people. We have conservatives in the congregation, too, but she (the minister) dared to go right out and say that what happened was important. We sang 'America the Beautiful' after that. But I couldn't get through it because I was crying. It was just wonderful."
Kevin Ohlemiller, First Unitarian Church:
"Our faith is a liberal faith, and we're expected to be open minded and think the best of people. This election was a historic moment for the world and for our country. I'm proud that America had the maturity and the guts to break through the color barrier and elect the best man, who happened to be African American, for office. I'm proud to be an American."
Jerry Bryan, 69, Third Baptist Church, 620 North Grand Blvd.:
"It was one of two events that I'd refer to as historic. The first was John Kennedy who broke a big religious barrier. This one involved Barack Obama breaking a racial barrier. I see them both as significant turning points. Kennedy was young and energetic, and Obama is also young and energetic, so I see some rather interesting parallels. I guess what I'm looking for is a period of time during which we have high energy and a very strong president who seems to have an excellent ability to reason things through and make sound decisions. I just think there's an enormous opportunity for growth in this entire nation under Obama."
Bob Canning, 77, Third Baptist:
"Obama wasn't the person I voted for. But I think he could be remembered in history. I hope he takes a more moderate stance on the issues and that could help make him go down in history as one of the greatest presidents. I hope he goes that route."
Frances Bett, 54, Refuge and Restoration Ministry, Florissant:
"The sermon was just wonderful, just made me realize that 40 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King had paved the way for us in his sermon about the mountaintop. That was basically what my pastor was saying this morning. He told us we'd been taught all our lives that what we sow, we will reap, and that when he was reading his scripture, God was showing him what Martin Luther King had sowed. Dr. King never saw it, but the outcome of this election is the reaping of what he predicted."
Ronald Simmons, 66, West Central Church of Christ, Walton Ave. and Delmar Blvd.:
"This has been a historic moment in my life. I never thought I'd see a black man run for the president from a major party, let alone see one elected. This has been very exciting for me, my children and my grandchildren. Our minister's sermon was about change, the need for change, but he also pointed out that God wasn't a Democrat, Republican or independent, that God was the president of all men and just wants people to work closely in the whole world for change to take place. Our minister also reminded us that we might have to sacrifice a little, cut back on some things, eat a little more soup, beans and greens till we get this country rolling and get people back to work again."
Cynthia Forside, 56, Wayman AME Church, 5010 Cabanne Ave.:
"As I listened to the sermon and thought about the election, I also thought about the sacrifices made by my ancestors, of all those who died, and I was thinking that this was a day that I never felt I'd see. We're finding ourselves in a place we never thought we'd be. I think about Dr. King, his sermon where he mentioned the mountaintop, looked over and saw the promised land. All those thoughts made this morning's service so wonderful. But our minister also said this moment wasn't about Obama but all about all people, about America and about making things better."
Billie Johnson, 54, Wayman AME Church:
"Our hope has just been restored. We just got a brand new wind, a breath of fresh air. Everybody at church was just excited about this, but I think that was true of everybody in America, too, black people and white people. The minister's message, in effect, was that change has come. He said we had to embrace change, but he reminded us that there still was no greater name than Jesus, but that Obama was a wonderful name and was the man for the hour. After this morning, I'm still overjoyed. Yes, I am."
Valerie Williams, 56, Wayman AME:
"I'm so excited. The minister sent a powerful message to African Americans that things are going to change, and it's going to be positive change. The sermon was inspiring, very, very uplifting with hope."