I went to church on Sunday morning. It seemed the right place to be on The Sunday after The Tuesday. I don’t go to church regularly, but every time I do go I feel cleaner, better, stronger and more Faithful. Perhaps more importantly, I always feel more connected to the community of people. This Sunday was no exception. I attend First Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ. Coincidentally, it is in the same family of churches as Trinity United Church of Christ, Barack Obama’s embattled church of Reverend Wright fame.
It turns out that the 106 year old woman that Obama mentioned during his acceptance speech on Tuesday night, Mrs. Ann Cooper, is a member of First Church. So, when I went to church on Sunday morning I was in the congregation with one of the nation’s oldest living women. A woman who, born in 1902, could have had grandparents who were slaves. I got a chance to say hello to her and to feel connected.
The sermon was about understanding the long arc of change. The message emphasized the fact that each difficult step in our nation’s development probably appeared to be unlikely, if not impossible for those who struggled for them the most. It was Faith, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, that enables our national endurance. The Pastor spoke of the incredible changes Mrs. Cooper must have seen in her life and how improbable they must have seemed to her. He spoke about how change comes on God’s timetable and Faith gives us the temperance to synchronize with that. He said that struggling and praying are our preparation, our making sure that we are ready and we know when God says, “change has come.”
It is a black church so of course he said, that it is the same God that delivered Daniel, it is the same God that delivered Abraham, it is the same God that we need every hour that delivered Sister Cooper to today so she could see a black man become the President of the United States. How improbable, he said, how unlikely that a young Ann Cooper could even imagine such a thing as a President Barack Obama. He reiterated that it is the long arc of change that operates on God’s schedule that makes the improbable probable and the impossible possible. He said, it is something that We’ve known. We’ve always known, like We’ve known rivers. Sam Cooke knew a change was gonna come. Our challenge is to make sure that we’re ready when it does.
There are innumerable dimensions to the significance of Obama’s presidency. Mrs. Ann Cooper has 106 years worth of experiences living in the American south to choose from. Relative to her, I’ve been alive just a blink. I left the service though, feeling connected to her, connected to the moment and better able to appreciate the long arc.