2010.04.13 CR Men’s Day 2010 for Sridhar The African American

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                                CULTURAL RESOURCES
Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ralph Wheeler, Guest Cultural Resource Commentator
Long time civil rights activist, Oakland, CA

I. Historical Underpinnings

This liturgical moment, as indicated by today's lection, points to the holy and positive
characteristics of black men. It highlights those traits in black men that are good, loving,
righteous, and peaceful.

Historically, Men's Day has been a time for the black church to place a spotlight on, call out and
set apart men--men whose works and lives stand as Christian examples for others to follow.
Their very examples can draw others to Christ.

Men's Day is a time to celebrate men. It's a time to appreciate men's contributions to family,
community and country. It is a time to use our gifts, institutions and cultural resources to benefit
the internal church and the external community. And, it is a time to thank God for lessons
learned, battles won and graces given.

                                   MEN'S DAY - CULTURAL RESOURCES
God created man in his own image--holy, righteous and unblemished. Therefore, Men's Day, in
the black church, is a reminder to all not only of what was, but what is possible for the
community of man. A great and wonderful potential lies within reach of the male, human
community. Men's Day, while celebrating the past and present, always points to that potential
and that hopeful future.

Men's Day has also always been a time when the special talents of the congregations' men are
put on display. Moreover, the entire service from top to bottom is usually conducted by men. It is
a time when men allow themselves to become full instruments of the Lord, as called for in the
lection scripture.

II. Songs That Speak to the Moment

Every significant moment in the black church, from Christmas to Easter and birth to death, has
its own body of music and list of songs that the church uses to underscore the meaning and
purpose of the day. Men's Day is no different.

The particular body of music and list of songs for Men's Day are to a great extent determined by
the denomination, congregation, pastor, and music department of each church. Yet, there is some
music and there are some songs that are congregational crossovers -- they are used by numerous
denominations and churches. Often, they are songs and music that have withstood the test of
time; or, they are popular favorites that speak to the current needs of the black community and
the black church. The following two songs speak to the power and promise of Christian men:

Satan, We're Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down
Satan, we're gonna tear your kingdom down.
Satan, we're gonna tear your kingdom down.
You've been building your kingdom all over
this land. Satan, we're gonna tear your kingdom

Sign Me Up
Sign me up for the Christian jubilee, write my
name on the roll. I've been changed since the
Lord has lifted me. I want to be ready when

                                  MEN'S DAY - CULTURAL RESOURCES
Jesus comes. When Jesus comes, oh, the
trumpet will sound loud, when my Savior
comes, all the saints in Christ shall rise, Oh,
I've been changed since the Lord has lifted me,
I want to be ready when Jesus comes.2

The following song speaks to the yearnings of Christian men:

Give Me a Clean Heart
Give me a clean heart so I may serve thee.
Lord, fix my heart so that I may be used
by Thee. For I'm not worthy of all these
blessings. Give me a clean heart, and I'll
follow Thee.

I'm not asking for the riches of the land.
I'm not asking for the crowd to know my
name. Please give me, Lord, a clean
Heart, that I may follow thee. Give me a
Clean heart and I'll follow Thee.3

This final song speaks to the expectations that God has for all men and the needs that await

Here Am I
God has no hands but those that strive to mend
the broken hearts of wounded kin, God has no
feet but those that stride to win another soul to
enter in!

God has no eyes but those alert to see some-one
distressed, some soul in need, God has no voice
unless we yield to be a vessel willed to boldly sing!

God's call is now for us to build and keep the
Living Church, Christ's Bride to be, so we must work
and sow the seeds and trust God's promises to reap!

Here am I, Lord send me. Here I am, I'll heed your
voice, obey Your will. Here am I, Lord, send me.
Here am I: I will gladly do Your bid! I will gladly do
Your bid!4

III. Remembrances of Men's Day Past

                                   MEN'S DAY - CULTURAL RESOURCES
Over the years, I have witnessed and participated in numerous Men's Day programs in many
different congregations and in several different denominations of the black church. Each was
different; but, in many ways, they all were similar.

For example, almost all of them had a chosen theme that focused on the importance of the
contributions of Christian men. Usually, there was: a male chorus; male representation of the
usher board; male church announcer or master of ceremonies; male finance team; male preacher
or speaker; male program participants; and, male choruses from other churches.

