Calling All Box Breakers
By Rev. Kabrielle Baker, Guest Columnist
“As the church mourns over the comments of segregation and obvious prejudice from our most recent President Donald J. Trump and his administration I invite us to think of the silent segregation and prejudice that’s within the church.” That was a status I wrote after Trump’s first official week as president. Growing up African-American, I was taught the horrific encounters that my ancestors had to fight with racial segregation. I can recall hearing the horror stories of the legally enforced discrimination against people of color with the verbal institution of “separate by equal.” How can we be equal when emphasis was on ensuring separation and segregation?
Growing up a child of the parsonage (a pastor’s kid), I wrestled with the notion that racial segregation seemed so far away; yet, social segregation seemed so close to home within the church. Everyone in the church would neatly organize themselves in a way that reflected “separate by equal.” Clergy only talked to clergy. Lay members hung with lay. Young people belonged to the YPD, men belonged to Son of Allen, and mon-clergy women belonged to the Women’s Missionary Society. Everyone was told they were equal but we were groomed separately. Watching an annual conference reminded me of watching the Crips and Bloods gangs. Clergy and lay were very seldom on the same accord. How is it that we recognized the segregation from other races but refused to accept the damage we created in our own homes?
There are many who are called AND chosen but refuse to conform to a box where their creativity is viewed as rebellion because they say, “we don’t do it like that.” The creative vessels were rejected and ostracized because their outspoken passion made the comfortable too uncomfortable by disrupting the regularly scheduled program. We uplift the preacher who rush us to the cross but reject the storyteller that walks us through their testimony. We love a good “Ain’t he alright” sermon and reject the poet who heals our souls through their authenticity of our undocumented depression and silent spiritual suicide attempts.
As an Afrocentric denomination, we have manufactured preachers and stripped people of their individuality. I believe that as we march and speak out against the injustice of Trump that we reflect on the silent injustice within the denomination. After all, before we save the world I think it’s critical to take care of home first.
In a sermon on spiritual gifting, Pastor John F. Hannah of Chicago, Illinois (New Life Covenant Church), stated, “It takes all five for the church to be alive.” It is time that we not only uplift the preacher and the teacher; but we must also uphold the words of Paul in Ephesians “So Christ himself gave the apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.” No more shutting the door on the unfamiliar because it is out of the box. God is calling a generation to not only come out of the box but break the box and create something fresh and new. Calling all preachers, teachers, evangelists, apostles, storytellers, poets, rappers, artistic souls, prophets, and so much more to walk in their truth, come out of the box, and create a revolution beyond the denomination to influence and change the world.
The Rev. Kabrielle MyRita Baker is an ordained itinerant deacon in the Michigan Annual Conference. A daughter of the parsonage, she has served the AME Church in various capacities including as 4th District YPD President. The Rev. Baker currently serves as the youth pastor at Conquerors Church in the Detroit Metropolitan Area and is finishing her Master in Divinity degree at Payne Theological Seminary. She is the proud mother of one son, Joshua Nathanael Baker.