Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Indictment, No Surprise

As an African American, there is no way that I cannot perceive the story of Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri outside of the lens of American History. Though some would compel us to separate the past from the present, that would simply be neglect. We cannot, as Americans, so easily separate ourselves from the traumatic memories handed down to us by centuries of racial injustice. Even if there was an indictment, could we have expected a conviction of any kind with the murder of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman still in our purview? Ferguson proved nothing. It told us nothing that we did not already know. It defied no expectation we had/have of what justice looks like historically in these United States. A country where slavery, based on a system that said that black people were less than human, was condoned and practiced by our founding fathers and undergirded by our founding documents. A country where emancipation gave birth to Jim Crow; and subsequently -by some estimates- thirty-three hundred lynchings in the decades between the end of Reconstruction and the civil-rights era. A country where Jim Crow's back was broken, not by the many American citizens (black and white) who fought against injustice, but by the critique of those abroad who were watching America's brutality against the backdrop of the Cold War. A country where desegregation gave birth to uneven prison sentencing, entrenched multigenerational poverty and grossly unequal education systems. A country where -as a 6ft, 200lb black man- I know I need to be conscious of the assumptions people make about who and what I am. A country, where I know I need to teach my children that no matter how much you understand your value and self-worth; no matter how intelligent you are; no matter how successful you are; your blackness will cause people to make judgments about you that will be inconsistent with who you are. It is also, my country, my home, and a place of hope and promise for my children. That is why I must be dissatisfied with the Ferguson Grand Jury’s failure to indict. I don't care what side you stand on, this is not justice. You don't want to live in a world where a police officer has the authority to gun you or your children down in the street. Someone asked me what we can do as a church. My response: “What we can do as a church is to take a position against the conditions within our own communities that begat violence of any kind; take steps to educate ourselves about what resources are available to combat those conditions; and get about the business of being change agents.” What we can do as citizens is to encourage dialogue with the politicians and law enforcement officials sworn to govern and protect our communities, and let our voices be heard that they may transform the culture that leads to theses kinds of inexplicable acts.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adventures in Urban Ministry

This is another installment of, Adventures in Urban Ministry...

Urban ministry is not for the faint of heart. Certainly "urban" has many meanings, and our church is at a kind of a crossroads. We are located in a gentrifying area. One side is poverty, no other way to describe it. Abandoned buildings, next to buildings that should be condemned, next to half way decent homes... all lined up and joined together in typical Philadelphia row house fashion. Most are inhabited. As near as I can tell, most are inhabited by working class people and poor folk. Around the corner, Parkside Ave. Beautiful, upscale properties with easy access to the zoo, the park, the School of the Future and a new museum. The people are a mixed lot. Reminiscent of the people in the text I am preaching from next Sunday in Acts 16. Where we find Lydia (the purple cloth dealer), a slave girl, and a jailer. 3 people from 3 different economic, social, and psychological backgrounds. This resembles the population we have around our church.

What follows here is 2 sets of dialogue between myself and my friends on Facebook, regarding 2 status updates I posted about a particular young man I noticed in the hood.

Dialogue #1

FH: OK, peep this. Dude across the street from the church... good looking, clean cut, young black man. Lives in a home that kind of looks like a shack, but is rolling in a 100K Benz. Brand spankin' new joint. Am I wrong for what I'm thinking?
December 23 at 12:43pm

KH, Umm...I guess we both are...'cause I'm thinking the same thing!
December 23 at 12:45pm · Like

FH, LOL. I don't want to stereotype, because somebody is likely doing the same with me every day! Even though I'm not pushing the 100K joint. LOL
December 23 at 12:46pm · Like

AP, At least we have progressed with the times I remember that same dudes dad and uncles parking a caddy in the front yard in newark.
December 23 at 1:00pm · Unlike · 2 people

GF, Whhaaaaack. Priorities not in line...
December 23 at 1:00pm · Unlike · 1 person

FH, That was my other thought G. Whether he's slingin' or not, he's sure stupid... then again, maybe he's stacking what he's saving on the mortgage?
December 23 at 1:03pm · Like

CB, and watching the stacks dwindle with the depreciation on the car.
December 23 at 1:21pm · Unlike · 1 person

