The Church of the Future

By Greg Jarrell, reposted from his substack newsletter (May 1, 2023)

I was grateful to get an invite from the North Carolina region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to speak at their annual gathering this past weekend. Unfortunately, their schedule got waaaaaaay behind, and I was scheduled to lead one of my walks in uptown Charlotte. So I have an unheard sermon, written for a very specific moment. These things take too much time and care. Somebody needs to see it.

Here’s the quick set-up: I was to be the third of three preachers offering a short homily. The first was to speak on the church of the past and the second on the present church. I was to offer some thoughts on the church of the future. The text tying it all together was Revelation 1:1-8. Verse 8 says “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

I had seven minutes to deliver it. Part of the experience was to be me speaking way too fast. So, beloved, read as quickly as possible.

Here it is:

If I understand what has happened this afternoon, then we’ve heard Rev. Jones tell us about the past in order to describe the present we inhabit. We heard Rev. Dr. McHenry name the present we live in, which shows us what tomorrow looks like. And so, it must be my job in talking about the future to look backwards and describe that which is coming back.

What I am saying is that even here in these sermonic moments we have shared, we live in the swirl of time, the uncertain whims of temporality, the liberating unity of overlapping chronologies. The whole dizzying world of Revelation 1 is an exercise in shaking us from boring old, marching-on time and setting us into a disjuncture. In verse 8 we acknowledge the one who was and is and is to come. In verse 7, John can’t decide whether to use present of future tense. In verse 6, the present is extended into eternity; in verse 5, we get the logic-defying phrase “the firstborn of the dead;” verse four again speaks of the one who was and is and is to come; and in verse three we learn that the time is near (a phrase we will return to in a moment).

Continue reading “The Church of the Future”

Getting Rid of Jesus

By Greg Jarrell, re-posted from his blog Trespasses of the Holy (December 15, 2022)

Charlotte’s westward expansion, beyond Uptown, Biddleville, Wesley Heights, was in full swing around 1924, when Julia Alexander and her family decided to subdivide and sell off her deceased father’s estate, called Enderly. The old farm would become site of hundreds of houses, plus neighborhood businesses. And as it is with Baptist people, anywhere there was a new neighborhood, there was a new Baptist church. By December 1925, the Glenwood Baptist meeting had official status with the Mecklenburg-Association Baptist Association. The 41 charter members met in various spots along Tuckaseegee Road, but as the church grew over the rest of the Roaring ‘20s, it became clear they needed a building of their own. In 1930, in the full throes of the Great Depression, the trajectory of the church – by then called Enderly Park Baptist – was clearly on the way up, and so preparations for a new structure were made. In April of that year, the membership met as part of a revival series and voted to begin constructing a new building. Julia Alexander donated land at the corner of Tuckaseegee and Enderly Rd to site the structure on. At the revival meeting the night of the decision, Rev. J.M. Page preached on the Gerasene Demoniac, from Mark 5. His message was titled “Getting Rid of Jesus.”

To keep reading, click here.

The Absentee Landlord

By Greg Jarrell, re-posted with permission from his website (July 29, 2021). A sermon on Psalm 118 and Mark 12:1-12.

In January of 1960, Martin Waters of Waters Insurance and Realty stood before the Charlotte City Council to make one last plea to stop Urban Renewal. The council was set to vote that night, after a decade of starts and stops, to formally adopt the recommendations of the Charlotte Redevelopment Commission and to submit their final plans to the federal Urban Renewal Administration. The council planned to seize and destroy the Brooklyn neighborhood, a historic Black neighborhood that had been, for decades, one site of Black thriving and creativity in Charlotte. It had also been subjected to the long siege of Jim Crow policies. The vote in council chambers seemed like just a formal step, a foregone conclusion, but several people stood to speak in protest anyway.

They weren’t the first to lodge a protest. The local NAACP chapter in 1950, under the leadership of Kelly Alexander, Sr., had pushed a 10-point plan to remake Black neighborhoods in Charlotte. That plan argued for basic infrastructure, and for the elimination of exploitative landlording relationships that caused untenable living conditions for many tenants. Accomplishing even half of the NAACP’s plan would have radically altered the shape of those neighborhoods, including the Brooklyn neighborhood that in 1960 was in the crosshairs of the Redevelopment Commission. The NAACP plan might have eliminated the possibility of Urban Renewal a decade later by making it far more difficult for local white leaders to declare the area a “slum” and schedule it for demolition. (Doubting the tenacity of Charlotte’s elite in following through on a land grab might be a mistake, though.) Charlotte’s public and civic leaders ignored Alexander and the NAACP. And, landowners in Brooklyn – 90% or more of whom were white – went on ignoring the eroding conditions of their rental properties, though never ignoring the rent.

Continue reading “The Absentee Landlord”