Richard Allen: Black History Month (part 1)

Black History Month in North America is an opportunity to expand our understanding of an often “whitewashed” past. Specifically, BHM helps us celebrate and acknowledge how African Americans have been a crucial and overlooked part of the development of America’s political, social, and economic systems. This focus reminds us that this development came at a high cost to the African American community.

In an interview with The Banner Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige (Executive Associate to the President for Diversity & Inclusion at Calvin University) shares that: “The U.S.A.—a place where many Africans were brought as slaves, kept in bondage, and denied basic civil rights. It’s a place where, still today, experiences of racism are pervasive. Nevertheless, the contributions of Africans/black Americans to this country have been numerous. These accomplishments should be celebrated and given proper credit—as should be the case for all people groups who have contributed to the building of this nation.

In the interview, Dr. Loyd-Paige also notes that: “… it (Celebrating Black History Month) is a matter of truth-telling. The U.S. history that is often taught in our schools is very white. The history of black people in America rarely goes beyond slavery, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks. Black History Month is an invitation and an opportunity to dig deeper into U.S. history and the accomplishments of African Americans.”

This year to celebrate Black History Month I am reading and sharing story on some of the amazing Black men and women I am learning about. My plan is to Highlight someone each week through the month of February. This week’s spotlight is Richard Allen. The following information is from:


Because God doesn’t segregate, but humans do…


A Feb. 20, 1898, sermon by the Rev. John Palmer on Richard Allen’s place in African-American history reads:

“If true greatness consists in that self-sacrificing heroism and devotion which makes a man insensible and indifferent to his own personal welfare, interest, comfort and advantages; and to deny himself of all for the sake of others, and for the elevation and advancement of others, without a single promise of reward — we say, if these constitute greatness, then Richard Allen, the first bishop of the AME church, was great.”

Allen is considered the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in America. That church, now with a membership of more than 2.5 million people and 6,000 churches, was the country’s first independent black denomination.

Former slave. Born into servitude in 1760 in Philadelphia, “Negro Richard” earned $2,000 to buy his freedom and that of his brother in 1780. Richard Allen, the name he chose as a freedman, came of age during the American Revolution, just as the antislavery movement and denominational Christianity were gaining prominence.

Allen discovered religion after hearing a Methodist preacher at a secret gathering of slaves in Delaware. In his biography, The Life Experiences and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, he wrote, “I was awakened and brought to see myself, poor, wretched and undone, and without the mercy of God must be lost.”

Preacher. Allen, his wife Sarah and others opened the doors of Bethel AME Church on July 29, 1794, on the site of a converted blacksmith shop on Sixth Street in Philadelphia. Allen was ordained the church’s pastor. Driven to establish “Mother Bethel” by white Methodists’ segregation of blacks, Allen brought other black Methodist congregations in Philadelphia together in 1816. They elected Allen bishop, a position he held until his death in 1831.

Abolitionist. Allen focused his sermons on the freedom of slaves, cessation of colonization, education of youths and temperance. He created denominational groups to care for and educate the poor. His home and Bethel AME were stops on the Underground Railroad.

Educator. Recognizing that former slaves and freedmen needed education, he opened a day school for black children and a night school for adults. Allen published articles in Freedom’s Journal attacking slavery, colonialism and organizations that advocated the migration of blacks back to Africa. He authored three pamphlets about escaping the bonds of slavery, including An Address to Those Who Keep Slaves and Approve the Practice.

Allen’s legacy lives on today in the AME church’s work, whose motto is “God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family.” – John X. Miller


Feature image and Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige quotes are from:

Richard Allen story from:


Divididitus-Zoe & Taking The Monastery With You!

Here’s your invitation to check out my latest podcast!
In this episode, I walk us into a space where the secular and the sacred distinction dissolves allowing us to embrace and experience the sacred moment that is present. When we falsely believe that the components of our lives ( body-soul-spirit) are compartmentalized & separate from each other, we tend to label and make divisions everywhere.