FH, Which is why you are in charge of the money CB!
December 23 at 1:22pm · Like

RPM, No you're not wrong...matter of fact, you should go tell the brother exactly what you're thinking!!!
December 23 at 3:27pm · Like

FH, I definitely should engage the brother.
December 23 at 3:29pm · Like

MW, I engaged someone once and he told me that everyone is different, he'd rather ride and rent than own...at the time his car cost as much as a house in B-more...so be prepared for ignorance being bliss :)
December 23 at 5:01pm · Unlike · 1 person

FH, M, I have a term for that kind of thinking. Unfortunately I've experienced it all too often.
December 23 at 5:32pm · Like

CM, He probably loves that car more than anything. Bet he doesn't have a garage. Who parks that on the street? Oh, yeah. Somebody living in a shack.
December 23 at 7:55pm · Like

FH, LOL. Exactly. Who parks that on G Ave in the hood?!?! LOL!!!
December 23 at 7:58pm · Like

KW, I have cousins on G Ave in Philly so I've been in that area often. Rev he slinging! Please update us if you decide to engage.
December 23 at 8:28pm via Facebook Mobile · Unlike · 1 person

FH, We definitely have dealers in the hood! We'll see. I'm going to introduce myself just like I do with the cats outside on the corner.
December 23 at 8:57pm · Like · 1 person

MT, Keep us up-dated on this one F. It is very difficult to speak words that change life-styles.
December 24 at 3:12pm · Like

MW, Hey, I just thought about the women with the minks and paying rent...I refused to hang a mink in a rented closet, but that's me. Yeah, chat with the brother but be prepared :).
December 24 at 5:29pm · Unlike · 1 person

Dialogue #2

FH, Remember the brother with the 100K car on W. G Ave? Talked to him. Yup, he's slingin'. Insightful "conversation" about a space he shoveled out in front of the church. He knows my name now... for sure.
December 30 at 1pm · · Like · Comment

MG, Maybe I need to talk to him wit my boys.
2 hours ago · Like

TC, That's what's up keep touching that community ...your doing great brother/mentor/father figure/friend/bro/homeslice/fellowblackman/R.U. Peeps/S.A.I. Peeps.../ etc....LOL
2 hours ago via Facebook Mobile · Like

JN, LMBO! Rev, pray tell. what did u say to this poor guy?
2 hours ago · Like

FH, Hopefully I sowed a seed. That's all I can say. Oh, and he knows "my heart don't pump no Kool-Aid."
2 hours ago · Like · 1 person

JN, LMS, PF, it's nice to hear of u + M's burgeoning dedication to this church + community. Keep on keeping on... + Best wishes for the NY.
2 hours ago · Like

KH, Did he seem some what "receptive" to what you were saying during the convo?
about an hour ago · Like

FH, I think he felt convicted by my choice of words and my mannerisms. I was firm.
about an hour ago · Like

FH, Just bumped into the brother on my way out of the church. He apologized. He said he was in the wrong, and I invited him to church.
about an hour ago · Like · 1 person

MH, Powerful....it is also amazing to me how God utilizes all of our life experiences and brings them to bear into our purpose. You needed to be just who you are to Pastor "where" you are....I am also thankful for the Holy Spirits intervention! Thank ya!~ (in my Pentecostal get your shout on voice)
a few seconds ago · Like

Like I said, urban ministry isn't for the faint of heart!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Subject: Preapred in advance by my mom - A.

A message from one of my own personal angels, which breaks my heart a little, though it fills me with joy. She manages to capture so much of what I feel, and so much of what I want to say about Christmas. I'm sure she prepared many of these notes for the many she looked over and prayed for daily. Love you Colette.

Merry Christmas Fred!

