Tag Archives: african churches in america

MARMADUKE CARTER’S CHILDREN

Marmaduke Carter’s Children

The Reverend Elstner Lewis Pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church, Chicago, Ill.

In eighteen years as head of national missions a few experiences stand out. One of these I wish I could erase.

Once a year our national church’s Board for Missions would deepen its understanding of the challenges and joys of mission work by traveling to a mission field. That year it was a trip to Los Angeles to visit urban churches.

One of the churches was in an area that at one time had been a middle class African American neighborhood but the neighborhood was changing . Spanish speaking immigrants were moving in. Store signs were in Spanish.  African Americans were moving out. As we approached the church we saw a haggard building covered with graffiti – a sue sign the church was disconnected from its community. 

Inside we spoke with the long time president of the congregation, an older man who had left the neighborhood to find a nicer home in the suburbs, as had most of the African American members. It was my assignment to conduct a conversation to help our board understand ministry in one of the most diverse cities in America. But when I asked “What is your vision for the church for ten years from now?” the president responded, “To have church where our older members can be taken care of and from which they can be buried.” The members of our board could see my jaw drop. 

I heard a remarkably different and more wonderful account when I spoke with Rev. Elstner Lewis, pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church in the Woodlawn and Hyde park neighborhoods of Chicago. St. Philip, the first African American LCMS Church in Chicago was committed to reach the people in their changing neighborhood. Their passion can be traced back to the missionary who founded St. Philip in 1937. Rev. Marmaduke Carter. Dr. Carter was a missionary for the old Synodical Conference. The name “Marmaduke” has an Irish background. The Irish Marmaduke was a missionary in the sixth and seventh centuries. Recognized as a saint he founded more than thirty churches in Ireland. 

The American Marmaduke came out of Virginia. After graduating from Concordia Seminary, Springfield Illinois in 1921 Carter was ordained a missionary and sent to Lutheran farmers in Nebraska and Minnesota- an African American bringing Christ to White Europeans. He learned to speak, write and preach in German.

 

 

Chicago Sunday Tribune April 10,1955

In 1924 he came to Chicago to begin St. Philip Church. At that time the neighborhood was becoming African American, working class folks who were rising into middle class. He stayed as Pastor of St. Philip for forty years, and saw the church grow to more than five hundred members – middle and upper middle class African Americans. In time the church was complemented by a parochial school. However, as all communities, the neighborhood would change again.

A while after Pastor Lewis arrived the middle class members had begun moving to larger homes in the suburbs. Listening to the new people moving into the now older and less expensive homes Elstner Lewis adjusted worship. Gone was the cassock and surplice, no alb and stole – in came the academic gown, the more traditional African American hymns and a little more free wheeling worship. St. Philip thrived. Then, another change.

The community is not far from the University of Chicago and the nascent Obama Library. The neighborhood is becoming gentrified.  American Korean and American European professors and students from nearby colleges have begun attending St. Philip Lutheran. Elstner Lewis response? Listen to the people.

Rev. Lewis knows his community. The issue is always how to make the love of Christ real in word and in deed to the people of the community. That is a reasonable response. Reason can be used in a ministerial or magisterial way in this world. If a strategy is used in a ministerial way, in service to the Word of God, it can be a blessing.  

Pr. Lewis told us, “We are going to have to develop a mission strategy to reach out to the community. As we become a more diverse church we will have to change. Right now we are talking about what that means. One thing  is things will not be the same.” Right now it appears there is a need for a  more formal worship and more traditional Lutheran forms and hymns. This came from listening to the community. 

Pr. Elstner says the older African American members at St. Philip refer to the younger more diverse members as “our children.” And they are the children of Marmaduke Carter. 

I think Dr. Carter would be amazed and thankful that the mission he began still reaches people in the community – like the ones He preached to on Midwest farms and the more diverse neighborhood in the city where he served. 

To see a two minute introductory video with Pr. Lewis, click here.

To see the full seventeen minute video, click here.

To check out the new audio book from Mission Nation, “NO ACCIDENTAL MISSIONARY,” click here.

 

 

 

 

 

How We Hallow

 How We Hallow:Missionary Zerit Yohannes:

Rev. Zerit Yohannes

This morning millions of us prayed “Hallowed be Thy name.” It is later in the day and I wonder if we thought about what we were praying – specifically, what does it mean to “hallow”?.  Dr. Martin Luther thought about it. Rev. Zerit Yohannes, a missionary in America from Eritrea, showed us.