Sometimes, an individual was selected as "Man of the Year." At other times, awards were given
to several men whose lives and contributions in the church or community were bright lights.
And, the program for the day often had either a major fundraising goal, or some other important,
special church project (e.g., new church roof, physical upgrade of the parking lot or youth center,
stained glass windows, or new benches) associated with the day. In each instance, the
fundraising goal or special church project mostly focused on the church's internal needs and

In other instances, some congregations have assembled all male members of the congregation,
with the youngest males being led into the assembly by the older males, and conducted a men's
march into the sanctuary on Men's Day. This powerful cultural display of the male species was
reminiscent of scenes of African tribal leaders making their march into some important gathering
or a group of young African boys returning to the tribal community during their initiation into
adulthood. Other congregations have held male prayer breakfasts, retreats or seminars.

An additional component of each Men's Day program that I have experienced has been the
celebration aspect of the day. In all instances, the day's music, sermons, speeches, poetry,
prayers and special ceremonies provided a high worship and praise experience. Often, hidden
talents were exposed that many did not know existed within the congregation and an unusual
sense of unity prevailed. All of this was overlain by a strong spirit of commitment and gratitude.

IV. Moving Beyond Celebration

Regardless of the cultural and historical underpinnings of Men's Day and how it has been
historically celebrated in the black church, the needs and conditions of our communities,
churches and peoples dictate that we men move beyond mere celebration and the current

                                  MEN'S DAY - CULTURAL RESOURCES
financial needs of the institutional church. These are fine and laudable goals to reach, but they
are not enough.

Today's lection scripture exhorts men to be cleansed disciples, grounded in faith, love and peace
so we can be useful instruments for the Lord's work. That work is the same work that Christ
performed when he walked this earth--supporting widows and widowers; assisting the fatherless
and motherless; feeding and housing the homeless and the hungry; healing the sick and
downtrodden; attending to the needs of the imprisoned; and, the least of these, addressing the
interests of the locked out and the oppressed; reclaiming the blind and the lost; and
acknowledging and remembering our past and our triumphs. Each of these needs is our duty and
each of these needs can be filled.

These duties and needs dictate that we reevaluate each liturgical moment on the black church
calendar, including Men's Day, to insure we are following the dictates of Christ, and to
determine if we are maximizing our efforts, resources, and works. Every available tool, including
every applicable cultural resource tool, should be considered and, if appropriate, utilized. These
reevaluations may lead us past the strictures of our historical chains to a new field of dreams and
visions that will enable us to find solutions to current problems that cripple our personal lives,
our churches, and our communities. Then, we will really have reason to celebrate, because we
will have surpassed the ritualistic phase of Christianity.

V. Make Men's Day More Meaningful

At times, pastors, program planners and congregations allow approaches of the past to imprison
their creativity when they develop their Men's Day programs--"we didn't do it like that last
year;" or, "why can't we use the same format we always use." Often, however, change is not
only refreshing, it is good. To be effective in our service and outreach, it may be necessary to
change how, when, what, and the way we program our Men's Day activities.

A. Change, Creativity and Effectiveness
In most churches, Men's Day is a single day, usually a Sunday, on the church's calendar.
Alternatively, churches could keep the day, but prolong the moment. The week leading up
to Men's Day could be a church-wide Men's Day activities preparation period. Led by the
men, the church could have a different type of activity each day or evening:

    1. Monday could be book night. A particular book could be read by the entire church, the
       men of the church, or a particular men's division of the church. The book could be
       analyzed, discussed and reviewed for its relevance to the black community or the black
       church. Some possible book examples are: (a) State of Emergency: We Must Save
       African American Males by Jawanza Kunjufu;5 (b) The Autobiography of Martin Luther
       King, Jr., by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Clayborne Carson;6 and/or The Audacity of
       Hope, by President Barack Obama.7

        Often, books are available in audio form--making it easy for those congregants with
        vision or reading disability issues. Audio and visual aids, such as background music,
        short movies, and power point presentations, can be used to enhance the book

                                  MEN'S DAY - CULTURAL RESOURCES
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