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Charles Dickens

My sentiments exactly about the season I find myself in. Best. Worst. Wisdom. Foolishness. Belief. Incredulity. Light. Dark. Hope, Despair. Everything. Nothing. Heaven. especially now...heaven. Christmas is a mixed bag for me. I absolutely detest the "Disneyfication of Christianity" (Don Cupitt) that much of 'the holidays' embodies. But it is in thinking about Christmas that I understand these words of Jesus, "Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal." (John 12:24-25)

The moment Jesus landed on this earth, taking meetings with Magi, and ensuring that manger making will forever be a respectable occupation, he started to die. Slowly at first, double speed as time went on. Joy to the world. Dead to the world. That truth helped me to embrace today more fully, appreciate it for what it really is...the beginning of a miraculous ending which was the cause and catalyst for countless miraculous beginnings, not the the other way around. As I write this Christmas is still a ways off, but I can sense things speeding up. There remains real joy in this for me. Clear eyed joy. Not wild and crazy too good to be true joy, but true enough to be good to me and for me joy. So today I will celebrate. Today I am excited, expectant, and energized about the beginning up ahead for me. So today, for me, follow the instructions of Jesus: let your love go, be reckless in it, because love never fails, never ends, never dies.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Power Points From This Week's Sermon, 12/19/2010

This week's sermon focused on Matthew 1:18-25, "God Is With Us"...

1.—Your Lineage Does Not Determine Your Destiny—
Jesus’ lineage isn’t defined by Tamar, Rahab, Ruth or Bathsheba anymore than it is defined by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joseph ties Jesus to the line of King David, but the tie to the Davidic line isn’t a manifestation of biological descendents; it’s a product of divine connection.

2.—Following God’s Plan Always Involves a Choice—
Sometimes things aren’t always what they seem, and so you’ve got to be able to follow the leading God, if you want to be a part of God’s plan. Joseph made a hard choice, even going against his own convictions, and the result of choosing God is the divine revelation that situates him in the middle of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity.

3.—The Right Choice Will Lead You to Your Destiny—
Not only was Joseph the recipient of divine revelation, but making the choice to follow God’s plan allowed him to fulfill his own purpose and destiny in God. He became the adopted father of the one who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; sent to save His people; the Messiah… Joseph was granted the privilege of raising the King of Kings as his own son.

4.— He is our Emmanuel—
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel —which means, ‘God is with us’”
Jesus came to this earth 2000 years ago, and His presence… WITH US… today is no less than it was when He walked the earth. How can I be so sure? The gospel tells us. Matthew begins his gospel with the angel’s announcement of the birth of Jesus, who is Immanuel, “God is with us,” and Matthew ends his gospel with the resurrected Jesus saying: “Surely I am WITH YOU always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).

Jesus’ birth and mission is not about being born into the right family… the right conditions… or the right circumstances. His birth is about Emmanuel… God with us…

The Christmas story is about the fact that God can step into our imperfect lives and walk WITH US through the realities of the lives we live; and we can look back over our lives and declare “God you were with me.”

Rev. Frederick A. Hanna

Come out and join us one Sunday at FAPC!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Adventures in Urban Ministry 2 - "He knew the dopes, the pushers, the addicts, everybody..."

Sermonizing for this coming Sunday... I got to the office, finished my exegesis, but didn't really have a word yet. I'm coming from Luke 19:1-10. The story of Zacchaeus, the cheif tax collector. I sat back in my guest chair and looked at the "Relentless - Hanna" painting, hoping it would preach to me.

It did, but not what I was looking for. I thought about the fact that Zacchaeus had to reposition himself in order to meet Jesus, so instead of vegging out in the chair, I decided to reposition myself...
...Ministry is about context... relevant ministry is not just about knowing scripture. It's about knowing people and understanding context, and building relationships...

So I went out... and been hanging in the hood all day. 2 transitional homes, a few street corners, a drug spot, NA meeting, front steps of the church... ended up listening to old school hip-hop and R&B on my iPhone with a young man in the sanctuary, who is teaching himself to play the piano by ear...

I met some real genuine people, many of whom are looking for a 2nd chance in life.

This morning I was singing... "He knew the dopes, the pushers, the addicts, everybody" (MC Lyte)... Yeah... Yeah... That's WJWD!!! You gotta know ya hood... "Everybody"... Knowing people's story... That's urban ministry!

Frederick A Hanna

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Adventures in Urban Ministry

Hanging out at the church late last night after a number of meetings and numerous futile attempts at starting this Sunday's sermon... I decided to go out and get a bite to eat. Unfortunately my travels landed me at Checkers around the corner from the church. Checkers offered up a meal of deep fried, extra greasy hot wings! I decided to indulge. A decision met with immediately regrets, as I took my first and subsequently last bite of that first grease bomb. Oh well! My trip to Checkers did bring another interesting experience though.