This disconnects us from fully living the into the moment that we have.  Sometimes we finally have a breakthrough moment on retreats, seminars or places like monasteries where the veil between us and God is so thin, and we find ourselves free of the divisions. The beauty though is when you are able to live fully present wherever you are, you are taking the monastery with you.

Likes are loved 🙂

All Creatures of Our God And King

Francis of Assisi penned the words of this powerful hymn not long before he died. It would be another 400 years before it was published. I love the David Crowder version of this hymn which I have uploaded below, but take a moment before you listen to Crowder’s version and read through all the verses that Francis wrote. There are more stanzas than we sing in most settings today. His words are rich, flowing from a deep well. Francis sees God everywhere. To him, the world is ablaze with God. May we see His presence as vividly as Francis did.

All Creatures of our God and King

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!


Ready To Lead?

It has been said that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is true, but how do you know if you are ready to lead. Perhaps if more people were aware of the state of their soul before attempting to lead, there would be fewer wounds and war stories.

I have noticed that some people have too low an opinion of their leadership. They don’t feel ready, equipped or gifted for the task at hand, when in reality, they are ready and have enough humility to lead well. Others, conversely, believe they have been endowed with the abilities of superman. They quickly jump at, and taker over, leadership initiatives when they would do well to slow down and grow in some key areas before attempting to lead others.

So that leaves the question, “How Do I Know When I Am Ready To lead?”

In 2 Corinthian 4:7-12 there are some powerful thoughts about leadership:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Notice that leadership is not without trial, struggle, or pain. Even having a great cause does not mean that everyone will like you or agree with what you are saying. The health of a leader is crucial in order to navigate the ideologies and opinions of the day. In Paul’s life I notice the following areas to reflect upon concerning leadership readiness.

1. Are you self-aware and honest with yourself? In other-words, do you know that you are not perfect, that you have areas of deficiency and brokeness that need to be addressed, worked through and healed. One will never be a great leader if they are not ruthlessly honest with themselves about themselves. Not only is it the portal to leading, it is the first step towards healing. If the broken areas are not addressed, those hurts, habits and hangups will be transferred to those you lead, creating a seriously dysfunctional team. A leader with no self-awareness will hurt those they are trying to lead.

2. Are you connected to others in community? Being in community and accountability with others provides the safe environment where people you trust can reveal your blind spots…the wake you leave behind you relationally, vocationally and spiritually. Most people have many acquaintances, but few deep friendships. A healthy living community is one where you laugh, play and serve together being committed to helping each other become the best they can be. A leader that is not in community will not see how their wake affects the people they lead.

3. Are you willing to decrease so others can increase? One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from Lao Tzu where he states:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

Are you ready to take on a role or responsibility that isn’t “up-front” and highly “visible?” A great leader helps others towards self-epiphanies. Not that all roles are “unseen” but are you willing to decrease so others can increase. The best leaders surround themselves with men and women who are great at what they do, and they facilitate them to do even better, even if they don’t get the strokes for it. A leader who is not willing to decrease will use others to serve them and not the mission.

4. Are you consistent in the small things? Jesus said that “If you have been faithful in little, then you will be made master of much.” Are you willing to do the small tasks that you have now, and are you doing them well? As a leaders proves faithful with the part she has, then more will be given. If you have an attitude that the “small stuff” doesn’t matter, then it’s time to go back to question number 1. A leader who isn’t faithful in the small stuff will not be faithful in the big stuff.

5. Are You Liquid.  Effective leadership for the 21st century is not rigid, but liquid. We live in a time where fluidity in the norm and flexibility is crucial. Gracefully and patiently moving with and alongside those you lead reveals the calmness of your soul, how attached you are to “things” and how will you will deal with things when coloring inside the lines doesn’t work. Flexibility does not mean the removal of expectations of vision, rather it is harnessing the power of the river to forge new ways that flow best in the surrounding atmosphere. A rigid leader might have some obedience, but he will never have all the creativity and potential that comes with fluidity. A leader who isn’t liquid will frustrate and limit the potential of the people they lead.

Spend some time reflecting on these questions concerning your leadership. As you reflect you are actually practicing question #1 which is the gateway to the rest!