Last semester, I attended my brother’s ordination ceremony in Lanham, Maryland. Specifically, he was ordained as a deacon into the Restoration Praise Center Seventh-Day Adventist church (http://www.rpcsda.org/). To say that this experience was life-changing would be an understatement. In many ways, I felt as though a passion kept dormant inside of me for years had finally been re-awakened. I was unexpectedly hit with a range of emotions including pride, satisfaction, happiness, joy, inspiration, tranquility, and a deep sense of longing all at once. However, beyond all of these emotions came a sincere appreciation for my family and the role my faith and spirituality continues to play in keeping us together.
I was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist church. Among others, the belief in the Bible as the only creed, belief in the Trinity: God, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and an observance of the seventh day (Saturday) as the Sabbath, distinguish the Adventist church from other Protestant denominations. Prior to coming to the U.S., my maternal grandfather was an SDA preacher in the West Indies for many years. He, along with my grandmother, was the foundation for which we realized and practiced our faith as a family. Perhaps, the most impactful practice in my household was the fellowship we would share every Saturday after church. It often consisted of my mom and aunts singing around the piano as the rest of us played a Bible trivia game on the couch until dinner was ready. It was a time for my family and I to dwell in the “presence of the Lord,” which was alive and evident in each one of us. However, outside of connecting with family, enjoying nature, and learning about the Bible I wasn’t aware of what my role as a Christian was.
The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos which means “servant,” “minister,” or “messenger.” During his sermon, Pastor Graham stated that God chooses people who are “of Him and of the people.” The imperfectness and humanity of those God calls is integral to His purpose. Combined with the commitment of one’s self to God, one can be “molded” and used to be witnesses unto others. Without that sense of humanity, people often portray themselves and religion as untouchable and exclusive. For a long time I thought that I would never be “holy” or “Godly” enough to become a servant of God. However, my perspective gradually changed as the service went on.
I could literally see myself up there as I watched twenty black males, of all ages, process down the aisle. Watching the tears streaming down the faces of my family, church congregation, and even Pastor Graham caused me to feel a heightened sense of connectedness like I never had before. For the first time, I felt as though church was an extension of my family rather than a routine. I feel honored to have witnessed my brother’s spiritual journey as it has truly set the foundation for which to pursue my own. I have come to the realization that we can all be “messengers” of God whether we are affiliated with a particular religion or not. God’s message is love. Therefore, by inviting God into our lives and allowing Him to work through us, we can share the gift of love to all we encounter.