I assume you know to “hallow” is to “make holy.” But how does a human hallow God’s name? In his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer’s first petition Luther points out,“God’s name was given to us when we were baptized.” Then this: “it becomes holy when both our teaching and our life are godly…” (The Large Catechism). 

 In my understanding the petitions following  “Hallowed be Thy name” explain how we do that, how humans “hallow” the Name of God. For instance “They kingdom come.”  We hallow God’s name when we help to usher in the Kingdom of God. We hallow God’s name when we pray “Thy will be done” – trusting God loves us and His will for us is for always good. “Give ‘us” this day our daily bread;” not only me, but the “us” of those around us, especially those in need.  When we pray “Forgive us our sins AS WE FORGIVE” we hallow God’s name, if we really mean what we are saying. As we pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us in the time of trial,” we are preparing to hallow the Name of God. We pray all these things because we know “Thine is the kingdom.” We do not rule ourselves – we want to live under the kingship of our Father in heaven. Which brings us back to the second petition. 

Although never fully realized here on earth, the Bible has much to say about signs that God’s kingdom is coming. 

When John the Baptist  (Mathew 11:3) called out to Jesus,”Are you the Coming One?” In his answer Jesus enumerated signs the prophets used to describe the coming of God’s kingdom “Go tell John …the blind see and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (see Isaiah 29:18, 35:4-6; Psalm 22:26; Isaiah 61:1; Malachi 3:1).

God’s name is hallowed when those in distress hear the good news of Jesus and see His love in action.  Zerit Yohannes was an instrument God used to bring in the kingdom. At times it was harrowing.

Rev. Yohannes lived through “The Red Terror” in Eritrea. Through that time in the 1970s his faith held and grew; he was a missionary during the worst times,  an instrument to usher in the Kingdom to a war torn people .

Missionary Yohannes graduated from the largest Lutheran seminary in Africa, in Tanzania. He spread the good news of Jesus throughout Africa as a missionary broadcasting over the radio in Nairobi, Kenya, and through mercy work. He began a ministry among immigrants arriving in Kenya fleeing war and famine, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. An instrument to usher in the Kingdom of God. Zerit was hallowing God’s name as he made God’s kingdom real in that place and time.

The African Christians hallowed the name of God when they developed programs to aid victims of HIV, hunger and poverty: the church’s role as a servant of the people made lasting impressions in Tanzania and in Eritrea. Then, A door opened for Zerit and his family to go to Canada, where he began ministry to African immigrants in Toronto. He also attended Concordia Seminary in St. Catherine, as well as at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. 

The Kingdom of God was made concrete, the mission in Canada grew, the poor heard the good news and experienced it in the work the churches did. Then a call came for Pr. Yohannes to return to Eritrea to teach mission work at the Church’s seminary. For nine years he worked to equip new pastors and missionaries to usher in the Kingdom of God. He was hallowing the name of God. 

Rev. Zerit was called back to North America, to St. Luke Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan, to train missionaries from Africa to the United States. When we recently spoke via Zoom, Rev. Yohannes with his fellow pastors of St. Luke Lutheran and Rev. Todd Jones, Mission Secretary of the Michigan District, were preparing to teach about thirty missionaries (men and women) who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo making God’s love real in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa and South Dakota. “Hallowed be Thy Name.” His insights on mission work are important for all who would bring the lost to Christ in America, for all those who hallow God’s Name.

St. Luke Lutheran Church, Lansing, MI. 

Each petition of the Lord’s prayer is, finally, a way to hallow God’s Name. The next time you pray the Prayer – think about how you can hallow God’s name in the coming day – pray “Thy Kingdom come” -and then go out afterwards to heal and preach the gospel to a hurting world.  

It is a a gift of His grace that you and I have been allowed to pray the Lord’s  Prayer – and this day to hallow the Name of God. 

To see a short video introduction to the work of Rev. Yohannes, click here.

To see the complete video, click here.

To purchase a biography of a missionary to America, click here.

To listen to the opening chapter of our coming audio book, No Accidental Missionary: the life of Dr. Tesfai Tesema, click here.

To order the new audio book, click here

To donate to Mission Nation and give a voice to more missionaries to America, click here.