After dragging my feet way too long, I’ve called the VA Peninsula fellowship of the VA Chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black together for a monthly meeting. Fr. James and I led the Compline prayers with the Canon for Racial Reconciliation. Following the prayers, I led a discussion about the role St. Mark the Evangelist played in establishing Christianity in Africa.
Perhaps one of the most horrible examples of hiding history from people is that of how American Christianity does not talk about the role this apostle played in the Church. Mark, a Jew from ancient Libya, was the founder of the Christian faith on the continent. Because of him, we have the Desert Fathers, such as Anthony the Great, who influenced the creation of monasteries throughout the world. Athanasius the Great would put together the collection of books that would become the New Testament. The seat of St. Mark is claimed by both the Eastern and Coptic Orthodox Patriarchs. The lost history of Christian Nubia, continuing spiritual beauty of the Ethiopians, and the anti-colonial Kenyan and Ugandan Orthodox owe a great debt to this gospel writer. Unfortunately, we African- American Christians have not been taught to honor the value of the saint.
The Christian radical reformation and Great Awakening movements chose to ignore the history of the first 1000 years of the faith. Denominations such as the Baptist believed the “Great Apostasy;” that true Christianity became corrupted after the death of the Apostles and was not revealed again to the world until Martin Luther and John Calvin challenged the abuses of Roman Catholicism. This denial of history allowed white supremacy to grow in their churches by making African contributions to Christianity irrelevant. So when the Baptist slave master began to share the faith with his slaves, such hidden facts were certainly not going to be researched and taught. In an effort to assimilate into society, African-American Christians conformed to the belief that ancient Christian history did not matter. Even among our most radical theologians who were willing to paint Jesus black did little in learning and teaching about the pre-slavery Christian past to the congregations.
Mark evangelized and our Lord was on earth during a time and in a world that was very much multi-ethnic. Celts, Ethiopians, Greeks, Nubians, Phoenicians, Romans and other ethnic groups could easily be found in every city and town in the Mediterranean world. Unless we teach a history and spirituality that came out of this setting, we are not living and spreading a Gospel that brings humanity together. It is no wonder why, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Eleven o’clock is the most segregated hour in America.” We have “black” and “white” churches because neither of them embraces a history and spirituality of one Church where Christians were considered a race no matter what color they were. Until the various denominations and non-denominations do this, Sunday morning segregation and weekday racism of one sort of the other will continue.
It is my hope that with our monthly meetings at St. Basil that we can discuss ways on how we can use the ways of our ancient ancestors of all races to bridge the gaps we have in our society. We will begin praying for reconciliation, learn of their ways, and see how to apply them to our lives. Lord have mercy on us in this endeavor. The next meeting will be Tuesday night, June 26th at 7 pm. If you are in the area before then, pull my coat tail. Perhaps we can get together for an informal Juneteenth cook out before then.