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Pastor Kelvin Calloway, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, and Pastor Clyde Oden.
By Cora Jackson-FossettSentinel Religion Editor
Once again, overflowing crowds filled the sanctuary of Bethel A.M.E. Church to hear the Word of God powerfully delivered by the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. An internationally known orator, Dr. Wright headlined the ‘Theology In The Hood Revival' sponsored by Bethel A.M.E., Bryant Temple A.M.E., and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches (LAM) on January 23-25. The Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway is pastor of Bethel, the Rev. Dr. Clyde W. Oden, Jr. is pastor of Bryant Temple, and Cheryl A. Branch is executive director of LAM. Dr. Wright's nightly messages expanded on the revival theme, ‘Revisioning The Black Church: The Church as Community Sanctuary.' And unlike similar events, the services aimed to uplift spirits as well as offer resources to veterans, victims of violence and formerly incarcerated individuals. "This revival is focused on the very ones Jesus came to minister to, the very ones about whom He spoke of in Matthew 25 when He said, ‘inasmuch as you've done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.' "It is aimed at those who have been kicked to the side by a society that cares about the greedy and not the needy. That's one of the things I salute Pastor Calloway and Pastor Oden for doing in making the revival relevant to the community," said Dr. Wright. L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was among the participants sharing information about assistance programs, noted, "The challenges facing our community are re-entry, rehabilitation, and redemption. They are no easy tasks and will require all of us working together." Also, representatives from the Veteran Administration, L.A. County Social Services, LAPD, the County Sheriff's Office, and the Probation Department were on hand. In addition, LAM members distributed a resource directory and conducted a resource fair after each worship service to assist families in identifying available services. To those facing challenges or feeling discouraged, Dr. Wright stressed the importance of maintaining faith in God during difficulties. He said, "To those who are suffering now, remember the Lord is on your side. "God comes to set us free, to get oppressors off your back. Nobody can ride your back if you're standing up. That's the Gospel you'll find in the Bible." When responding to a question as to why many people don't feel as though the church cares, or that the church matters anymore, Wright quoted a disc jockey from Philadelphia (where he grew up) who used to say each night as he signed off the air: "If you don't feel as close to God as you once did, remember which one did the moving. God hasn't left us. Too often we have left God!"
He then said, "If we're expecting some kind of fairy tale miracle to change our situation without us working to get our situations altered or transformed, then that's magic, that's not religion." Dr. Wright's comments drew repeated shouts and applause from the audience, reflecting the success of the revival. Echoing that opinion, Pastor Calloway said, "I think this revival was absolutely worthwhile. The goals and objectives we initially set are being accomplished and people of Los Angeles have responded. "We hope the word will continue to spread throughout the community so people will have several points of contact to access these services." Dr. Oden added, "The revival was amazing. Not only was Dr. Wright outstanding in his preaching and teaching - our church has been energized to do some new ministries beginning with honoring our veterans at Bryant Temple on February 19. We are also working on new Re-entry ministries and a ministry addressing families of murdered family members."