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December 18, 2005

Praise the Lord

That’s what the hundred members of the Baptist Temple Church did
for three solid hours this morning.  Singing, dancing, clapping,
preaching, and praising shook the souls–and at times the
floorboards–of the well-preserved church in downtown Camden.

Paul and I contributed to the joyous noise with our own singing,
dancing, and clapping (we left the amens to the more seasoned
church-goers) as we marveled at the warmth and spirit of the
worshipers around us.  We were invited to the service by Kennedy,
one of Paul’s students, who was being honored for her good grades in
school.  The congregation was incredibly welcoming, offering hugs,
handshakes, and even pecks on our cheeks before, during, and after the
service.  It was a genuine feeling of fellowship, not in the least
bit forced or stiff like a formality.  Love–or some other equally
passionate, spiritual emotion–emanated from the pleasant, smiling
fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, nieces, and nephews
filling the pews. 

It’s so invigorating to witness people outwardly demonstrating their
joy, gratitude, sorrow, hope, and love without reservation.  Why
are so many of the rest of us afraid to do the same thing?  Why
are we afraid to rock the boat, whether in church, in school, in the
office, or on the street?  We’re like ballerinas, many of
us:  tip-toeing around everything in a delicate dance of don’t
dare offend.  God forbid we get ourselves into a situation where
we have to justify our true thoughts and feelings; maybe we’re afraid
they’re not justifiable.

Anyway, I didn’t write this entry to rant about social ills; I wrote it
to highlight the positive energy and warmth that emanated from the
people around us at Baptist Temple Church.  Camden may rank #1 on
the most dangerous cities list, but it’s not a hopeless cause. 
Far from being so, it is the home to hundreds of honest, hard-working
individuals who deserve no less from society than do any of our own
family members and friends.  There may be a lot of violence, but
there’s also a whole lot of heart and soul deep in Camden’s core.


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