top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Father’s Day Visions of Tomorrow | June 18, 2023 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake

And amazement seized them all and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying,

“We have seen strange things today.” (Luke 5:26)

I was requested to design a new course for the Fall Semester at Pacific School of Religion. Later, when asked for the title of the course, I submitted Visions of Tomorrow. Why, I am not certain. Except I know that we as a nation and a people cannot continue the present course of ecological devastation and hatred of “the other” expressed through oppression and exploitation. The meanness within our social order is indicative of fundamental greed, paranoia, faithlessness, and self-destructiveness which if left unchecked will bring the fire that will destroy us.

Dr. Cornell West was correct when he wrote in Prophetic Fragments: We live in a time of cultural disarray and social decay, an age filled with ruins and fragments.

I am repulsed by the reality of what Dr. West has described and determined to put forth an alternative social fabric and way of being consistent with the hope that James Baldwin puts forth while denunciating the strife in “the present time” in his life.

If we – and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the other – do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, recreated from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: GOD GAVE NOAH THE RAINBOW SIGN, NO MORE WATER, THE FIRE NEXT TIME.

Baldwin was able to eke out a measure of hope even though fires had raged in him since childhood not only in terms of his external world but also his world of “home.” His preacher stepfather, David Baldwin, had a stormy relationship with his stepson. With a burning hatred for white folks due to their control over his life preventing him from adequately providing for his family and their constant and comprehensive enforcing upon and within him belief in the innate inferiority of Black people, he was rendered incapable of being a good father. For a good father provided for his family. A good father protected his family from abuse. A good father supported the intellectual and emotional development of his family. Wearied by life, David Baldwin died prematurely in 1943. Only later in life was James Baldwin able to understand his stepfather’s abusive behavior toward him and move beyond the fear and hatred of his father that consumed him. Yes, reparations far beyond monetary compensation are needed.

We will never know the extent to which lives have been strangled in this nation across racial, gender, class, and able/disabled identities. Lamentation is in order.

Despite its sordid history, there have been moments of breakthrough in the American Journey that have heartened weary travelers. When I think of all the contributions to this nation by people and movements on the edges that have nurtured and fathered me, I stand in awe and gratitude. And to stand in awe is an invitation to wisdom.

Despite these gains, however, the battle for equal opportunity, especially in education, continued to be an uphill one. In 1949, for example, the Reverend William L. Blake, a twenty-nine-year-old black pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri was denied admittance to William Jewell College in Liberty.

Reverend William L. Blake was my father. After the denial was published, Rockhurst College, a Jesuit school in Kansas City, Missouri, invited him to matriculate there. He became the first Black student to attend and graduate from Rockhurst. I don’t think I would classify him as a weary traveler although he was wearied by some of the actions of the students who saw “a strange thing” and made sure there was always an empty desk in the classroom between my father and the nearest white student. He was more determined than wearied, determined to access the education that he believed would anchor himself, his family, and his community. I believe that amazement did seize some of those in the Rockhurst community. In a small and significant manner, my father was facilitating a new humanity coming into being.

I believe the fire is consuming us presently. It isn’t blazing like the wildfires in Canada. Rather it is a slow-burning fire, consuming our most cherished values such as integrity, equal opportunity, the general welfare of the people and nation, the inherent dignity and worthiness of all, honoring the elders, caring for the children, enshrining liberty, and championing the pursuit of blessedness, fairness, justice, and compassion. These are values that the nation has said it cherishes.

For most of my life, I have participated in efforts to dismantle oppressive systems and institutions. That is part of my calling. It is not enough, however. I must also help create visions of tomorrow, of possibilities beyond those in place currently. Inherent in this is establishing alternative communities which will enable the new human being and human beginning to awaken and live robustly.

In the ministry of Jesus, there are instances of a new humanity being born. We see the search for tomorrow taking place in radically different vistas than ever before. Moral distinctions no longer are law or even custom for him. Life is open to new economic, political, moral, and religious definitions and living. Dr. Walter Brueggemann illumines the radical breakthrough that Jesus’ teaching and actions constituted: The teachings, like the actions are shattering, opening, and inviting. They conjure futures that had been closed off, and they indicate possibilities that had been defined as impossibilities.

Koinonia Farm was founded in 1942 in Americus, Georgia as an interracial farming community. While it brought people together as an intentional Christian community, it also drew the ire of many locals such as the KKK which shot bullets at it. Co-founder, Clarence Jordan, a New Testament Greek scholar, reinterprets the Lesson on the Mount, Jesus’ platform for his kin-dom building.

Jordan describes it as a lesson rather than a sermon and explains the difference between the two. A sermon he says “is something you sleep through and tell the preacher you enjoyed. But a lesson is something which is assigned and for which you are held responsible. You don’t sleep through lessons, only sermons.

Jordan states that Jesus begins the lesson by “taking us up the stair steps, so to speak, into this new order.” The first step is familiar to some of us: Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . Jordan states that this English version is not an adequate translation. It is too shallow. It does not translate the depth of what Jesus was conveying. It obscures the relational character of the message. More adequate is the translation: “The spiritually humble are God’s people, for they are citizens of his new order.”

This was a new message, a reversal of the traditional message that held the people captive. Now, they had a new story about who they were and their relationship with God.

Thomas Berry says:

It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The Old Story — the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it — is not functioning properly, and we have not learned the New Story.

Sharif Abdullah instructs in his Creating a World That Works for All:

Changing our story is the fastest and most effective way to change our world. With a changed story, we can move rapidly to change our toxic relationship with the Earth and each other. Once the story changes, the old paradigm becomes unthinkable.

The new story helps us see more majestically our place in our fabulous, awe-inspiring universe. We are actors in something beyond our comprehension and imagination. That is our reality. No, we are not little cogs or tokens in a small, human-created arrangement of politics and economics. We are more than that. To deny this is to deny the possibility of creating that tomorrow that must be born. To understand that we are called into this ever-expanding, ever-evolving cosmos means that there are unfathomable resources available to us if we accept and trust the benedictions of the New Story.

When I posted the title of my new class, Visions of Tomorrow, I also posted a new story that had already happened of which we are all a part.

The movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men and women often calls them to act against the spirit of their times or causes them to anticipate a spirit which is yet in the making. In a moment of dedication they are given wisdom and courage to dare a deed that challenges and to kindle a hope that inspires.

Drs. Fisk and Thurman and the charter members of Fellowship Church had a vision of tomorrow amid the carnage of World War II and the climate of thoroughly segregated churches. They conceived, nurtured, and then birthed a vision of a fellowship of all peoples radically different from existing churches. They trusted the universe to sustain their vision and the manifestation of that vision. Attesting that alternative communities can be imagined, designed, and succeed, the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples was a creative venture that from a human point risked ridicule and failure but did not fail, being allured into the context of cosmic companionship.

What is your vision of tomorrow? It could be helpful to write it down. What do you (we) need to translate that vision into a state of affairs? That is what we’ll explore in the course. May each of us explore it on our individual and communal journeys and celebrate the new humans and humanity we are called to be.

5 views0 comments


bottom of page