As I was sitting at the drive-through, a woman, probably in her late 30s to early 40s as near as I could tell... disheveled hair, dirty clothes, slightly dazed look in her eye, standing about 5 feet from the drive-through pickup window... began a solicitation for spare change. At first I turned a deaf ear to her. I had already spotted her staring at me before I even got to the window. I could see in her face that she would be giving me some kind of spiel or plea for money.

She asked, "Sir do you happen to have any change? A nickel, a dime, a quarter? Anything you can spare. I'm hungry. I don't have any money. I've been living on the streets for the last six months."

Still trying to turn a deaf ear to this "same old song"... don't carry cash anyway besides a few coins that I have nestled in my pocket... She continues to talk "I just don't have any money, been living on the street, trying to make it, 37 years old, my whole life has been difficult, I've been on and off drugs, got mental health issues, living in an abandoned building..." When she talked, it was like one long sentence.

She continued, "I have mental health issues... I don't know whether I'm coming or going sometimes... I can't find a job... I finally got a payee, so I can get my money from the state. It's only about $70 a week, but at least it's something. But it's really not that much, especially when you owe people money from a year ago and they're waiting to get paid back... and then my payee? I don't even know if they'll give me the money... they'll probably just keep it all... I don't know."

She continues, "I like that cross hanging in your window. That's a nice cross. I saw one like it down at the Salvation Army earlier today. 'Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.' I like that cross. It's nice just like that one I saw earlier today. Are you a godly man? Are you a pastor? Do you work at a church or teach?"

Now I'm thinking to myself, "Man! Sister got game!"

Again she says, "Do you work at a church or teach?"

I respond, "Actually I work at a church and teach."

"Really!" she says... "I knew it! I could see it! You have a glow about you. I see that glow in your face. I see that glow in your eyes. I knew you were a special man. I knew you were a godly man!"

Now the only way I could be glowing is if I had been exposed to some kind of radioactivity earlier that day. I've looked in the mirror enough times to know that I don't physically glow, and I know myself well enough to know that I don't have a character that would cause me to glow in any supernatural way. I've got enough flaws to prevent anything like that from happening. So, still I'm thinking, "She got game! Sister got game! She knows this game well!"

She continues talking, "I always wanted a godly man. A man with morals, a man with values, a man with goals." Suddenly there's a sense of clarity in her voice that wasn't there before.

She goes on with an aire of deep sincerity, "All I ever had was men who treated me bad... men who used drugs... men who used me to get their drugs... men who got me hooked on drugs... men took everything I had... men who I tried to help, but they used me and abused me, and treated me bad. I always wanted a good man. A godly man who would encourage me... and love me... and care for me. I always wanted a man like that. I knew you were good man."

I don't know exactly what it was. Maybe I was touched by the depth of the sincerity in her final plea? Maybe I was convicted in my own shortcomings and the fact that the man she was describing was more the man I want to be, than the man I am?

When she was done, I gave her what little change I had. It wasn't much at all. I wish I could've done more. I said to her, "Sister, come on out to the church at the corner of 42nd and Girard on Wednesday at noon. We'll give you a nice meal... and come by the church tomorrow, and we'll give you a bag of groceries. I'm sorry I don't have more change right now to come by the church. I'd like to talk to you."

She smiled and excitedly exclaimed, "I'll be there!"

I hope she comes.

Written by Frederick A Hanna

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Many For The Few

Visited Chichen-Itza today. One of the 7 Wonders of the world. The Mayan’s ancient calendar, which was based on their knowledge of astronomy, is only rivaled by NASA’s modern technology.

Truly amazing. Of course, it is sad to see the Mayan descendents scurrying about, peddling trinkets of their heritage to Western tourists for pennies. I’m not sure why we find so many descendants of such rich culture living in such destitute situations. Perhaps it isn’t them who are destitute. Maybe it’s us. Even after their way of life has been ravaged by outsiders; their sacred practices deemed evil and pagan; their land stripped of its resources; they are still a dignified, hope filled people. Interesting comment by our tour guide today regarding the practice of human sacrifice at Chichen-Itza: “Back then, they sacrificed a few for the many. Today, we sacrifice many for the few.”

Written by Frederick A Hanna

What quality would you most like people to notice when they meet you?