Black and Lutheran
Today, my daughter and I attended Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church near Fourth and Christian Street in Philadelphia PA. It was an experience in spirituality that I will cherish.
The church meets in a large old building dedicated in 1868 by German Lutherans and conducted services in German until the 1940’s. By the 1990’s the neighborhood and the church were abandoned but a group of black Lutherans organized a new congregation in a community that is also revitalizing. The church uses a hymnbook known as Thus Far by Faith (1999) published by Augsburg Fortress Press as an African American resource for worship.
On Palm Sunday, in 1669, an African American man named Emmanuel was baptized at a Lutheran congregation in New York. In 1832, Pastor Jehu Jones was the first black minister to be ordained in North America. He established a congregation in Philadelphia in the early 1830’s. Today there is a number of Black Lutheran churches throughout Philadelphia and well over one million Black Lutherans worldwide.
Although my daughter and I expected to be the only whites attending the services, we were pleasantly surprised to see Rev. Susan K. Ericsson, Assistant to the Bishop for Urban Mission Strategy, who preached an invigorating sermon, that was well received by the clapping of hands and amen’s throughout. The service was twice as long as the services we attend and perhaps twice as loud, in everyway different but with enough common elements that we felt comfortable and welcomed.